Updated: Nov 21, 2020
“We’re all hunting around for acceptance, intimacy, connection and love, but we don’t know what those particular med’cines even look like so we’re just hunting anyway with vague ideas from dreams and hope and intention, at the same time dragging around blockades full of reminders that being vulnerable has never ended well for any of us, not even one single time.”
– Leanne Simpson
Open, non-monogamous relationships have the potential to transform our relationships. Non- monogamous relationships are hard work; but they also challenge jealousy, make you look it square in the eyes, make you uproot all you’ve been conditioned
to feel about ownership and love. To choose to love
in abundance, not just from a place of scarcity, is transformative love. And in all our relationships, not just sexual ones.
Transformative relationships are grounded in Bebeshwendaam, which my co-thinker Michael King has translated from English to anishinaabemowin, meaning roughly “the feeling of being close”. Co-thinking here refers to a practice Kim Tallbear has described as citing people from community who influence your work and not only scholars.
Bebeshwendaam can go beyond a status. When I started spending time with my friend Parneet, we
used to take platonic, Bebeshwendaam building baths together. Now, years later, we negotiate boundaries
in our relationship, and challenge how to have
healthy relations with each other, through our artistic collaborations—with moose racks are strapped to our bodies, negotiating how to be close with these potential barriers in the way. But there is also a gendered understanding within our Bebeshwendaam. As peoples who have felt the colonial imposition of the Western gender binary: how do you process those feelings and connections outside of that dichotomy, when you are taught that romance is reserved for those who love within a male/female binary?
My art is my primary partner. The peoples I have worked with taught me patience. They are exposed to
all vulnerabilities, and the spaces of neglect and abundance within me—because I am falling in love when I make art. There are moments when I want to give up on my art, and the relationships at its core. There are moments when we need to take breaks because the scarcity at the core of our relationships makes them so fraught, gnawing at the last bits of flesh on a bone. But, just as my plant kin have taught me, if I water my art and relationship, and sing for them lovingly, our connection, Bebeshwendaam will grow. This is all I’ve ever known.
My art is a visual reminder that we are still reclaiming our vulnerability, intimacy and love — for ourselves and each other. Our sacred bonds are visible, still. I want to show the beautiful messiness, the truth, of our relationships. We are creating constellations of connection and care. Fostering Bebeshwendaam in every relation.
I want to acknowledge Parneet, Adrienne, Anna, Katie, and Sarahfey for allowing me to express myself with their amazing presence in my images. To Lindsay for breathing magic into my words. To my love, Day, who feeds my body and soul.