puti kʷu alaʔ

Manuel Axel Strain was the UBC Okanagan Gallery’s 2022 Artist in Residence in collaboration with the Indigenous Art Intensive and the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art. As part of the residency Strain exhibited new artworks in the FINA Gallery and the Alternator, hosted an artist talk as part of the Indigenous Art Intensive, and gave a public performance.

Manuel Axel Strain is from the sacred lands and waters of xʷməθkʷəyəm, Simpcw and nk̓maplqs and lives on the traditional homelands of their q̓ic̓əy̓ and qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ relatives. Their work and practice are guided by Indigenous ways of knowing, embodied epistemologies, and ancestral collaborations that bring together performance, painting, photography, sculpture, video, sound, and installation.  

puti kʷu alaʔ Manuel Axel Strain

June 3 to 10, 2022, FINA Gallery

puti kʷu alaʔ holds ideas of inheritance and ownership by reimagining an act of violence on the traditional land of nk̓maplqs. With the support of family and ancestors, Strain reconceptualizes this memory and narrative through the creation and destruction of a tiny house.  

An inheritance from Manuel’s great-grandparents, Rose and Ben Louis, the home was sawed in half by a temporary settler tenant. This crime of violence was a manifestation of imperial oppression— a reminder of the forced occupation of unsurrendered lands that the nation state is built upon. The recreation of this hostile act speaks to the cyclicality of settler-colonial violence, but more deeply, to the urgent vitality and survivance of the sqílxʷ way of living.  

In a cathartic recreation of the story, Manuel incorporates photo, vibrant colours, video installation, and petroglyphs to re-envision their personal history as a dismantling of the colonial-capitalist structure. Calling upon relatives of fir and wild rose, Strain’s perspective unsettles ideologies of subjugation and systemic violence while creating temporal locations that subvert imperial politics of space.  

Using materials and methods such as plywood, spray paint, a chainsaw, metal, video, and petroglyphs, along with fir, sage and wild rose relatives, Strain’s work for puti kʷu alaʔ is an immersive and multisensory installation. The exhibition was curated by UBCO Gallery curator Dr. Stacey Koosel.

This project is supported by BC Arts Council 

Axle Strain opened the exhibition with an outdoor performance, featuring a collaboration between the artist, their family, drummers, the land and guests.