AGOG presents “Financial Troubles” Damian John


Art Gallery of Golden
Art Gallery of Golden
516 9th Ave N, Golden, BC


Thu 19 May 2022 - Sat 18 Jun 2022
Money is something modern humans use to denote value. The unspoken contract between modern humans is that this variety of bills can be used in exchange for almost anything, the different colours, numbers and faces on the bills telling us their value. It is arguably the most important set of symbols, the most important idea, the most important contract we have created as modern humans.

About The Event

Damian John currently identifies as a Rebel Farmer Artisan Poet in love with the rivers and streams and grand cedars of the Kootenays. To his great pleasure he has studied in universities, forests, deserts, and on lake shores with wise people from a small part of the vast variety of wisdom traditions of the world. Part of his current paradigm is a deep need to strive for a kinder and more curious world. To do this he helps facilitate groups in some of the deep contextualization needed to respond to the bias we all face as humans using the wheelhouse that is his Tl’azt’en, his First Nations heritage. With a deep love for all that he is ethnically, a Tl’azt’en German Irish Austrian Hungarian Canadian, he strives to create a space in which we can truly see one another better.

Damian writes about the creation of “Financial Troubles”:

As an indigenous man in Canada, money has been pestering me my whole life.  It began as something unconscious, at best subconscious.  I was not thrilled with Canadian money.  With time, I have seen the various bills change and the imagery on them shift, the advent of the loonie and toonie.  I distinctly remember the bills that had birds on them.  I like birds.

As I grew and learned and became more aware of my status as an indigenous person in this country I became an advocate of sorts, teaching myself and then teaching others about the sordid history of this country as it relates to my people and others of indigenous ancestry.  It was during this time that I really noticed the individuals that Canadian money championed. These individuals are celebrated on the very thing that denotes value in this country. They were all very responsible for what existed at the time of their governance and as it relates to indigenous folk, very little of it was equitable, equal, or kind.

I started thinking about theses important symbols of value and how they did not reflect anything I held as important, and if they did, as in the money that had various beautiful birds depicted on it, the other side of the money still had these images of men and a woman that had been directly involved in the trauma, pain, and death of my people. Yet, because I am not a violent person by nature, I have never chosen to be physically violent with church or state.  I don’t enjoy the idea of violence and I do not enjoy being haunted by thoughts of revenge. As an artist then, I have decided to use my art as a method of moving this violence out of me, into a space where it can have a life outside of me … and be seen. 

The exhibit is an exploration of the idea of currency and value.  The money pieces, the shadow money, is a commentary on my anger and frustration related to what we value collectively as a society and how we “honour” these qualities by putting political, white, colonial, mainly racist males on our Canadian money.  I deconstruct it as an act of rebellion and the exploration of anger and rage.  I then decided to try to encompass value in a token I create, from an indigenous lens, in order to not just be angry but explore the idea of what money might look like if it had some similarities (paper, able to be exchanged, images on it) and explore the ideas of value and currency and exchange.

The hanging pieces are made from paper that I made from local plants, cotton and hemp using dyes I made from indigenous and non indigenous plants.  The designs were screen printed onto the paper.  The pieces that are hanging are infused with other properties of value.  There being 215 is representative of how the atrocities done to indigenous children and families has become valuable to the current indigenous politic in this country and how their spirits swirled about as I created this art.

I also infused the paper with a mixture of handwritten Tl’azt’en myth, the Indian act, and various images related to indigenous history in this country, images that become a part of the paper. The images screen printed on them are images that have meaning to me as an artist, an indigenous person, and an individual exploring value.  Story becomes an important part of the process.

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