The Power Plant

Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture

Various Artists

Past Exhibition

Dec 15 2012 – May 05 2013

 Skeena Reece, Raven: On the Colonial Fleet (detail), 2010. Performance regalia. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Sebastien Krete.

Skeena Reece, Raven: On the Colonial Fleet (detail), 2010. Performance regalia. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Sebastien Krete.




Barry Appleton and the Appleton Foundation


Kathleen Ritter, Associate Curator, Vancouver Art Gallery & Tania Willard, Secwepemc artist, Designer and Curator

Beat Nation describes a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity to create innovative and unexpected new works—in painting, sculpture, installation, performance and video—that reflect the current realities of Aboriginal peoples today.

Since the early 1990s, hip hop has been a driving force of activism for urban Aboriginal youth in communities across the Americas. The roots of this music have been influential across disciplines and have been transformed to create dynamic forums for storytelling and indigenous languages, as well as new modes of political expression. In the visual arts, artists remix, mash up and weave together the old with the new, the rural with the urban, traditional and contemporary as a means to rediscover and reinterpret Aboriginal culture within the shifting terrain of the mainstream.

While this exhibition takes its starting point from hip hop, it branches out to refer to pop culture, graffiti, fashion and other elements of urban life. Artists create unique cultural hybrids that include graffiti murals with Haida figures, sculptures carved out of skateboard decks, abstract paintings with form-line design, live video remixes with Hollywood films, and hip hop performances in Aboriginal dialects, to name a few. Beat Nation brings together artists from across the continent—from the West Coast as far north as Alaska and Nunavut, as far east as Labrador and south to New Mexico—and reveals the shared connections between those working in vastly different places.

As Aboriginal identity and culture continue to change, and as artists reinvent older traditions into new forms of expression, their commitment to politics, to storytelling, to Aboriginal languages, to the land and rights remains constant, whether these are stated with drums skins or turntables, natural pigments or spray paint, ceremonial dancing or break dancing.


Jackson 2bears, KC Adams, Sonny Assu, Bear Witness, Jordan Bennett, Raymond Boisjoly, Corey Bulpitt & Gurl 23, Kevin Lee Burton, Raven Chacon, Dana Claxton, Nicholas Galanin, Maria Hupfield, Mark Igloliorte, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Duane Linklater, madeskimo, Dylan Miner, Kent Monkman, Marianne Nicolson, Skeena Reece, Hoka Skenandore, Rolande Souliere

4 lowrider bikes, mixed media. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Single-channel video, 5:00. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Walnut, oak, spruce, audio. Courtesy the Artist. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Performance regalia. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Watch an Artist Talk by Duane Linklater

Winter 2012-13 Program Guide

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About the Artists

Dylan Miner

Dylan Miner, born in 1976, is an artist, activist, scholar, and transformational leader.


Maria Hupfield

Maria Hupfield is an Indigenous Anishinaabe artist and a member of the Wasauksing First Nation. Hupfield is working in a variety of media, including video and performance.

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Skeena Reece

Skeena Reece is Tsimshian/Gitksan and Cree/Metis based on Vancouver Island, BC.