Empowerment and bursting dams
Displaying the naked female body and adorning it with animal antlers that cover the genitals is certainly a way to get attention, but for Montreal-based Metis/Saulteaux/Polish, 2Spirit, queer visual artist Dayna Danger, it’s not about that. It’s about empowering community.
Her travelling photo series Big’Uns deals with the reclamation of the bodies and sexuality of trans, non-binary, and female-identified individuals.
Big‘Uns, a play on words of “Big Ones,” meaning a big rack of antlers in hunting nomenclature, came from Danger’s research of sport hunting. She learned that many hunting magazines use the same phrases to describe animals as they do women.
“Language is everything. There’s a feminization that’s happening to these animals. Kind of like this conquering language of overcoming or dominating,” Danger says from a hotel in Winnipeg. “A lot of those magazines talk about chasing down a deer, but they relate it to chasing women. You know, ‘the hunt.’”
The photos featured in the 15-piece exhibit were completely volunteer based by Edmonton locals who answered Danger’s call out for participants.
“Up until Edmonton, it was friends or friends of friends,” Danger says. “I was very specific with my call out, saying who I wanted to work with and what you would be doing. It stated things like ‘You will be topless,’ or ‘You will be covered in baby oil and have strap-on antlers covering your genitals.’”
Danger had a screening process with every participant to make sure they knew exactly what would be required of them to see if they had the “self-determination” to actually go through with the process. Much of this procedure was done through emails and verbal contracts.
“I’ve never had anybody walk out on the photos,” Danger says. “You share this really intimate moment with this individual and they just trust you in that moment. I don’t take it lightly at all.”
Like Big’Uns, much of Danger’s work is inspired and based off an interpretation of fashion or pornography. In the advertising world, sometimes these mediums have a way of blending together.
“I was part of this show here in Winnipeg called A Total Spectacle,” Danger says. “There’s this Tom Ford cologne ad where the bottle is jammed between the model’s naked thighs and that one where the bottle is between her tits and her mouth is open, but you don’t see her face. So I did the same thing with a Sunlight soap bottle and a Lysol bottle between my thighs and it looks like my body is trying to suck in that bottle. It’s a little bit grotesque.”
Danger also took huge inspiration for Big‘Uns from Ontario photography artist Evergon, aka Celluloso Evergoni, who acted as her mentor during her degree in Studio Arts at Concordia University.
“I’m very inspired by his work. He did this black and white series called Ramboys where he had these idealized young men wearing ram’s horns and taxidermied ram heads,” Danger says.
She has a useful metaphor to describe her work and its purpose.
“I like to use is the concept of a dam,” she explains. “Essentially, I feel this work I do is urgent, but there’s kind of like this imposed human made barrier that has fucked up the environment. But if there’s a little bit of a crack or resistance, there can be an explosion.”
The exhibit is being curated by the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective, a local collective “supporting indigenous contemporary art, and advocating for innovative and experimental creative practices and research.”
Opening reception Fri., June 9, exhibit runs until Sat., July 22
Latitude 53, free