The deepest desires of the settlers of the New Red Order Parodies Society
In 1834, a group of politically powerful and patriotic white men formed the Enhanced Order of Red Men. Modeled on their perceptions of Indigenous cultures, members of the fraternal organization, which included influential figures such as Warren G. Harding and Theodore Roosevelt, dressed in red and performed “sacred” rituals – a demonstration of not only their affiliation within the brotherhood, but also with the land they claimed as their birthright. New Red Order (NRO), whose principal members include Indigenous artists Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil and Jackson Polys, plays out of the Enhanced Order of Red Men, questioning the role that the exploitation of indigeneity has played in the shaping of our present. Collectively, members imagine what an Aboriginal future might look like. In Feel at home here, now visible at Artists Space, NRO creates a carnival of funhouse mirrors, stretching and distorting our perceptions of reality to open up new reflections on the ultimately paradoxical desire for indigeneity.
Identifying itself as a public secret society, the NRO deals primarily with what is hidden from view, namely harnessing and erasing indigenous experiences. The mysterious organization, which enjoys a rotating membership of secret “informants”, often uses a combination of satire and cryptic messages to facilitate a state of confusion, offering a new lens through which viewers can question and question. even reframe their conflicting relationship with indigeneity.
Feel at home here, welcomes viewers with “Conscientious Conscriptor” (2018 – Ongoing), a functional recruiting booth that launches an open invitation to all those who wish to join the organization as an “informant”. The booth is accompanied by “Never Settle: Calling In” (2019) and “Never Settle: The Program” (2018 – Ongoing), mock documentary videos in which an optimistic white recruiter appeals to the guilt of the presumed non-settler. – Indigenous viewer, offering a way for recruits to harness and re-channel their illicit desire for indigeneity into the growth of an Indigenous future. Coated with the positive professionalism of a corporate diversity training video or LinkedIn post, NRO’s parody recruiting articles focus on a deeper existential discomfort, soothing viewers who have inherited the role of the oppressor. Rest assured, however, in NRO’s Indigenous future, “there is a place for you”.
After a year in which many have moved onto the social media scene (either by personal choice or due to outside pressures) to work publicly through their dealings with race, privilege and complicity in social media systems oppression, these works, with their manifestos for decolonization projected through the archival videos, take on a new dimension. With social media activity ranging from education to self-flagellation, the performance of confronting a decolonial reality has proven to be a messy, if not somewhat embarrassing, project. However, where some may see only empty gestures, NRO identifies a site of potential, asking: how can the cringe can be reused and organized for material change?
While NRO thrives in the realm of contradiction and abscence, sometimes Feel at home hereThe use of understanding and innuendo risks burying the work of the organization in the rubbish of overstimulation. ‘Cover the Earth’ (2021), for example, NRO’s commentary on the retail experience and lifestyle aspiration, creates a beach area as a backdrop for a wall collage that eclipses the Nearby ‘Progenerator’ (2020 – Ongoing), one of the most interesting works in the exhibition, in which a speculative historical timeline overlays the founding of the New Red Order on that of the Improved Order of Red Men.
The culmination of a multi-year collaboration between NRO and Artists Space, Feel at home here provides an in-depth study of the group’s history of productive antagonization both within and outside the art world. In the past, the NRO has used its power of “informants” as leverage to effect institutional changes, such as the incorporation of land recognition practices. Most recently, they were instrumental in the removal of MOCAD director Elysia Borowy-Reeder by withholding artwork until demands from museum employees are met. In “CULTURE CAPTURE: CRIMES AGAINST REALITY” (2020), NRO focuses on another place of power, the monument. Located on the ground floor of the exhibition, the video depicts a speculative technology where accomplices, informants ready to commit “crimes against reality”, are sent to monuments to digitally capture their images, like the statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History. These images are used to compile 3D models of the monuments that the organization can then virtually manipulate, redistributing the power of implosion and metastatic regeneration into the hands of the people.
With an organization whose practice of building speculative realities has been an indicator of societal change, a next natural question is, so where are we going? “Give it Back” (2020), a window installation facing the street that emulates a real estate office, proposes the repatriation of land to indigenous peoples. Curious passers-by on White Street can consult lists detailing cases of land ceded to Indigenous groups or individuals. While this may seem like an unrealistic and important undertaking, recent events present a harsh reality that makes repatriation the bare minimum. In recent months, excavations of residential schools in Canada have uncovered the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children in unmarked graves. A weapon of cultural genocide, these schools, run by the Catholic Church, housed indigenous children who were forcibly removed from their families and communities for re-education. Notably, 10 Catholic churches on indigenous lands have been burnt down in recent weeks.
While the speculative futures of NRO merge with present realities, they remind us that burning can also be an act of genesis.
New Red Order: Feel at home here continues through August 22 at Artist’s Space (11 Cortlandt Alley, Tribeca, Manhattan). The exhibition is organized by Jay Sanders with Stella Cilman