A hereditary chief and master carver from the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw First Nation, Beau Dick was one of the most prominent and influential First Nations artists before his untimely passing in March 2017. His powerful sculptures, firmly rooted in the ceremonial culture of his ancestors, bridged the worlds of contemporary art, political activism and the potlatch traditions of the First Peoples of the Pacific North West.
Beau was also a high-ranking member of the Hamatsa, a powerful secret society whose rites are rooted in the legend of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’, the man-eater at the North end of the world, whose body is a mass of gaping bloody mouths and whose consorts are three giant cannibal birds. This talk will give an overview of Beau’s life and work, the initiatory traditions and dances of the Hamatsa and will address the theme of predatory orality in the art, culture and cosmology of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw people.
Speaker: John Cussans is an artist, arts educator and writer working across the fields of contemporary art, cultural history and critical art theory. His work explores the legacies of colonialism, psychoanalysis and surrealism in art, cinema and popular culture from ethnographic, science fictional and social psychology perspectives. He has written and taught on Western constructions of the alien, inhuman and primitive and their subversions in art, anti-psychiatry and philosophy, with a specific focus on the cultures of British Columbia and Haiti. He is a member of SMRU (Social Morphologies Research Unit) a collaboration between artists and anthropologists based at University College London.
He has a PhD in Cultural History from the Royal College of Art, an MA in Art History and Theory from the University of Essex and a BA in Graphic Design and Illustration from Northumbria University. He has taught contextual studies, art history and fine art studio practice at many educational institutions including Bergen Academy of Art and Design (Norway), Emily Carr University of Art and Design (Vancouver), Goldsmiths College (London), Central Saint Martins (London), the Royal Academy (London) and the Royal College of Art (London). Between 2015 and 2018 he was the MFA Course Director at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford.
He is senior lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Worcester where he leads the BA Fine Art and BA Fine Art with Psychology.