Critical Writing Index

Thirza Cuthand: Medicine and Magic

by Ariel Smith, Lisa Steele and Thirza Cuthand

Toronto: V tape, 2020

ISBN 978-0-9867810-7-4

Published by Vtape in partnership with imagineNATIVE, this exhibition catalogue accompanies artist Thirza Cuthand’s work included in the 21st imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in 2020. A brief introduction by Lisa Steele notes that Vtape is a long-time distributor of Cuthand’s work, and describes the artist’s practice as examining gender, body and identity from an Indigenous perspective.

In “Thirza Cuthand: Medicine and Magic,” curator Ariel Smith describes Thirza Cuthand’s dual-channel video installation “Medicine and Magic” (2020), which screened for the first time as part of the 21st imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on their online platform iNdigital Online Space. “Medicine and Magic” juxtaposes two narratives that reflect Cuthand’s mixed-race Indigenous Plains Cree and Scottish ancestry. One video tells the story of the artist’s great, great grandfather Misatimas healing from a wound through Cree medicine involving bear spirits. The second video involves the story of a Scottish woman named Isobelle Sinclair, executed for alleged witchcraft in 1633. Cuthand discovered Sinclair’s possible ancestral connection to her family through online research. A quote from the artist emphasizes the shared themes of Christian colonial violence within both stories. Smith notes Cuthand’s use of stock and super 8 footage and her choice not to include her own image or voice-over narration, constituting both a formal and tonal shift for the artist within their practice.

In a transcribed conversation between Ariel Smith and Thirza Cuthand, the curator and artist discuss “Medicine and Magic”, particularly how the two stories connect respectively to Cuthand’s nêhiyawak culture and Cree family history and her Scottish ancestry. Smith and Cuthand discuss the themes of colonization and ceremonial tradition, and the creation of the work during the COVID-19 pandemic, a restrictive context that influenced Cuthand’s choice to use stock footage and previously filmed original super-8 footage. Cuthand relates the use of text from other sources and the absence of voice-over narration to her personal distance from the two stories.

Curated by Ariel Smith, the digital screening “Artist Spotlight: Less Lethal Fetishes, A Retrospective Screening" which includes a selection of Cuthand’s past video works launched on October 22nd, 2020. A brief statement by Smith describes the prominence of Cuthand’s voice and body within these five short experimental videos and identifies their shared themes of queer Indigenous identity, madness, kink, and colonialism. The titles and technical specifications of each of the five videos are listed, along with a brief synopsis of each of their contents.

ITEM 2020.001 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Introduction: Magic Indeed... The Work of Thirza Cuthand in the 2020 imagineNATIVE FestivalLisa Steele

Thirza Cuthand: Medicine and MagicAriel Smith

Medicine and Magic: Thirza Cuthand In Conversation With Ariel SmithAriel Smith

Medicine and Magic: Thirza Cuthand In Conversation With Ariel SmithTheo J. Cuthand

Artist Spotlight: Less Lethal Fetishes, A Retrospective Screening: Thirza Cuthand (Cree)Ariel Smith

Medicine and MagicTheo J. Cuthand

AnhedoniaTheo J. Cuthand

Just DandyTheo J. Cuthand

Love and NumbersTheo J. Cuthand

Less Lethal FetishesTheo J. Cuthand

SightTheo J. Cuthand

Thirza Cuthand is an Indian Within the Meaning of the Indian ActTheo J. Cuthand