Dallas Doubaitis's Response to Speaking in Landscape Tongues
Reviewing Peter’s work, what has resonated the most is the repeated use of the circle as an object, as a process and as a symbol for completeness. Throughout his performances, the circle first came into play for me visually via the objects: bowls used to carry the water in Land One, drums hanging as microphones from the ceiling to communicate with Joseph Beuys, drawings with salt and hair on the ground both enclosing and declaring a space—a safe space where the described intent of his work (healing) could be done.
The circle also suggested the process of a journey destined to always revisit its own beginning. This was a constant occurrence in the performance series, from the story told in Land One, and the method of storytelling relying on the cycling of water carriers, to Speaking in Tongues, with the repeated process of creating circles with the salt and the human hair. In Sound Making, Peter walked in circles with incense around another salt circle, his brother-in-law David Kong performing karate kata within. The process of creating the circles and the essence of events working within cycles gave a strong presence. This use of the circle or cycle had a strong resonance in the work for me; reflecting not just on the artwork but toward the influence for the work— most importantly toward whether the cycle of the residential schools has truly been concluded or whether that story still has more to cycle through before reaching its completion.
This brings us to the last circle reference in Peter's work—the circle as symbol for completion. The use of the circle as a form of wholeness or completeness seems to be one of the few symbols found among all cultures, and Peter relied on it throughout his work as a cross-cultural symbol to speak to all cultures about issues concerning the residential schools, and the loss of completeness in First Nations culture as a result, and to question the effectiveness or adequacy of the government’s formal apology. The repeated use of circles/cycles both as object and process reinforces Peter's intent to question the government's apology as a way to bring completion to the history of the residential schools, and to restore the wholeness of the First Nations people and culture. When I first talked to Peter about the project and the governmental apology, he put it simply as “Is that enough?” and “We still need to talk about it more.” These two statements stuck with me throughout the series and summarize the totality of what I took away from the work. The question of whether an apology can address the lack of completeness within a culture, whether it can be the end of the history allowing Canadians, of all cultures, to exhale and breathe in fresh air, or if it's a piece of our inherited history so immense that its cycle of completion is still far away and further discussion is still needed is what was important for me in working with Peter.