Manuel Axel Strain | Needed Medicine

January 10 – February 15, 2020
Opening: Friday, January 10, 6pm – 9pm
Performance: Friday, January 10, 6pm | Near the gallery in Blood Alley Square between Abbott St and Carrall St

Featuring new work by Manuel Axel Strain, Needed Medicine locates mental health within contexts of colonization, intergenerational trauma, and cultural resurgence. Through installation, sculpture, video, and performance, Strain draws from lived experience as a source of agency to investigate different ways of healing and knowing. Two sculptures made with gathered materials — text books, clay, plexiglass, methadone bottles, and prayer ties — question the stability of psychiatric diagnoses and excessively prescriptive approaches to treatment while integrating the cultural dissonance of healing between worlds. A video installation situates language within land as medicine, responding to a desire to resist the loss of language. Drawn to the alleyways of Gastown or the Downtown Eastside, Strain engages Blood Alley as a performance site, working with smudge ash, clay, tumuth and their body to recast the assertions and erasures of urban myths, national histories, and family stories. Works on paper record performance traces as variations on the artist’s distinct modes of self-portraiture.

Strain’s practice confronts the dominance of institutional medical knowledge, stereotypes, and the stigmatization of addictions, where someone is assumed to be at fault for their substance use and their experiences are removed from contexts of trauma histories within the settler economy. Their work introduces a sensory aspect to the now-conventional form of the land acknowledgement while questioning the meaning and process of reconciliation. Evoking ceremonial processes, Needed Medicine centers the value of autonomy and self-determination in recovery and creativity.

Associated Program

Panel Discussion
Saturday, February 8,  3pm – 5pm
Interurban Art Gallery, 1 E Hastings St

Artist Biography
Manuel Axel Strain is a 2-spirit interdisciplinary artist with Musqueam/Simpcw/Syilx heritage based in the unceded territory of the Katzie/Kwantlin peoples. They use their lived experience to inspire social and political change in the colonial state of Canada. This leads them to examine the construction of First Nations identities — in particular the internal conflicts that arise from imposed identity constructs and the legacies of colonization. They work with painting, photography, sculpture, performance, and installation. Strain’s work is mainly concerned with assimilation, religion, spirituality, intergenerational trauma, and healing. Their goal is to move beyond the binary opposition of the colonizer and the colonized to establish new ontologies for First Nations identities.

Gallery Gachet is located in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver on the unceded and occupied territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Gallery Gachet has a mandate to support artists and offer art programs addressing mental health and socio-political marginalization, while promoting art as a means for survival, cultural participation, and human rights.

For more information about Gallery Gachet exhibitions or public programs please contact or 604.687.2468

Image: Manuel Axel Strain, my body, our land, our spirit, 2019. Clay, smudge ash, paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Thank you to our funders: City of Vancouver, Vancouver Foundation, Province of BC, Canada Council for the Arts, the Lacey Prize 2019.

This entry was posted in Events, Exhibitions, News
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