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Tanya Lukin Linklater: Questionnaire

Like many museums around the world, Remai Modern has closed as part of a broad response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although our program has been suspended, artists remain at the forefront of our thoughts. The museum has reached out to artists involved in our programming to gather their perspectives on the experience of these unprecedented times.

Tanya Lukin Linklater

Thursday, May 21, 2020. 4:59 PM

1. Where are you? What can you tell us about your current living situation, or the conditions in your neighbourhood/city?

I have lived in Nbisiing Anishnabek territory for 11 years in a small city in northern Ontario. There have been 25 cases of COVID-19 (the majority recovered) in our district as I write this. When I walk daily in my neighbourhood people physically distance but also greet one another. There is a sense of loneliness here sometimes, although with spring arriving more folks are outdoors. I spend too much time video conferencing but am grateful for these interactions with friends and colleagues locally and further afield.

2.    How are you continuing your practice during this time?

I’ve spent time archiving work, re-edited a text video, and adjusted plans for future exhibitions. I’m beginning tests for small works on film, documenting questions and ideas in my journal as I research, and I’ve sent edits for my forthcoming collection of poetry, Slow Scrape, to the editor, Michael Nardone. I’ve been thinking in a concentrated way and also daydreaming about the idea of atmospheres. I find it difficult at times to focus as I regularly read New York Times or Washington Post articles and am left with a range of feelings. These small actions daily accumulate into a practice.

3. What things or ideas are you finding comfort in right now?  

My children are alongside me. Visits with Indigenous women across the distance help. Moving my body, walking, breathing. The smell of sweetgrass and sage. Eating nourishing meals (wild canned red salmon, wild rice, berries). Our dog, Chewbacca’s, antics and affection. Looking at old photographs of family. Seeing documentation of folks on the land goose hunting in James Bay, gathering medicines on Manitoulin Island, or fishing near my homelands on Kodiak Island, Alaska on social media. Music by Elisa Harkins, Laura Ortman, Frank Ocean and Jessie Reyez.

4. What artworks, music, books, or films have been in your mind during this time?  

Alicia Elliott’s collection of essays, A Mind Spread on the Ground, is incisive yet open. I’ve also been reading about the Spanish flu epidemic in Alaska (my homelands) and simultaneously the origins of the Anishnaabe jingle dress. Karen Pheasant, champion jingle dancer, shared Indigenous knowledge and history of the jingle dance with many of us when I was young. I think about this dance often as it is strong here in northern Ontario. I consider the actions of our grandparents, the tough choices they made, those who survived, those who did not during the Spanish flu epidemic. Our ways of healing individually and collectively, these inheritances.

5. What are you letting go of? What are you holding on to? 

I am grappling with the slowing of time and the ways in which space has shifted in my life. Our ideas of the spaces we inhabit has grown smaller through sheltering in place. My studio is a living room, a journal.

I’m holding on to my deep regard for organizers in our communities. Ginger Sykes, Karletta Chief and Wendy Greyeyes are mobilizing supplies and sewing masks for the Navajo Nation. Their work, alongside many other community members, is crucial for the health and wellbeing of elders and families in one of the hardest hit places in the United States per capita right now.

6. What are you looking forward to?   

Working with dancers, visiting relatives, laughter with friends, summer sun, swimming in Trout Lake (a deep cold lake near where I live), going to powwows locally. Eventually I hope to be in the mountains again, touch the Pacific Ocean, or yell at a Raptors or Blue Jays game in Toronto.


Tanya Lukin Linklater’s work centres knowledge production in and through orality, conversation and embodied practices, including dance. While reckoning with histories that affect Indigenous peoples’ lives, lands and ideas, she investigates insistence.

Her video Slay All Day was commissioned by Remai Modern and her work is part of the permanent collection, where it was recently presented in the exhibition Next Year’s Country. Other recent exhibitions of her work include Soft Power at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at …and other such stories, the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2019. She will have a solo exhibition at Oakville Galleries in 2021.