Date of Award
Master Art History and Visual Culture
Dr. Jeanette Nicewinter
Dr. Sarah Cantor
Dr. Khristin Landry
This thesis focuses on the recent work (Tombstone, 2019) by Brian Jungen, a Canadian artist of mixed European and Dane-zaa heritage. The work is explored in detail, leveraging concepts present in Jungen’s existing body of work to extract intent and meaning through Jungen’s complex use of space, materiality, and iconography. Tombstone is a large scale, multimedia sculpture consisting of white plastic Rubbermaid stepstools cut and assembled into the form of a turtle or tortoise shell resting on a bank of thirty-seven black filing cabinets. While Tombstone initially presents itself as aesthetically sparse, it is a deeply-layered commentary on inequity, power relationships, and coloniality. Although Jungen deals with many of these issues throughout his body of work, Tombstone condenses his concerns with stark economy. The work is dense, confronting the complex and unbalanced interactions, both contemporary and historic, between colonial governance and Indigenous Americans. Informed by his experiences as a Danezaa and a member of the Doig River Nation, Jungen’s Tombstone leverages Indigenous symbolism and modernist materiality to comment on a range of issues including colonial museological practices, the exploitation of First Nation resources, ethic taxonomy, the disposition of Native American remains, and the bureaucratic hegemonies that have conflicted with Native American identity and sovereignty in British Columbia. Jungen’s concerns and the presentation of Tombstone align closely with the work of decolonial theorists, particularly Annibale Quijano’s coloniality of power. This analysis focuses on Tombstone through the lens of decoloniality, applying the critical theory to a visual analysis of the work.
Evoy, Jasen, "The Taxonomy of Extinction: Brian Jungen’s Tombstone" (2022). Theses. 75.