In the mid twentieth century the Canadian Federal and Territorial governments acted in concert to link Arctic art production to cold cash. Bringing a North/South view to bear on this history, the Art and Cold Cash collective is involved in producing art in the southern Canadian cities of Toronto and London, Ontario, and at the same time in a social site in the Canadian Arctic, the community of Baker Lake, Nunavut. The contemporary context of Baker Lake is characterized by the existence of imported Western notions of art operating in tandem with the introduction of capitalist exchange. In an investigative mode, Canadian artists Jack Butler, Sheila Butler and Patrick Mahon are working closely with writer, Ruby Arngna'naaq, and artist, William Noah, Inuit members of the collective who have lived through the change from barter economy to capitalism. The work of the Art and Cold Cash collective highlights an important contradiction, in that Northern artists are encouraged today, as over the past fifty years, to produce art and to market their own culture as a means of survival, while Southern Canadian artists regularly take jobs to subsidize their practices.

Examining Inuit art in the context of the introduction of capitalism into the Canadian Arctic is the primary concern in the exhibition project Art and Cold Cash. This project is unique in that it brings for the first time three senior Canadian artists, who have lived and worked in the Arctic, together in collaboration with an Inuit artist and an Inuit writer/curator. Central to this process of engagement is the Collective's plan to mount a series of exhibitions in airports in northern and southern Canada over a period of a year or longer, featuring individual works by Jack Butler, Sheila Butler, Patrick Mahon, William Noah and Myra Kukiiyaut, writing by Ruby Arngna'naaq and video documentation of artistic/creative events created on-site in Baker Lake.

It is clear that in southern urban Canada as well as in the Arctic, in the wake of European nineteenth and twentieth century art history, art works as commodities occupy troubled ground. The project Art and Cold Cash effectively problematizes some of the many assumptions that inhere in the collecting of art in contemporary southern urban sites, in addition to bringing a new template for critical analysis to art produced for export in Baker Lake. The project team is committed to thinking of collective art making and analysis as culturally necessary and creatively expansive at this time of increasing globalization.

A key factor in Art and Cold Cash is the history of twentieth century Inuit art production as concurrent with the introduction of capitalist exchange in the Canadian Arctic. In the mid twentieth century the Canadian Federal and Territorial governments acted in concert to link Arctic art production to cold cash. At that time, widespread introduction of firearms for hunting led to increasing dependence on trade, and that, coupled with the introduction of tuberculosis and other factors, brought an end to thousands of years of a nomadic way of life. Settlements were established by Canadian Federal and Territorial governments and small, formerly nomadic Inuit groups gradually accepted a more sedentary existence, relying far less on hunting and trapping for subsistence. Soon, government funded arts and crafts production projects were founded in several Arctic communities as an intervention intended to provide gainful employment for displaced Inuit. Contacts, mediated by government Crafts Officers, were made with southern urban art dealers and some Inuit producers became known as artists (in the sense that the dominant culture uses that term). These artists earned money for their labour and became players in global capitalism as both producers and consumers. Art that in pre-European contact times served as decoration and religious fetish mutated into art as commodity, and also served as the cultural voice and image of the Canadian Arctic. Paradoxically, art as the bearer of intangible meanings nevertheless has distinct social import. In this context, Inuit traditional cultural values that prioritized the good of the collective compelled a response, albeit unevenly, to the capitalist system's emphasis on the good of the individual.


The Art and Cold Cash Collective recently had a conversation published in FUSE magazine, along with from the "Recycling Art Exhibition", a community event staged in Baker Lake, Nunavut in May 2005.

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