The artist collective and self-described public secret society New Red Order is launching The World’s UnFair, an immersive spectacle and its largest public project yet. The exhibition, a project with non-profit public arts organisation Creative Time, is being held in an empty lot in Long Island City, Queens (opening 14 September) and includes large-scale sculptures, video installations, animatronics and gatherings. Reappropriating the format of the World’s Fair—held in Queens in 1939 and 1964-65—New Red Order expands its ongoing mission of examining unfair treatment of Indigenous peoples and envisioning a decolonised future encapsulated succinctly by the slogan “Give it Back”.
“In its most conservative sense, decolonisation is a reversal of roles—and we’re not here for that bag,” the collective says. “The other end of the spectrum presents more liberatory pathways of borderless, property-less, nation-less imaginings. It’s not about kicking everyone out of what’s currently called America; it’s about forging new forms of kinship and reciprocity that are centred on the land and its original inhabitants, while calling everyone into that process.”
With core facilitators Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil (both Ojibway, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) and Jackson Polys (Tlingit), New Red Order’s Give it Back project is an ongoing initiative to encourage the voluntary return of Indigenous land.
The project builds on Creative Time’s “long history of working with artists to engage in political discourse in public space”, says its curator Diya Vij, and “continues this legacy to campaign for the redistribution of more land to Indigenous people”. The hope is for the project to support an ongoing effort for Indigenous cultural organisations and artists to receive land and form a pan-Indigenous cultural centre in New York.
New Red Order’s project, which will be on view for around a month, invites visitors to reflect on the dehumanised, racist and romanticised displays featured at Queens’s previous World’s Fairs, including exhibitions of Indigenous people. The installation will include hundreds of tribal flags acting as reminders of Indigenous sovereignty, as well as a five-channel video installation, Give It Back (2023), which highlights evidence of colonisation in the US—from street names to sports mascots—and documents instances of voluntary land “rematriation” (returning land not just to people but restoring its natural balance).
The project also underscores how decolonisation supports interspecies survival; it includes an animatronic piece, Dexter and Sinister (2023), which features a talking tree and giant beaver who philosophise and joke about the privatisation of land. “In a time where the future appears bleak or non-existent, giving it back offers a bright path forward, a way for us to survive an apocalypse together,” New Red Order says. “The landmass here is enormous. And its ecological capacity to sustain life is immense if we care for these resources correctly.”
While reflecting on land and Indigenous histories broadly, the collective’s alternative fair also examines the Indigeneity of what is now called New York City, with signposts illustrating the distances between present-day Lenape communities and their ancestral homes. Furthering this discussion is the Give It Back Gathering, a hybrid public assembly and symposium on land rematriation accompanied by experimental music performances and film screenings.
“I hope that visitors see what they can’t unsee—that not only are we living on stolen land, but we can give it back,” Vij says. “People have given and continue to give land back to Indigenous people through a myriad of pathways. It’s possible. We can create other ways to be in reciprocal, non-extractive relations with each other and the land, and we can start now.”
- New Red Order: The World’s UnFair, opens 14 September, Long Island City, Queens
Keenan, Annabel. “‘Indigenous collective’s ‘World’s UnFair’ in New York imagines a decolonised future” The Art Newspaper. August 28, 2023. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2023/08/28/indigenous-collectives-worlds-unfair-new-york-imagines-decolonised-future