Fix your hearts or die is a call to action wherein the stasis of maintaining the status quo is equivalent to death, either metaphorical or real. It is a call to viewers to engage with difficult or challenging topics and the complex intersections that are present for Indigenous artists. Cheryl L’Hirondelle uses a prospector tent, projection, and sound to create a space where alternate cognitions and a self-determining existence as a self-described half-breed woman exhibits and transmits unconventional, seer-like illuminations. Daniel Cardinal McCartney lays bare the disruption of his family due to the damaging effects of residential school, and connects this history to his gender identity and ongoing discrimination.
In an act of great care, Sheri Nault adorns natural materials with beads, human hair, and bondage rope to connect themselves as a queer Indigenous person to the natural world. Adrian Stimson dissects and re-imagines a violent engraving from the 1500s by Theodore De Bry as a series of paintings wherein smiling nude Indigenous men hold puppies while observed by Spanish conquistadors, rather than being torn apart by dogs, as in the original work.
The title Fix your hearts or die stems from the 2017 continuation of the cult television series Twin Peaks. In it, FBI Agent Gordon Cole (played by David Lynch) confronts fellow agents when they make transphobic comments out of earshot about Agent Denise Bryson, a trans woman (played by David Duchovny). The transphobic agents assume Agent Cole’s complicity in their comments, and are shocked when he instead admonishes them loudly to “fix your hearts or die.” Although the casting of Duchovny as a trans woman is problematic, the message is clear: silence in the face of discrimination is stasis, the death of existence on a spectrum. The call is even more urgent for marginalized persons where death is not simply a metaphor. Many Indigenous men, women, queer, and trans people have paid with their lives for their existence. The artists in Fix your hearts or die grapple with these histories and make space to be who and how they are and to project this being into the world, for themselves, for their communities, and for future generations.