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FREEZE – Why this sculpture came to Saskatoon

As Remai Modern prepared to host Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, the artist and exhibition curator, Wanda Nanibush, considered additional works to connect the exhibition to this location. Freeze, a collaboration by Belmore and Osvaldo Yero, has been shown in Ontario and Arkansas, but never in Saskatoon. The sculpture consists of blocks of ice that contain the surname of Neil Stonechild. The artists felt that it was important to show the work where Neil lived and where the events surrounding his death have had a deep and lasting impact.

Neil’s death remains a raw and painful memory for those who loved him and for many in the community. Our hearts go out to Jeff Crowe, who lost his good friend Neil and who shared his experiences at the first Fireside with Lyndon event on Tuesday night. Remai Modern aims to be a place where difficult conversations can take place, uncensored, and people can share their voices.

Throughout her career, Rebecca Belmore has worked tirelessly to bring attention to difficult issues, including violence against Indigenous people by the state and police. Freeze represents two artists’ personal response and desire to raise awareness. Belmore regrets any upset the work has caused the friends and family of Neil Stonechild.

Through art, Remai Modern hopes to provide a platform to discuss these critical issues and hopefully discover ways to heal and come together. We invite everyone to come see the work and to reflect on where we’ve come from, where we are now and where we want to be in the future as a society.

Belmore offered her reflections on the work in light of the community’s response:

“The letters in Freeze are etched out, they are made of air – they are there and they are not there. The sun, the wind and the coming spring will melt the ice, and the blocks will topple, potentially making other letters visible for a short time. The ice will eventually become water and his name will be free. This work was not intended to be a monument, it was meant to make very clear how Neil Stonechild lost his life. Perhaps this time-based work, a sculpture made of ice, could be a starting point for a discussion about monuments. Should Saskatoon have a lasting monument for those who lost their lives in this way?”