Jeneen Frei Njootli



Jeneen Frei Njootli is a Vuntut Gwitchin artist and co-creator of the ReMatriate Collective. Based between the Yukon and unceded coast Salish territories in Vancouver, Frei Njootli works primarily in sound-based performances. Frequently giving free workshops, her community-engaged practice focuses on visual Indigenous sovereignty and relationships with land. She speaks about Bushed Theories in the 2016 Spring issue of American Indian Culture and Research Journal.


Frei Njootli has presented internationally on her work and has exhibited recently at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Southern Manitoba and Macaulay & Co Fine Arts in Vancouver. She is currently being mentored by Lorraine Netro to advocate for the permanent protection of the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s calving grounds, located in the north-western corner of Alaska. A herd that the border spanning Gwich’in Nation have had a relationship with for over 20,000 years.




I have been creating artworks for and through performance that hold the space of the performance’s gesture. These sound tools and houses for residue present points of departure from the initial context of their creation. Bone dust, buffalo chicken wing grease, sand paper, an artificial moisture collector, a smear and deep, dissonant, sinewy sound… these traces presence an absence and a politic. Residue has become a strategy for me to both navigate around representations of my own body in my work and a way of pointing the viewer to questions of the geopolitical, or one could say of labour, love and culture.


Performance has been and continues to be a pertinent medium for telling Indigenous stories, presencing concepts, materials and signifiers in a way that they can exist not as a static producer/product of knowledge but as a knowledge-in-politics, in-production and in-flux.


Dust on paper as document of a gesture, grease on plexi, grease slowly eating through cloth, water evaporating. Like sound and video, they by nature are not fixed, are harder to pin down, to fold, to place under a glass case. They are generative and have possibilities of being multiplied, of accumulating, of creating an echo. How does an object made by Indigenous hands perform in the liminal space of the gallery? What layers of gaze and levels of consumption are at play? 1 Can they exist in these spaces with more autonomy, because they are witnessed through the body’s senses, through aesthesis? 2 Sound can permeate spaces and bodies, while performance presents a rupture in a social, colonial, constructed fabric. Maybe they both do, in their aesthesis. Perhaps both are a gesture of offer and refusal. What new meaning can arise from their resulting residue?


I leave with: where is the work? g’ashondai’kwa 3


1 Dana Claxton asks of the gaze, “What about the wink?” I think the dehumidifier turned sound tool is winking, I’m not sure about the parkas though.
2 Transnational Decolonial Institute Manifesto
3 I don’t know