Ursula Johnson

Artist; Independent Scholar

Ursula Johnson is an emerging performance and installation artist of Mi’kmaw First Nation ancestry. She graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, and has participated in over 30 group shows and several solo exhibitions. Her performances are often place-based and employ cooperative didactic intervention. Through the medium of durational performance art she enters into laborious tasks or circumstances that create repetitive strain on her body and mind, while creating tension with the viewer. Elmiet (He/She Goes Home) 2010 is an example of work created specifically for Nova Scotia’s cultural history regarding the 1756 Scalping Proclamation, where Johnson created an event to host the last scalping in Nova Scotia. Mi’kwite’tmn: Do You Remember is a solo exhibition that toured Canada. For this show, Johnson created three distinct spaces. A “Museological Grand Hall” displayed empty plexi vitrines bearing sand-blasted diagrams of traditional Mi’kmaw baskets. The “Archive Room” was crowded with mutated basket-type objects from the series O’pltek (“It is Not Right”). In the “Performative Space”, Johnson presented an endurance performance of shaving, pounding and splitting an ash-wood log to produce a mountain of splints, as traditionally employed in Mi’kmaw basket-making. In her work, Johnson explores the impact of colonialism on aboriginal material and linguistic culture, and challenges the museological and ethnographic frame imposed upon it. Johnson received the 2017 Sobey Art Award with her installation, Moose Fence, at the Art Museum of the University of Toronto. Most recently (March 2, 2018), she opened a new exhibition of the Indian Truckhouse of High Art at Central Art Garage in Ottawa.