Ten Little Indians
was a collaborative five-month residency program begun in May 2001. Named after the infamous children’s poem and the Agatha Christie novel, this program curated by artist Mike MacDonald has investigated digital media in relation to First Nations communication traditions. The title of the residency offers up a rather dramatic contradiction because it refers to both issues of cultural genocide and the networks of mentorship that form the base of many Aboriginal communities. The title also seems to come out of a 1988 exhibition experience at the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, Alberta, Canada. In his artist statement for the Revisions
catalogue, MacDonald muses that "Revisions
was an incredible experience for me - my first group show with other contemporary artists of Native ancestry; it was like finding one’s family and led to many meaningful friendships among ‘Ten Little Indians’, as Joane Cardinal-Schubert called us."(1)
The innovative residency program, which has no formal mentorship structure and is based on Native familial roles, has enabled both senior and emerging artists to introduce and exchange information on new media expressions within the centre's open studio. MacDonald, the program's curator, is a senior First Nations artist known for his installations addressing nature and the environment, such as his butterfly gardens found across Canada. The participating artists included Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Justin Schubert, Arthur Renwick, Jani Lauzon, Colleen Cutschall, Louis Ogemah, Skawennati Tricia Fragnito, Cynthia Lickers and Jason Lewis. All these artists had some background in digital media. Some have also worked on Web projects, for example Skawennati Tricia Fragnito on the Cyber Pow Wow
project and Louis Ogemah on the Regeneration project.
The residencies resulted in a touring exhibition, CD-ROM catalogue and Web site.