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Exhibition gives aboriginal culture a remix

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Exhibition gives aboriginal culture a remix

By John Pohl

MONTREAL — As the title implies, Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture — the new exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain — is a mix of cultural practices old and new. Traditional music and art forms get a contemporary remake that a streetwise generation of artists uses to powerful effect.

The artwork is a collage of the old and new. One major theme is aboriginals’ connection with the land, in both time and place.

Jordan Bennett carves contemporary objects with traditional materials and vice-versa. Marrow Truck Co. is a skateboard truck — the assembly that attaches wheels to boards. He carved the piece, with nuts and bolts among the details, from moose antler. Then he took a skateboard and carved out a wooden webbing to make a snowshoe that he thinks is strong and flexible enough to try outdoors.

Turning Tables is a record player made of oak that “plays” a revolving tree ring with an oak needle. The tree ring produces static that is overlaid with audio of words spoken in Bennett’s native Mi’kmaq language.

History is in the tracks of the tree ring, Bennett said in an interview. “How do you harness the information known by the tree?”

The important role of skateboards in hip-hop culture is reflected in the exhibition. Plus, four low-rider bicycles decorated by four aboriginal artists from all four directions get a prominent display.

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