Explore the Arctic landscape through the eyes of 2021 Sobey Art Award-Winner ᓛᒃᑯᓗᒃ Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory

Naak silavit qeqqa? opens July 16 featuring the return of multimedia artwork Silaup Putunga (2018) and soapstone sculptures from the Williamson Collection

TORONTO — From acclaimed Kalaaleq (Greenlandic Inuk) artist ᓛᒃᑯᓗᒃ Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory comes Naak silavit qeqqa?, a multimedia installation opening July 16 at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Incorporating video, soundscape and sculpture, the installation seeks to describe sila, the all-powerful Inuktitut word that captures the universe, the environment, and the intellect. Curated by Georgiana Uhlyarik, the AGO’s Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art, the installation will transform the AGO’s Fudger Rotunda and features texts in both English and Kalaallisut (Greenlandic). Admission to Naak silavit qeqqa? is free for AGO Members, Annual Passholders, all Indigenous Peoples and visitors 25 and under.  

On view for the first time since its 2018 debut and at the heart of the installation, is Silaup Putunga (2018) -- a large-scale double-sided video, created by Laakkuluk and her long time collaborator Jamie Griffiths. Filmed on location in Tikkuut, Nunavut, the artwork was inspired by the artists’ desire to create a ‘living print’ that harnesses both printmaking and the life forces of the land. Designed as an evolving narrative and accompanied by a soundscape created by Celina Kalluk and Laakkuluk, the video features Laakkuluk performing uaajeerneq, a Greenlandic mask dance and follows as she chops ice, drives a skidoo, aims a gun and walks across the land. 

“Naak silavit qeqqa? – which translates into English as Where is the middle of your sila? - is a question that my mother puzzled over when she was young and that has passed through the generations to my own children; three short words that cement our open-ended spiritual understanding of our place in existence,” says Laakkuluk. “In Silaup Putunga, Jamie Griffiths and I show the idea of sinking from one surface of reality to another by travelling through layers of my face, my mask and the landscape/icescape we live upon.”

The installation includes a selection of Inuit soapstone sculptures from the AGO’s Williamson Collection. Donated by Dr. Robert G. Williamson, O.C. and his wife, Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson – Laakkuluk’s parents – these sculptures were made in the Kivalliq region during the initial phase of Inuit resettlement into colonial institutions, a period that marked the beginning of the contemporary Inuit art movement. These sculptures, says Laakuluk, reflect her mother’s own search for sila.

Celebrate the opening of Naak silavit qeqqa? on July 16 at 2 p.m. and join artist ᓛᒃᑯᓗᒃ Laakkuluk and Jamie Griffiths, for a free screening of a selection of their short films followed by a Q&A in AGO’s Jackman Hall. The event also marks the launch of Qummut Qukiria!, a new anthology celebrating art and culture within and beyond traditional Inuit and Sámi homelands in the Circumpolar Arctic, edited by Anna Hudson, Heather Igloliorte and Jan-Erik Lundström. The book includes a chapter written by Laakkuluk, recounting the story of the killing of the polar bear, that later became the material for Laakkuluk’s Sobey Award winning installation in 2021. For details and to book your free ticket, visit ago.ca/events/laakkuluk-laakkuluk-williamson-bathory-and-jamie-griffiths.

Naak silavit qeqqa? will remain on view through Spring 2023. For more details on how to book your tickets or to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit ago.ca.

@AGOToronto | #SeeAGO


Naak silavit qeqqa?  is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Contemporary programming at the AGO generously supported by the Canada Council of the Arts.

Based in Iqaluit, NU, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (b. 1979) is a Kalaaleq (Greenlandic Inuk) multidisciplinary artist. Her practice centers on performing uaajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dance) and includes filmmaking, acting, curating, drum dancing, music, community art organizing and writing. An internationally acclaimed artist, she is the winner of the 2021 Sobey Art Award and 2020 inaugural Sinchi Indigenous Art Award. She frequently collaborates with other artists and is a strong advocate for Inuit artists.

The Williamson Collection was donated by Dr. Robert G Williamson, O.C. (1931-2012) and his wife Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson to the AGO in the 1990’s. The collection is made up of small-scale, hand-carved soapstone pieces made in the Kivalliq region (in what is now Nunavut) during the initial phase of Inuit resettlement into colonial institutions, a period that marked the beginning of the contemporary Inuit art movement.

Located in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest art museums in North America, attracting approximately one million visitors annually. The AGO Collection of more than 120,000 works of art ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists and European masterpieces. The AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, including solo exhibitions and acquisitions by diverse and underrepresented artists from around the world. In 2019, the AGO launched a bold new initiative designed to make the museum even more welcoming and accessible with the introduction of free admission for anyone 25 years and under and a $35 annual pass. Visit AGO.ca to learn more.

The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO Members, donors and private-sector partners.


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