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Ghostkeeper - the Work of Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew

This site features a comprehensive look at the work of Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew. Ahasiw was a theorist, curator, writer, new media practitioner and performance artist. He worked in artist run centres in Vancouver, Regina and Winnipeg curating and producing new practices in performance and new media. Ahasiw passed away in 2006. Ghostkeeper features writing, images, websites and performance documentation of Maskegon-Iskwew’s work as well as essays by other curators and producers on his work.

Among the first aboriginal artists in Canada working in New Media and Net Art Maskegon-Iskwew’s work as a curator, producer and writer laid important groundwork for Aboriginal artists in these fields and is an important voice in the development of these medias within the aboriginal communities. This site brings together many of his essential writings, websites and performances allowing them to continue to have an influence in the development of these practices in Canada and beyond.

On behalf of the curators I would like to thank Alain Malo, Ahasiw’s partner for his support and cooperation in creating this site.

Glenn Alteen
Co curator

Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw was Cree/French Métis born in McLennan, Alberta in 1958. He graduated in performance art and installation from Emily Carr College of Art and Design, Vancouver, British Columbia in 1985. He was Director, Exhibition and Performance Coordinator, and Board Member for the Pitt Gallery in Vancouver (1988-1990) and worked as Adult Education Instructor for the Native Education Centre in Vancouver teaching Contemporary Native Cultural Studies, College Preparation English, and Native Studies (1990-1991).

Maskêgon-Iskwêw was accepted in the two-year Equity Internship Program at the Canada Council for the Arts in Ottawa, where he received training in the Media Arts and Visual Arts Sections, and the Art Bank (1992–1994). Two residencies in the internship also included work with the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College and Circle Vision Arts Corporation in Regina, and the Aboriginal Film and Video Art Alliance at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

He then became Program Coordinator, Acting Executive Director, and Assistant Editor of the Talking Stick First Nations Arts Magazine for Circle Vision Arts Corporation (1994-1995) and went on to develop the position of Production Manager for SOIL Digital Media Production Suite at Neutral Ground Artist-Run Centre (1996-1998). Maskêgon-Iskwêw also worked as the Web Editor for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (2000–2004).

Maskêgon-Iskwêw participated on many panels and symposia addressing issues of Aboriginal equity, participation and representation in cultural industries and new media. He was also a member of numerous arts juries and arts advisory committees including the Canada Council for the Arts juries for Media Arts Festivals and Presentation Projects. From 1999 to 2003 he was a member of the Canada Council Inter-Arts Office Advisory Committee and in 2001 he was a member of the Canada Council Media Arts Internet Dissemination Working Group. In 2002 he attended the Banff New Media Institute’s Interactive Screen project development lab for the second time. That year he was also awarded the CanWest Global Fellowship by the Banff New Media Institute. In March 2003 he was a facilitator and researched best practices for on-line Aboriginal community development at the Second Annual Connecting Aboriginal Canadians Forum in Ottawa presented by the Aboriginal Canada Portal Working Group, and was invited as a presenter to the Third Annual Forum in March 2004.

His critical writing has been published in Mix - the magazine of artist-run culture, and Fuse Magazine. His articles appeared in the anthologies The Multiple and Mutable Subject: Postmodern Subjectivity and the Internet (1999), and Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women (2004). His first fictional work, Cannibals, was presented by the Art Gallery of Calgary as part of the Storybook Story project in 2002. He was editor of the online Aboriginal arts magazine ConunDrum that premiered in July 2005 and produced by Urban Shaman Aboriginal Artist-Run Centre in Winnipeg as well as rapporteur for the online performance art discussion After the Facts produced by Fado Performance Art in Toronto.

At the Pitt Gallery and other galleries in Vancouver he presented a wide variety of visual art works, performance art, new music, film, video and spoken word. In 1990 he was part of the technical facilitation team for the Edge 90 International Performance, Installation, and Video Biennale in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK. In 1995 he co-curated with Debra Piapot the exhibition nanâtawihitowin-âcimowina (Healing Stories): Three Collaborative First Peoples Performances at the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff. While Production Manager for SOIL Digital Media Production Suite at Neutral Ground he facilitated the presentation of numerous artists’ works including Sheila Urbanoski and Bill Burns, and was web editor and performance artist in the collaborative web-integrated performance and installation project Mexterminator II with the Red Tattoo Ensemble. In 2002 he curated Signified: Ritual Language in First Nations Performance Art with the performance art work of Reona Brass and Bently Spang at Sâkêwêwâk Artists’ Collective in Regina.

He created video-integrated performance works including Mestih'kusowin (Holocaust), Pitt Gallery, Vancouver (1990); Sakehi'towin Onipowak, Western Front Gallery, Vancouver (1992); and Hunter, Pitt Gallery, Vancouver (1993). He was artistic director, writer, and producer for isi-pîkiskwêwin-ayapihkêsîsak (Speaking the Language of Spiders), a 10-artist collaboration to produce a World Wide Web site art work, subsequently exhibited at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris in the group exhibition Cyclic and at the Walter Phillips Gallery in the 2003 group exhibition BACK/FLASH. He also worked as artistic director for the development of community-based media art projects with groups such as sex trade workers and youth at risk for Common Weal in Regina (1998–1999) and advocated for increased support for community/artist collaborations at St. Norbert Arts Centre (1999–2000). His visual art has been exhibited in the group exhibition Exposed: The Aesthetics of Aboriginal Erotic Art at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 1999. As well, he created new digital work for Nation to Nation's group creation and community interaction projects CyberPowWow 2 (1999) and CPW2K (2001).

Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw participated in the on-line Aboriginal media arts research and creative community development project Drumbeats to Drumbytes that began touring at OBORO in Montreal, February 2005, and in the group exhibition Language of Intercession at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 2003.

In May 2005 Maskêgon-Iskwêw was awarded a two-year Aboriginal curatorial residency grant by the Canada Council for the Arts to take up the position of New Media Curator at Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery where he pursued his curatorial theme Storm Spirits: The Cultural Ecology of Aboriginal New Media Art. As part of the residency he was also editor and design director of Urban Shaman's Conundrum Online Aboriginal Arts Magazine that launched in July 2005.

He completed a contract to research and develop the corporate objects and bylaws for the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective, produced their website including a collaborative TikiWiki workspace for members, and assisted in coordinating a major national gathering for the organization in 2006.

Maskêgon-Iskwêw also participated in panel discussions and presented a paper at the New Forms Festival 5: Ecologies conference in Vancouver in September 2005. He attended the new media roundtable AURA: A Collaborative Spaces Initiative, Structuring the Artist-University Research Alliance convened by Zainub Verjee of the Canada Council Media Arts Section on December 5 and 6, 2005.

Additional Activities

Avatar! Avatar! Wherefore Art Thou? Art, Software and the Science of Identity
Banff Centre for the Arts Summit Event, Panelist/Presenter. July 25 - 27/98

Siggraph '98, Sublime and Impossible Bodies Panel 
Presenter on new media arts panel coordinated by Sara Diamond, Orlando Florida. July 20 - 24/98

Curating and Conserving New Media Symposium & Workshop
Presenter, Banff Centre for the Arts. May 25 - 31/98

Panel discussion on the influence on digital media in film, video, audio and visual art practice, coordinator, report writer and panelist. SaskFilmPool Regina May 9/98

Digital Diversity: New Media Lecture Series,
Alberta College of Art & Design Visiting artist lecturer, and Guest artist, EM Media Video Production Collective, Calgary. February 5 - 7/98

CARFAC & Sask. Writers Guild Arts Mentorship Program Digital media arts mentor & web research workshop presenter. March - May/’98

Canada Council Media Arts Section First Production Grants Program 
Juror for program of support for first productions in film, video and new media. April, 1996

6th International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA). 
Delivered his paper Nêhiyawêwin and Virtual Reality as part of the panel Body Matters coordinated by Sara Diamond. Published as part of the ISEA Conference Papers. Montreal. Sept. 1995

Cyberconf: The Fourth International Conference on Cyberspace, 
Presented his paper Aboriginal Authorship and Production in Virtual Reality as part of the panel Diversity, Technology and Cyberspace, moderated by Sara Diamond. Banff Centre for the Arts. May 20 - 22, 1994