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shred serge - Leah Decter

Leah Decter, s|h|red serge, documentation performance, 2022

sh|r|ed serge
Leah Decter

Thursday 4, Friday 5 from 2 to 6:30pm

Saturday 6 from 1pm to 5:30pm

Free admission, no reservation required

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This performance is part of the exhibition Truths That Remain curated by Sarah Nesbitt.


The performance is made possible, in part, by funding from the Canada Research Chairs Program.


Leah Decter’s durational performance ‘sh|r|ed serge’, situated in the context of the exhibition Truths that remain, speaks to the truth that is the ongoing violence of settler colonialism, and the persistent need to make this violence visible in order to actively dismantle and re-assemble its systems of oppression.


In sh|r|ed serge Decter painstakingly dismantles and destructs vintage red serge RCMP uniforms, which will ultimately be repurposed in a future artwork. In doing so she gestures towards the past and present impacts of the RCMP as an arm of colonial enforcement and an emblem of Canadian values, while also offering an interruption to both. As in all her work, Decter implicates herself in the workings of colonial structures and beliefs as a white settler who inherently benefits from living in Indigenous lands that are invaded and unceded. 

Like all the artists in Truths that remain, Decter’s performance actively disrupts settler whiteness, disturbing colonial relations and patterns, and engaging decolonial practices and paradigms, but from a critical white settler perspective. ‘sh|r|ed serge’ is part of a series of performances that extends Decter’s longstanding practice of tampering with iconic forms of “Canadian” material and visual culture. These acts of deconstruction and reconfiguring draw a throughline between beloved national symbols and their role in historical and ongoing colonization in the lands now called Canada (1).

1 - Celebrating its 150th anniversary in May 2023, the RCMP is a quintessentially Canadian symbol. In popular culture the figure of the RCMP officer, usually depicted in the red serge uniform, is an emblem of measured and moral justice. In reality, the RCMP is deeply implicated in state violence connected to colonization both in the past and present day. The iconic red serge uniform dates back to the inception of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873, which, having been established by John A. Macdonald to ensure Canadian sovereignty and police western territories, evolved into the contemporary RCMP. This timeline places the red serge at the epicentre of colonial state violence intrinsic to “westward expansion” with the NWMP being instrumental in duplicitous treaty negotiations, assaults on Métis resistance, and the forcible removal of Indigenous children to Indian Residential Schools, a practice that continued well past this time-period. The contemporary RCMP continue to perpetuate state violence and repression tied to racism and colonization. Notably they have played a significant role in the arrest and intimidation of Indigenous land defenders, most recently in relation to Wet'suwet'en resistance to the Costal Gaslink pipeline.

Leah Decter is a white settler inter-media/performance artist based between Treaty 1 territory in Winnipeg, and K’jipuktuk where she holds a Canada Research Chair in Creative Technologies at NSCAD University. Her solo and collaborative work addresses and disturbs settler colonial dynamics through the ethics of intergenerational responsibility and being-in-relation in spaces of Indigenous sovereignty. She has exhibited, presented and screened her artwork widely in Canada, and internationally in the US, UK, Germany, Malta, Netherlands, India and Australia. Her recent writing has appeared in C Magazine (with Tania Willard), Paved Meant (Paved Arts), Qualitative Inquiry and Performance Matters Journal as well as a Special Issue of PUBLIC Journal she co-edited with Carla Taunton. Decter received a PhD in Cultural Studies from Queens University and an MFA in New Media from Transart Institute and held a SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship at York University.

Visit here the artist's website

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