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Professor Millie Chen and MFA Student Caroline Doherty Speak Tomorrow (4/16) at UB’s 12th Annual Storytellers Conference

April 15, 2016  by: Natalie Fleming


Mille Chen, Still from Tour

Department of Art Professor Millie Chen and MFA student Caroline Doherty will speak on Saturday for the 12th Annual Indigenous and American Studies Storytellers Conference. Tickets for Saturday may be purchased on the American Studies Graduate Student Association website.

A complete schedule of the conference may be found here.

Caroline will speak from 3:55 – 5:00PM in CFA 146 as part of a panel on Fighting Borders, Maintaining Haudenosaunee Identity.  Her talk is entitled “Yehęwáhkwa’tha, The Place Where We Take Our Canoes: Art, Collaboration, and Tuscarora Language at ArtPark”.

Professor Millie Chen will speak from 2:50PM – 3:50 PM in the CFA Screening Room.  Her talk is entitled “Lament Geographies”.

In this session, Millie Chen will present three works: Miseries & VengeanceLament Geography, and Tour.

Tour is on view in The Project Space from April 7th until April 16th.

Tour is an audio-video that embarks on a global journey contemplating ‘healed’ genocide sites. Events that occurred over the last century retain heat, as some victims and perpetrators are still alive, and justice, truth, and reconciliation processes are still underway. How can we sustain the memory of that which has become invisible? When we look, what do we not see? A history of human atrocities can become easily absorbed back into the land. But the brutal facts remain. It is only through the persistent retelling of past events that we keep these histories alive, even as acts of atrocity continue to be perpetrated.

In Tour, four instances of genocide are “toured” and memorialized, from the more recent and prominent in short-term public memory, to the more obscured, poorly memorialized, and largely unrecognized:

Murambi, Rwanda (April 16–22, 1994)

Wounded Knee, United States (December 29, 1890)

Choeung Ek, Cambodia (April 17, 1975–January 7, 1979)

Treblinka, Poland (July 23, 1942–October 19, 1943)

The lush, picturesque landscape, seemingly innocent of the traces of atrocities, is juxtaposed with the raw and infectious human voice, lulling the listener from one land to the next. The audio consists of four lullabies that are specific to each cultural location. Based on traditional lullabies, the audio is composed by Juliet Palmer in collaboration with producer Jean Martin and the four female vocalists. There is no lyrical content, only hummed and chanted melodies that pay close attention to the nuances of each cultural context, while trespassing geo-political boundaries.

As we listen, we identify these lullabies as those that may have been sung and heard over generations by the victims of these genocides.


First exhibited in Toronto, Lament Geography starts with the simple premise of directing our gaze northbound. Beginning at the southernmost site (Muncey) in Southern Ontario and ending at the northernmost site (Pond Inlet/Mittimatalik) in Nunavut, a “tour” of 45 former Indian Residential Schools is navigated live via Google Earth. The brutal legacy of these schools is not visually evident in the ghostly appearance of the buildings (some of which still stand), overlaid on top of each former school site, but the emotional and psychological associations persist, to this day not fully resolved or reconciled.

Directing our gaze northbound, what would we encounter, not so much literally, but as a collective legacy? We virtually travel across the land to increasingly unfamiliar (to southerners) terrain. The easily accessible eye-in-the-sky vantage point that satellite and mapping technologies afford us in terms of conjuring unvisited locales cannot ultimately reveal to us what has happened in those places, heightening the tension between landscape and land.

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