Resisting Transhistorical Violence: Fringe and Art Activism


  • M. Bryn Brody



Between 1587 and 1589, Netherlandish artist Jan van der Straet engraved a series of plates entitled New Inventions of Modern Times. One, Allegory of America, portrays an Indigenous woman in a feathered headdress and skirt eagerly welcoming Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci as he steps onto land. Van der Straet’s work occupies space in a long history of male European artistic depictions of Indigenous women, but the white colonial gaze evident in Allegory has not gone unchallenged. In 2007, Rebecca Belmore (Anishinaabe) responded to transhistorical violence against Indigenous women and girls with a billboard instalment entitled Fringe. Although originally displayed as a direct response to the Pickton murders in Vancouver, Fringe transcends a single event or story. Belmore’s billboard reimagines controlling images that construct Indigenous women as sexually available conquests. She strips the image of the icons that artists have used to represent Indigenous women. By placing the billboard in a crowded metropolitan area, Belmore forces the viewer to confront the still-present reality of Indigeneity alongside the concomitant brutality of settler colonialism. Belmore’s art functions on multiple levels to convey a sense of survivance in the face of systemic attempted genocide. Fringe is a fully realised, modern, and powerful piece of art activism that transforms visual culture. In this paper, I analyse the transhistorical effects of art as a tool of colonisation, as seen in van der Straet’s work. I then theorise Fringe as a vibrant piece of art activism (artivism) that subverts the white male colonial gaze.




How to Cite

Brody, M. Bryn. 2023. “Resisting Transhistorical Violence: Fringe and Art Activism”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts 34 (1).



Transmediality & Art