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Staats, Greg
Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders] Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders]
2020 2020

Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders], is a performative event score and mnemonic work that comes from grade school Kanienkeha (Mohawk language) lessons learned by Greg Staats in his youth, and a relational understanding on how to convey various ways of communicating what it means to not know something. The viewer is prompted to recite 60 different ways to say “do’gah,” with and without shrugging gestures. Within such an activation is the impossibility of fulling knowing, due to loss of language through colonial assimilation or a refusal (Simpson 2007) to share everything. Some knowledges are intimate or sacred and not meant to be carried by everyone. “[R]efusals speak volumes, because they tell us when to stop. Whether or not we wish to share that is a matter of ethnography that can both refuse and also take up refusal in generative ways” (Simpson 2007, 78). This generative and generous quality to Staats’ work urges the viewer to reflect on their own positionality, context, and desire to access to knowledge.

Do’-gah
1. I do know but I refuse to tell you, just for today.
Do’-gah
2. I need to remind you, that you can’t know everything
Do’-gah
3. I don’t know, and because you asked me and expect a detailed answer, I feel shame and anger at once for the irony of the colonial systemic deficits and for your extractive expectation of presumed knowledge.
Do’-gah
4. I don’t know, and I refuse to find out for you.
Do’-gah
5. I’ve heard you, and will think about it. Time and reflection for considered response of what I shall tell you on my own time and to ensure cultural safety.
Do’-gah
6. I do know and I need to tell you the protocols of our relations moving forward.
Do’-gah
7. I don’t know – my language.
Do’-gah

Reference:
Simpson, Audra. (2007). “On Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, ‘Voice’ and Colonial Citizenship.” Junctures, No. 9. Otago Polytechnic Te Kura Matatini ki Otago.

Staats, Greg and Lorna Brown. (2020). “Soundings: Greg Staats.” Exhibition text from Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Accessed Aug. 28, 2021 from https://belkin.ubc.ca/events/greg-staat/.

Staats, Greg
Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory 1963; Skarù:rę [tuscarora] maternal / Kanien’kehá:ka [mohawk] paternal - Hodinöhsö:ni’ Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory 1963; Skarù:rę [tuscarora] maternal / Kanien’kehá:ka [mohawk] paternal - Hodinöhsö:ni’
Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders] Do’-gah – I don’t know [shrugging shoulders]
2020 2020
Archival pigment print on canvas and stretcher, oil, earth and Indian tobacco ash (edition of 3) Archival pigment print on canvas and stretcher, oil, earth and Indian tobacco ash (edition of 3)
56 x 69 x 1 inches
Purchase, Chancellor Richardson Memorial Fund, 2021 Purchase, Chancellor Richardson Memorial Fund, 2021
64-006

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