Canadian First Nations artist Brian Jungen is well known for creating fantastical works from mass-produced consumer goods. Jungen’s sculpture Tombstone is composed of white, plastic Rubbermaid step stools, cut up and reassembled into the shape of a turtle’s shell that rests atop a platform of 32 black, metal filing cabinets. The work’s form references “Turtle Island,” a name for North America used by many Indigenous communities, while the filing cabinets allude to the colonial bureaucracy that American and Canadian governments have inflicted upon Indigenous peoples through broken treaties, violent land grabs, and false promises of sovereignty. The title, Tombstone, suggests the work’s function as a monument to the devastating history of colonialism for Indigenous peoples in North America, where abuses of power have often been carried out through bureaucratic means.
Tombstone, 2019; Rubbermaid step stools and filing cabinets; courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver
Canadian artist Brian Jungen draws from his First Nations heritage to transform ordinary objects into extraordinary sculptures. Creating whale skeletons from plastic chairs and totems from Nike sneakers, Jugen examines issues such as cultural appropriation, consumerism, and environmentalism. His work has been collected by many museums, including Tate Modern, the National Museum of the American Indian, and Vancouver Art Gallery.