This blog post is about an institution of modernism that is quite different from the ones that Lawrence Rainey examined in his groundbreaking book, Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture.
What do images have to do with the law? A lot, as it turns out. To make sense of an image requires the viewer to imagine a form of life. To imagine a form of life is to imagine a form of law. So law owes its existence to images; they clothe its abstract existence in sensible form.
The modernist period is a milestone in Canadian history, notably for playing an integral role in Canada’s identity formation as an independent settler colonial state. Since its inception as a nation, Canada has been shaped by the modern/unmodern binary (with the Indian on the “unmodern” side), as explicitly articulated in the Indian Act, 1876. Canada is reliant upon the Indian Act to claim its modernity as a nation, as it refuses to exist alongside sovereign Indigenous nations. The Indian act was used to create the unmodern Indian subject in order for Canada to justify the legal controls and assimilation it has used to achieve its main goal: to maintain illegitimate control and authority over Indigenous nations and lands. The Indian Act has never been, nor will ever be, about Indians. It is about the Canadian state attempting to establish itself as legitimate.