The Proust Questionnaire: Hannah Claus
The Proust Questionnaire started as a Late Victorian parlour game, aimed at revealing key aspects of a person’s character. While still in his teens, author Marcel Proust answered a similar series of questions with such enthusiasm that, when the manuscript containing his original answers was discovered in 1924, his name became permanently associated with this type of informal interview.
Hannah Claus is a multidisciplinary artist of English and Kanien’kehá:ka/Mohawk heritage whose practice uses installation “to create sensory environments that speak of memory and transformation. These explore the particular, personal and living relationships within an Indigenous worldview, often focusing on Kanien'kehá:ka /Mohawk cosmography, in order to unsettle our perception of time, space and memory.“ Repetition and accumulation are key elements that shape much of her œuvre, be it sculpture, installation, video or two-dimensional work. She challenges viewers to engage with her work and assess their connectedness to it, creating a transformative experience between people, objects and ideas.
Based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal since 2001, Claus is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and Concordia University. Her work our minds are one is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada and on view in the exhibition Àbadakone | Continuing Fire / Feu continuel. She has exhibited internationally, and her work is represented in various public and private collections, including the City of Montreal and the Department of Global Affairs. In 2019 she was the artist-in-residence at Montreal’s McCord Museum and the recipient of the Eiteljorg fellowship. In 2019 and 2020, her work has been shown in Inaabiwin at the Ottawa Art Gallery, Regina’s Dunlop Art Gallery and Blurring the Line at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. Claus is a member of the Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Ontario.
Your earliest memory of art:
Seeing the light through the window curtains from between the bars of my crib.
Broken and stubby Crayola crayons with peeled away paper wrappers leaving the smell of waxiness on my fingers.
When you knew this would become your vocation:
When I made the decision to go to art school. It was a commitment to this path and not looking back later and saying “what if?”.
Your greatest influence:
My experiences with the places and people that surround me.
Favourite pastime (other than art):
Shelley Niro. Rebecca Belmore. Anish Kapoor before he copyrighted colours.
Favourite writer and musician/composer:
It’s not fiction, but Deborah Doxtator’s critical texts (Basket, Bead and Quill and Reconnecting the Past: An Indian Idea of History) are ones I go back to over and over. For musicians, it varies, depending on my mood. Can range from Jeremy Dutcher to AC/DC.
Favourite colour, flower and/or bird:
Purple and tulips (their colours are the best) or lilacs (their smell is the best).
Favourite food and drink:
Cedar planked salmon and pine needle tea.
Favourite smell and sound:
Sweetgrass growing somewhere outside on a hot day; waves on rocks.
Favourite weather or season:
I enjoy them all – the one thing I don’t like much is when the seasons skip, like when the weather turns too quickly from cold to hot.
Your definition of happiness:
When the people I love are happy and well. When I have the time to do the things I keep planning to do.
Ideal place to live:
Where I am now is good.
To me art is (in five words or less):
A way to communicate.
our minds are one by Hannah Claus forms part of the National Gallery of Canada's exhibition Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel. Share this article and subscribe to our newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest Gallery news and to learn more about art in Canada.