Mike MacDonald, Seven Sisters (1989) (detail)

Mike MacDonald, Seven Sisters (1989) (detail). Video Installation, 7:55 minutes. Photo by Robert McNair, courtesy of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

Lisa Myers



In its demand to mean at any rate, the “documentary” often forgets how it comes
about and how aesthetic and politics remain inseparable in its constitution.1
—Trinh T. Minh-ha

IN AN INTERVIEW with Tom Sherman in 1991, Mike MacDonald responds to Sherman’s inquiry about providing names of the plants and mountains in the videos for his installation Seven Sisters (1989). MacDonald explains that the video installation functions as art within an aesthetic realm and he emphasizes the difference between this and Single-channel documentary work. MacDonald affirms, “I’m not trying to convey a lot of facts, I’m trying to convey an attitude, feelings and values more so than data and if I were trying to communicate data, then a Single-channel piece with a traditional narrative would be a better way to do it.”2 Although I know that the category of documentary film does more than convey facts, I understand that in this conversation MacDonald asserts his work within the art realm. The question of his work being documentary also arises during a panel discussion related to the exhibition of Seven Sisters. During an interview with Vesta Giles in 1998, MacDonald recounts a question from a person in the audience asking him if he considers this seven-monitor installation documentary. MacDonald again asserts that the work is installation and sculpture.

When I showed Seven Sisters at a festival in Toronto a few years ago, someone asked me at a talk after the screening if I considered my work documentary and I said, “Well, no, it’s installation, it’s sculpture.” Then, one after another these four women stood up and made these impassioned speeches about how not only was it documentary, but it added a new dimension to the definition of documentary. What could I do? I just bowed and said, “You’re the experts and if you say it’s a documentary then thank-you very much, it’s a documentary.3

The intent of these comments, I think, comes from an audience reflecting back to the artist what they see and perceive in the work. I’m interested in the audience’s insistence to categorize the work as documentary. Perhaps the audience was generally unfamiliar with video installation, or the imagery comprising the work, and therefore regarded the video as having a documentary function. Or, perhaps imagery of Indigenous people, viewed through an anthropologically influenced gaze, is automatically interpreted as ethnographic content and therefore documentary. I think combinations of these perspectives were at play. One area of inquiry that I work through in this essay does not resolve these quandaries, but I agree with MacDonald in asserting that his video installations are art. I do this by thinking through the aesthetic of evidence and evidentiary value in MacDonald’s work, which is entangled with documentary form. From his early documentary work to his multi-television video installations I infer that his documentary work and art practice informed each other.

Known more for his multi-channel video installations, in-situ Butterfly Gardens, and online project Digital Gardens (1997), Mi’kmaq, Beothuk and Euro-Canadian artist Mike MacDonald’s art practice emerged from an extended engagement in documentary video making in the late 1970s.4 Considering his early documentary practice I am curious to think through how MacDonald’s art practice was informed by his work in documentary video.5 His documentary and installation work was shot during key political contestations between the state, First Nations and industry. In this context, MacDonald’s work not only constitutes an aesthetic of evidence because his work is evidence and has evidential value. With this value in mind, I argue that MacDonald’s video installations function within the poetics of documentary and as evidence for the rights and interests of Indigenous people. This is not to reduce his artwork to mere evidence or document, but to acknowledge how his various practices coalesce to create compelling video installation art that relates closely to the politics of land title and rights while reflecting on the interconnection between living beings. His innovative use of video and multi-monitor installations was an early melding of documentary in video art.6 MacDonald’s multi-television installations Electronic Totem (1987) and Seven Sisters (1989) each have elements of documentary that meld with video installation art. He appropriates the television form and assumes its powerful glow integrating video imagery from his work as documentarian in both installations.7

After moving from Toronto to Vancouver, MacDonald joined Metro Media and started making videos with peace groups.8 He worked in alternative spaces outside of mainstream documentary production and long before the inception of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in 1999. Working for and with grassroots community organizations necessitated immediacy to the video pieces. His early documentaries reported on anti-nuclear movements, resistance to uranium mining, peace demonstrations, and disarmament protests. One of his earliest videos, Clearwater (1977) documented a discussion between Clearwater citizens and representatives from Dennison Mines about a uranium mine proposal at Birch Island in the Thompson Valley of British Columbia.9 By 1980 he turned his camera towards the realities faced by First Nations people in British Columbia.

In an early curriculum vitae, MacDonald wrote a brief page and a half outlining his life and career. He describes a pivotal moment in May of 1980 where he attended the Nuclear Free Pacific Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii and met Ohana Ka Wahine, (Emma Defries). Wahine recognized and acknowledged MacDonald as an Indigenous person and in his words “she made me face my Indian-ness and redefine myself and my work.”10 This marked a moment where MacDonald’s practice shifted to a focus on the relations between Indigenous people, land, waters, industry and the state. This formative exchange influenced his life’s work as filmmaker and artist.11

Mike MacDonald, Seven Sisters (1989)

Mike MacDonald, Seven Sisters (1989). Video Installation, 7:55 minutes. Photo by Robert McNair, courtesy of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

MacDonald’s documentary Nishga Survival (1981) was commissioned and produced by the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia and presents a resistance movement opposing dumping of radioactive tailings in the ocean at Alice Arm, B.C. The video opens with a composite image of the waterway surrounded by rising treed shorelines of the fjord. An emotive song overlaid with narration explains that in April 1981, AMAX began dumping 6000 tons of toxic sludge daily into the waters where Nisga’a have fished and gathered food for thousands of years. The video cuts to a protest on the steps of the British Columbia provincial courthouse in Vancouver where protestors are singing a hymn.12

A collective voice of Nisga’a community members including chiefs, council members and supporters such as union leaders, Anglican church leaders, and members of neighbouring tribal councils. Each step up to the podium to proclaim their opposition to dumping of tailings by the multi-national corporation AMAX and call for a national inquiry into the issuing of the dumping permit. What strikes me about this demonstration is the broad range of support, especially from Ted Scott of the Anglican Church of Canada and John Hannen, Anglican Bishop of Caledonia, who was the first speaker. Hannen explains his adoption into the wolf clan 14 years prior and his position as an executive member of the Nisga’a Tribal Council.13 He advocates, in detail, the daily gathering of food in the area of the Alice Arm and implications of the dumping of tailings on medicines and animals. Another Nisga’a tribal council member, Nelson Leeson, adds that the deleterious effects of the tailings are a major concern for future generations, and that the fisheries up and down the coast are already threatened. The video captures a poignant collective response to environmental, social, and cultural concerns and calls for Minister of Fisheries, Romeo Leblanc, to cancel the AMAX permits. Ray Jones from the Gitxsan-Carrier Tribal Council refers to the global impact of other AMAX mines on Indigenous people in Brazil and Australia. The video also reveals evidence of the collusion between the federal government (Liberals led by Pierre Elliott Trudeau) and corporate interests, wherein the state circumvented environmental regulations and gave AMAX a special waiver for dumping.

Issued by the federal Ministry of Fisheries to AMAX Mining Company, this permit allowed the company to dump tailings containing Radium 226 and other heavy metals into the water and subsequently affecting aquatic and terrestrial life.14 Without consulting the Nisga’a people, this issuance also disregarded evidence presented by scientists who advised against such dumping. In that moment, the weight of the subject was a call to action and a way to distribute information about this injustice. Looking at this documentary now, in 2018, the video provides histories preceding the important challenges for land title by First Nations and is evidence of the continued lack of government and industry consultation with First Nations people. The documentary form comprises an aesthetic of evidence that conveys the relational importance of Alice Arm to Nisga’a people and all the living things in the Nass Valley.

Similarly, in the video What Price an Island (1985), MacDonald considers the collective work of activists to stop the clear cutting of Meares Island, B.C. by the Vancouver based forestry company MacMillan Bloedel. The title What Price an Island implies the question of value and the video presents the complexity of potential environmental degradation because of resource extraction (trees=money). George Woods from the Nuu Chuh Nulth Tribal Council stands at the microphone on the steps of the legislature and explains the importance of this place to his people, as more than just resources, land, or property. He argues,

That land just isn’t trees; it isn’t just a piece of real estate like it is to some people in this country. That land means our lives, our names come from it, our chiefs— the people who are our leaders—that’s their land. They’ve got markings on Meares Island that talks about what Meares Island means to us.

Asserting this distinct relational meaning of place stands in strong contrast to concepts of private property ownership expressed in the individual terms of monetary value and investment. MacDonald documents these important perspectives and evidence of how the state wields industry against First Nations through the government’s and industry’s shared interests in resource extraction.

MacDonald also considers these forces in his video installations. Through his artwork Seven Sisters (1989) he brings together images of the Seven Sisters mountain range in Gitxsan territory in the interior of what we now know as British Columbia. Seven Sisters is comprised of seven TVs of different sizes recalling the different peaks of the BC mountain range with the same name. Throughout the duration of the videos, scenes change from the idyllic scenic mountainous landscapes to shots of ecological degradation.15

His chosen mode of transmission for many of these works also considers the hardware of the television monitor as a sculptural installation. Using television as part of his work subverts its attendant connotations of mass media and popular culture, therein questioning the medium. Television as sculpture remains an iconic element of Nam June Paik’s artwork. Although there are formal elements in MacDonald’s work that recall Nam June Paik’s television installations, MacDonald explains in an interview that he did not see Nam June Paik’s work until 1998. Agreeing that he could see why people draw a parallel, he also counters this comparison by explaining that his work demands more time of the viewer and has a more polished and clean presentation.16 True, Paik embraces the anti-aesthetic including detritus from technology in his installations, yet his critique of media broadcasts, conceptually connects to MacDonald’s video installations. Although MacDonald’s work uses video recordings rather than an actual broadcast signal, the use of televisions for display suggest broadcasting of Indigenous content and Indigenous made programming. This departs from and subverts the mainstream television offerings of the time. Paik’s pre-video artwork distorted and manipulated broadcast signals. This appropriation and scrambling of television uses the authoritative voice within the broadcast as art medium, implying distortion of facts and misrepresentations conveyed through government-run television networks.17 Although quite different, discussing this range of artwork together gives more clarity to how MacDonald’s distinct approach deals with representation and how song, people, and land connect. Both Paik and MacDonald question what television signals carry to audiences18 And, both artists understand the power of meaning conveyed through broadcasted signals.

Early video art in the 1970s addressed issues of representation especially in feminist video work. Theorist and artist Trinh T. Minh-ha questions the conventions of documentary approaches and its proposed function to capture truth.19 She proposes that meaning is political only “when it does not let itself be easily stabilized, and when it does not rely on any single source of authority, but, rather, empties or decentralizes it.”20 As with Nam June Paik’s earlier pre-video broadcast distortions, and video art that came slightly later, these artists addressed television’s insidious function as interpellator. Such artworks encouraged an active and reflexive approach to viewing and questioning the medium and its social function.21 Representation of Indigenous people through movies, pop culture, and television news—for example the coverage of the Kanien’kehaka resistance during the Oka Crisis criminalized Mohawk people—created and reinforced harmful stereotypes with repercussion for Indigenous people across Canada. As evidenced by his extensive archive, within the over 20 boxes of videotapes housed at Vtape, there are home recordings of documentaries and news segments from television broadcasts, likely informational but also suggesting MacDonald’s concern with the way Indigenous people were being represented in the mainstream media. Subverting a single authoritative voice in the media is part of the aesthetics of evidence and through their stories, memories, and histories communities assert their own evidence.

MacDonald’s work Seven Sisters creates an assemblage of image and sound: multiple screens reinforce or juxtapose scenarios, idyllic scenes of medicine plants and mountains contrasted with imagery depicting swaths of clear-cut forests shot from a helicopter, and taxidermy from a mountain wildlife museum display. This juxtaposition visually expresses MacDonald’s call for changes in resource extraction methods.22 The work has an aesthetic affect of visuals—the videos are synched so that when the mountainscape appears the horizon line continues across the seven screens. These connected images then cut to the individual shots of medicine plants and clear-cut forests, taxidermy mountain animal life in a natural history museum. MacDonald inserts a soundtrack of Elder Mary Johnson singing a Gitxsan healing song with a calming pace and tone from and for the land. His intention is that the recording will offer a cure for the conditions that threaten the health of the environment to sustain all living beings.23

Mike MacDonald, Electronic Totem(1987)

Mike MacDonald, Electronic Totem (1987). Video Installation, 5:20 minutes. Photo by Robert McNair, courtesy of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

As an initial outsider to communities in BC, MacDonald’s relationship to this territory and its people developed over time. Minh-Ha questions the conventions of documentary film by acknowledging the inherent power of being behind the camera and the impossibility of capturing truth. Instead of perpetuating the altruistic filmmaker’s proclamation of giving voice to people, she described her position as that of “speaking nearby”—a way of being close to those in the film without speaking for, seizing, or claiming them. Speaking nearby is a place of self-reflection, a way to carry issues, histories and people forward, disclosing the back-story and finding value.24 The nuance of representation is key. I see MacDonald’s work as speaking nearby and the evidentiary value of his work comes from him not merely capturing a scene or moment, rather his work helps carry forward shared histories with an understanding of the nuanced context. For his work was not only art making because during the late 1980s and 1990s when the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en were fighting for title of their land, MacDonald worked with them using video to document evidence of their connection to their territory.

MacDonald worked with the tribal council to document oral histories from Elders who were not able to go to court to support the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en challenge to the provincial government for land title.25 I propose that these testimonies are part of the readings and knowledge of these places and of the land. When I use the word land I’m referring to the places where people have lived and consider home; the spaces where food has been gathered, and the spaces where sometimes people experienced a violent interruption accessing the sustenance of these places. In this search for the right words to define the way I am using the word land, I want to be precise and refer to the material reality, the work and knowledge but also an understanding of these places that has taken generations to understand.

Considering land as readable and legible, I suggest that deforestation and other ecological degradation are forms of redaction. Redaction implies a way to uncover and then reveal what is concealed. The testimonial and oral histories recorded by MacDonald subverts such redaction of these territories. Different than erasure, redaction implies that the underlying knowledge and legibility of a place remains in the stories and memory of the people who know this place, despite however that knowledge is concealed. Environmental degradation potentially changes a place physically and in this way, clear-cut forest are a visual and literal redaction of the flora and fauna. However, the way people interact or use the land can change in response to these invisible shifts. For example, polluted and contaminated soil or water may not be visibly apparent, but not consuming the fish or the elimination of a salmon run are also examples of environmental degradation as a redacting force. The video imagery from MacDonald’s work is evidence of these spaces of potential redaction, not necessarily as a resolve to the dispossession but as a signal to affirm and continue building relations and knowledge of place. Talking with Elders during his video shoot of the Seven Sister mountain range later inspired MacDonald to create numerous in-situ Butterfly Gardens across the country and also a website titled Digital Gardens (1997).26 These gardens are another kind of knowledge system and growing gardens of indigenous plants reintroduces former flora and, thus rewrites a landscape.27

Electronic Totem (1987), is built with TVs stacked one directly on top of the next into an audio video pillar, broadcasts scenes of sustenance from Gitxsan territory. Shots of berry picking, fishing, and waterways accompanied by healing songs sung by Elder Mary Johnson

Mike MacDonald, Electronic Totem (1987) (detail)

Mike MacDonald, Electronic Totem (1987) (detail). Video Installation, 5:20 minutes. Photo by Robert McNair, courtesy of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

represent the many bonds to their territory. MacDonald intentionally presents positive narratives of the community in this work. As mentioned earlier in this paper, in 1987 the same year this work was made, the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en collaborated to challenge the provincial B.C. government to legally establish title to their ancestral territories. This context makes video imagery of Electronic Totem even more significant in confirming knowledge of their territory. The provincial court ruled against the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en, and after an appeal in provincial court in 1993, title to land was still denied. The nations appealed their case to the Supreme Court of Canada (Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, 1997). Although land title was not affirmed, the case did change Canadian law by defining criteria for Aboriginal land title, by opening the legal consideration of oral history as evidence, and establishing a doctrine in Canadian law for a duty to consult First Nations under aboriginal land title.28 This would happen when projects infringe on land title—different than land rights—an important detail that often results in lack of consultation. Recently, controversy around a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline running through this territory has raised questions about whether informed consultation includes entire communities, and not just discussion between industry and leadership behind closed doors.

Like a carved story pole Electronic Totem, presents the stories and relationships of the community. These moments highlight important gestures and practices of self-determination and self-sufficiency, yet beyond the imagery, curator Helga Pakasaar refers to this kind of video work as contesting the false reality of mass media, and highlighting its potential as a “powerful tool for resistance and self determination.”29 The videos are evidence of people’s connection to the land, its legibility and liveability. Curator and scholar Wanda Nanibush explains the interconnectedness conveyed through the song and image in Electric Totem, as not merely environmentalism but that MacDonald “expresses a worldview in which humans are not separate from the environment, or nature from culture.”30 Artist and scholar Dana Claxton posits about MacDonald’s video installation, explaining, “The work can be viewed as a testament to inherent rights that belong to the people of this region, including the lands and its resources.”31 Key to the evidentiary conundrum of this work is the need to outline repeatedly in a courtroom the value of land as not just property but as integral to the Gitxsan’s past, present and future. Herein also is the evidentiary value of MacDonald’s work.

Even though his documentary and video art practices had similar content and subject matter, MacDonald distinguished between the two. In the introduction of this paper I present two scenarios where MacDonald asserts that his video installations function within an aesthetic art realm rather than as expansive documentary, and while I agree, I also suggest that the depth of his documentarian knowledge contributed to his effective use of documentary as a material and powerful medium for art making. His work carries important times and moments into the present for us to see, and for some, to recall and remember. Aesthetics of evidence supports memory closing the gap between distance and time, as many of the issues covered by MacDonald’s work are still ongoing matters.32 Created during key political contestations between the state, First Nations and industry, MacDonald’s documentary and video art creates an aesthetic of evidence and highlights the evidentiary value of art that subverts single authoritative voices and values lived realities of Indigenous people and their communities.


  1. Trinh T. Minh-ha, “Documentary Is/Not a Name,” October, Vol 52 (Spring, 1990), 89.
  2. Tom Sherman, Mike MacDonald February 7 to March 9, 1991, (Toronto: Mercer Union, 1991), 5.
  3. Vesta Giles, “From Rat Traps to Butterfly Gardens: The Video Art of Mike MacDonald,” Arts Atlantic Vol. 16, no. 1 (Summer 1998), 38.
  4. Although I have never met Mike MacDonald, I have gained an impression of him and his art practice by pouring over numerous sources including: his personal video tape collection (including documentaries and news segments recorded off of television), reading his writings, contemplating his artwork, my conversations with people who knew him and who worked along side him, and from books and exhibition publications. His tenacity and forthright way of setting things straight certainly comes through in his artwork, yet is also apparent in audio documentation of his participation on artist panels, interviews and in letters to curators archived in different collections. I must also say I realize this is an incomplete discussion of his work.
  5. I first came to know about MacDonald’s extensive documentary work during my research in 2014 for the essay “Of the Moment | In the Moment” for Vtape and ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Festival. Artist Kim Tomzak told me that Mike was an avid video maker and documented many events, concerts, and testimonies for court cases with First Nations in British Columbia. After these conversations and the writing I did for the publication, I realized that I wanted to think more about how documentary and art making in MacDonald’s work came together and how each practice informs the other.
  6. Jill Daniels, Cahal McLaughlin, and Gail Pearce, Truth, dare or promise: art and documentary revisited (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013). Truth or Dare: Documentary and Art and the revised edition Truth, Dare and Promise: Documentary and Art presents concentrated scholarship examining documentary and documentary style in contemporary art practice. The books frame the discussions as expanded documentary practice rather I see the use of documentary video as a common artistic medium within contemporary artworks and art practices.
  7. Alison Boston, “Mike MacDonald’s Never Ending Story,” Monday Magazine, August 13-19, (1992).
  8. “Vivo Media Arts,” accessed February 16, 2019,
    Metro Media was a video access organization that started in 1971 in Vancouver. After struggles with federal funding the organization changed focus and by 1980 was oriented to cultural discourse of community and art access.
  9. This information came from an early catalogue document with the heading of “Anti-Nuclear Videos by Mike MacDonald.” Tapes on this list are dated from 1977 to 1985.
  10. This quote comes from an undated two-page curriculum vitae located in the Michael MacDonald artist file at the Woodland Cultural Centre. Judging by the most recent work mentioned I estimate that this CV was from about 1986.
  11. Tom Sherman. “Mike MacDonald February 7 to March 9, 1991” (Toronto: Mercer Union, 1991), 5. This scenario is also mentioned in Tom Sherman’s interview with Mike MacDonald.
  12. In 1984 the provincial courthouse became the Vancouver Art Gallery. Although the location of the protest is not detailed in the video’s credits I was able to determine the location through the identifiable architectural features of the building and surrounding cityscape.
  13. John Barker, “Tangled Reconciliations: The Anglican Church and the Nisga’a of British Columbia” American Ethnologist Vol. 25, No. 3 (Aug., 1998), 438. According to Barker’s article: the Anglican Church has a long history of missionaries in Nisga’a communities. In the mid-1960s a social activist faction of the Anglican Church supported Nisga’a land rights. Their support carried through to the AMAX toxic dumping case where petitions were issued to every parish and they also purchased shares in AMAX and turned them over to the Nisga’a delegation who attended a shareholders meeting in NYC creating bad publicity. AMAX eventually closed when the price of molybdenum dropped.
  14. Official Report of Debates of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, 11 May 1981. (5513 – 5516) The case of dumping radioactive tailings from uranium mining directly into Alice Arm (ocean), rather than building tailing ponds on land, underwent extensive debate in the British Columbia legislature on Monday, May 11, 1981. The minister of mines at the time, Hon. Mr. McClelland deflected questions about issuing dumping permits to AMAX by claiming that pollution was an issue for the Minister of the Environment. When pushed further in the debate by the member from Atlin, Mr Passarell presenting an engineer’s report revealed that ocean dumping is less costly in monetary terms than creating tailing ponds on land. Mr Passarell claims that the government’s decision to permit this dumping is cultural genocide on the Nisga’a people as this dumping threatens the life of these ocean waters.
  15. In 1994 at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Marjorie Beaucage curated the exhibition …here are your instructions Aboriginal Film and Video which included early documentary work and the contemporary video art work of the time, such as Zachery Longboy’s video From Another Time Comes One, Mike MacDonald’s Seven Sisters, and AFVAA PSA’s mentioned earlier in this paper. The main thesis of the exhibition was to present work that reinforced self-representation and created new forms of storytelling.
  16. Vesta Giles, “From Rat Traps to Butterfly Gardens: The Video Art of Mike MacDonald,” Arts Atlantic Vol. 16, no. 1 (Summer 1998), 39.
  17. Manuela Ammer, “Nam June Paik’s Television Environment in Exposition of Music. Electronic Television Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal 1963,” Exposition of Music Electronic Television Revisited. (Vienna: Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, 2009), 67.
  18. I am thankful for a discussion with Liz Park who suggested that I think more about Mike MacDonald’s artwork in relation to Nam June Paik’s artwork. In this paper I have only scratched the surface if this discussion.
  19. Trinh T. Minh-ha, “Documentary Is/Not a Name,” October, Vol 52 (Spring, 1990), 89.
  20. Ibid., 89
  21. Peggy Gale, Videotexts (Toronto: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1995), 114. In her essay “When Video First Captured Our Imagination” Peggy Gale explains that early videos such as Richard Serra’s “Television Delivers People” (1973) questioned the medium itself and highlighted the social influence of television.
  22. Tom Sherman, Mike MacDonald February 7 to March 9, 1991 (Toronto: Mercer Union, 1991), 1-2.
  23. Mike MacDonald, “Mike MacDonald,” in Indigena, ed. Lee Ann Martin and Gerald McMaster (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1992), 155.
  24. Nancy N. Chen, “Speaking Nearby: A Conversation with Trinh T. Minh-ha,” Visual Anthropology Review 8, no. 1 (1992), 87.
  25. This information about video documenting Elders for the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en land title case is from Mike MacDonald’s undated two-page curriculum vitae located in the Michael MacDonald artist file at the Woodland Cultural Centre. The most recent work mentioned in the CV is from1986.
  26. While shooting video near Kitwanga BC in an area threatened by clear-cut logging, MacDonald encounters with butterflies inspired his understanding of their connection to medicine plants and healing. This was the seed of MacDonald’s numerous in-situ butterfly gardens created the country. From 1995 to 2003 MacDonald planted gardens across the country from the Presentation House, North Vancouver to as easterly as Mount Saint Vincent Gallery in Halifax Nova Scotia. From an interview with John Grande (2004)
  27. Mike MacDonald, “About Gardening for Butterflies,” in Shore|lines, ed. Mary Reid (Barrie: MacLaren Art Centre, 2003), 46. In a short text written by Mike MacDonald he explains that while working on a traditional medicine plant project with “a native tribe in British Columbia” he noticed butterflies on the blossoms he was photographing. An Elder explained that the butterflies could lead him to the medicines he needed.
  28. Dawn Morrison. “Indigenous Food Sovereignty” In Food Sovereignty in Canada ed. Hannah Wittman, Annette Aurélie Desmarias and Nettie Wiebe (Halifax and Edmonton: Fernwood, 2011), 109.
  29. Helga Pakasaar, Revisions (Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, 1992), 5.
  30. Wanda Nanibush, “Survivance in Indigenous Media Arts,” in VOZ Á VOZ (Toronto: e_fagia).
  31. Dana Claxton, “Re-wind,” in Transference, tradition, technology: native new media exploring visual and digital culture, ed. Dana Claxton, Steven Loft, Melanie Townsend (Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery; Hamilton: Art Gallery of Hamilton; Vancouver: Indigenous Media Arts Group, 2005), 22.
  32. I am thankful to have had conversations with Archer Pechawis, Glenn Alteen, Peter Morin, Daina Warren, Candice Hopkins, Steve Loft, Lisa Steele, Kim Tomzak and more to learn more about Mike and his work. I was first introduced to Mike’s Digital Garden website in the exhibition “Codetalkers of the Digital Divide” curated by Cheryl L’Hirondelle at Aspace gallery in September, 2009.
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