Duane Linklater, visual artist (born 22 June 1976). Duane Linklater was born in Moose Factory, Northern Ontario. He has exhibited nationally and internationally at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Alberta, Family Business Gallery, New York and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Winner of the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2013, Duane Linklater is one of Canada’s most prominent contemporary artists.
Early Life and Education
Duane Linklater was born Omaskêko Cree of the Moose Cree First Nation in the Cochrane District of Northern Ontario. He spent his early life in the small, rural community of Moose Factory before moving to Timmins, Ontario, to attend elementary school. As a child, Linklater was driven to creative pursuits, especially drawing, winning accolades from teachers and peers for his skilled imitations of commercial graphics and popular cartoons. This early aptitude for mimicry anticipates his current preoccupation with notions of authenticity, authorship and appropriation.
In high school, Linklater was drawn to art history and fine art. His eclectic range of artistic idols, which include the Russian Constructivist sculptor Vladimir Tatlin, the Woodland School painter Benjamin Chee Chee and the modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, attests to his continued commitment to cross-fertilization in the arts.
From 2000–2005, Linklater attended the University of Alberta where he completed a Bachelor of Native Studies and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Following graduation, Linklater was involved in a number of collaborative projects. In 2010, he entered the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Film and Video; he completed his MFA in 2012.
In 2010, Linklater was awarded a Canada Council for the Arts Residency Grant to attend a master class with the artist Ken Lum, who became a mentor and formative influence. Pressing Linklater to pursue his interest in collaborative processes, the seven weeks under Lum resulted in a six-minute video, It’s Hard to Get in My System, featuring the cellist Zoe Wallace performing the melody of a powwow song Linklater had composed and sung to her prior to taping. Without the aid of sheet music, the artist asks Wallace to reproduce the complex tune from memory. The video documents Wallace’s struggle as she tries to recreate Linklater’s piece. Like much of his later work, It’s Hard to Get in My System ruminates on the inextricable link between knowledge acquisition and cultural convention, in this case between the auditory versus written methods of learning music.
In the same year, Linklater enrolled at Bard College to pursue an MFA. While at Bard, he continued to broaden his creative pursuits, adding to his oeuvre performance as well as small- and large-scale installation and video. An early piece made at the college, Tautology — a large multicoloured neon polyptych of the thunderbird borrowed from a famous painting by the Aboriginal artist Norval Morrisseau — was selected to be part of Beat Nation, a nationally touring exhibition that explored the connection between contemporary indigenous cultures and hip hop. Linklater’s thesis project, which consisted of planting 12 Home Depot blueberry bushes on the lawn outside Bard’s Centre for Curatorial Studies, was picked up by New York’s Family Business Gallery headed by the distinguished artist Maurizio Cattelan and the curator Massimiliano Gioni.
During his 2010 residency at the Banff Centre, Linklater became acquainted with fellow artist, Brian Jungen. The two began a fertile friendship fuelled by a common interest in the politics of their Aboriginal ancestry. Over the next few years they continued to discuss ideas, one of which — a conversation regarding the symbolic value of the moose within their separate communities — led to Jungen’s proposal of a moose-hunting trip on his ancestral homeland, the Treaty 8 district of northeastern British Columbia. The excursion, expertly documented on Super 16 mm by the American cinematographer Jesse Cain and edited by Jungen and Linklater, premiered as a full-length film as part of dOCUMENTA 13’s 2012 lineup at the Banff Centre’s Walter Phillips Gallery. With its rich pastoral imagery, Modest Livelihood is a quiet meditation on ritual and tradition and its place in the contemporary landscape. In the film, hunting acts both as the revival of an ancient practice and a metaphor for the forging of familial ties. The piece was subsequently screened at the Logan Centre Gallery at the University of Chicago, Catriona Jeffries Gallery in Vancouver and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Continuing to mine his Cree background for inspiration as well as expand his purview, in such solo and collaborative shows as Learning, from 2013 at the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto, and Something about Encounter,from 2013 at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Linklater addresses a variety of complex discursive issues such as reproducibility, appropriation and ingenuity. In the same year, Linklater was awarded the prestigious Sobey Art Award.
In January of 2014, Linklater was the Artist in Residence at Simon Fraser University. During his week-long visit, he led a series of seminar sessions as well as a roundtable discussion open to the public with fellow artists Raymond Boisjoly and Marcia Crosby.
In June of 2014, Linklater will be participating in the ICA@50 group exhibition, hosted by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.