C/O nichola feldman-kiss | Artist, Bob McNair | Photographer

Artist nichola feldman-kiss presents Scapegoat, a critique of the colonial paradigm 

CW: Death, implied violence 

The latest exhibition at the McMaster Museum of Art, Scapegoat, critiques the colonial paradigm—the violent story of domination and submission—through displays of biological metaphors for the geopolitics and conflict. The exhibition will be available until Mar. 18 with advanced admission booking.  

Artist nichola feldman-kiss began Scapegoat in 2015 following a series of works after the their deployment on a United Nations Mission to Sudan in 2011 as part of the Canadian Forces Artists Program.  

The exhibition features hybrid-media installations, including photography, audio, video, digital and performative pieces. The aim is to bring to attention the injustices perpetuated by settler-colonialism structures. In the current era of heightened social awareness and responsibility, feldman-kiss’ work creates space for conversation around peace, reconciliation, recognition, decolonization and repatriation.  

Since returning from Sudan in 2011, feldman-kiss has been attempting to make sense of what they saw and experienced through projects such as Between here and there.

Scapegoat attempts to uncover what is missing or left unspoken in the narrative about wars and world conflicts which are often told and fragmented by those who dominate the conversation, particularly those in power. 

“I’m very suspicious about what is written down because when I approach what is written down, I know there is something missing. Sudan revealed to me a lot about what is missing, what is all contained in the narrative, what kinds of narratives are crafted for the Western press audience and how those of us who have not seen [the conflict first-hand] have very little capacity to imagine.

nichola feldman-kiss

Part of what is missing in these narratives are the identities and lives behind the death toll statistics. When human bodies are reduced to mere numbers, questions remain about their story, including who they were, where they lived, who is missing them, who is grieving them and why they went to war.  An initial aversion to the plight of the sufferer (Pietà), was built upon these questions to reconnect the disembodied souls.  

Between here and there / Human Toll is a sound piece in which a speech synthesizer reads the worldwide death statistic database from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program.

feldman-kiss’ worked with human skeletal sets to personify the death statistics further. .  An initial aversion to the plight of the sufferer (Pietà is a series of photographic portraits of young men cradling the skeletal set by those who approximate the age of the specimen. It may be discomforting to see — but that is the point. The demographic in the pieces reflect the victims of state violence in the global statistical records.  

The human skeletal sets used in the piece, originally intended for use in the medical field, were obtained from a Canadian osteological specimen supplier. 

“I made that purchase [of human osteological specimens], that gesture, as another demonstration of the sort of between-here-and-there that I was experiencing from the original trip to Sudan. . .I, as a regular Canadian person, that world was so far away from my capacity to perceive it through this constant [thought] of, ‘Yes, this really happened,’” said feldman-kiss. 

An important experience part of the previous project, Between here and there, and the current exhibition, Scapegoat, was feldman-kiss’ trip to India to learn about the human bone trade. A human bone specimen supplier gave feldman-kiss access to his full inventory for the video piece Scales of Justice and was a valuable resource for this project. 

C/O Bob McNair

Caption: Still from The King’s two Bodies \ Scales of Justice \ 2016. Video projection (performance mediation). 

“[Scales of Justice] came out of that experience. . .So that was an important experience for me to be able to bring empathy to the body of work which is in the exhibition Scapegoat,” explained feldman-kiss. 

Altogether, Scapegoat allows its audience to reflect on the colonial paradigm by demanding confrontation with the reality of the current geopolitical landscape—a world in which marginalized folks, including people of low socioeconomic status and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour are disproportionately targeted and represented in armed casualties.  

Through the culmination of works since 2015, Scapegoat facilitates grief, reflection and reimagination of a different, decolonized world.  

*This article has been updated for clarity. We thank our friends at McMaster Museum of Art for clarifying key aspects of Scapegoat. For more information, visit museum.mcmaster.ca/exhibition/nichola-feldman-kiss-scapegoat/.

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