Wednesday, December 13, 2017
55 Walker Street
Through video and performance, THE INFORMANTS will examine the desire for indigeneity in the myths, dreams, and political foundations of the so-called Americas.
Demands for indigeneity have long been entwined with efforts to erase and replace the Indigenous. Channeled through practices of salvage ethnography and “playing Indian,” subliminal attractions evince yearnings for a spectral indigeneity that is removed from actual Indigenous people. The relegation of Indigenous identities to the past denies the presence of bodies currently living on colonized land.
Indigenous artists who participate in the art world of settler-colonial states are expected to provide knowledge in a relationship similar to that between informant and anthropologist. In our current period of existential and environmental catastrophe, desires for Indigenous epistemologies increase and enterprising settlers labor to extract this understanding as a natural resource. From an Indigenous perspective, this has palpable consequences, from romanticization and commodification to appropriation and cultural erasure.
Within the entangled emergence of multiculturalism, neoliberalism, decolonialism, and self-reflexive anthropology, cultural apprehensions—which arise from fears of offense—imbricate and fuel stronger calls for Indigenous information and informants. Many non-indigenous people find ways to frame themselves as indigenous, just as Indigenous people perform indigeneity themselves. If these tendencies are so deeply entrenched in this nation’s self-image to be apparently inescapable, can they be studied, manipulated, or employed by Indigenous people to catalyze an expansion of Indigenous agency, amplifying the power of the informant? Can desires that push Indigenous people to an ideal and irretrievable past instead be channeled to promote the imagining of Indigenous futures?
Featuring performances by Jim Fletcher and Kite, and videos by Diane Burns; W.K.L. Dickson/Thomas Edison; Guillermo Gómez-Peña; Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Gustavo Vázquez; Sky Hopinka; Tonia Jo Hall; Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil, Jackson Polys; Kent Monkman; The New York Times, Shelley Niro; and Chris Spotted Eagle.
Jim Fletcher is a founding member of the New York City Players with Richard Maxwell, with whom, this past year, he has appeared in Isolde, and The Evening. In 2016 he appeared in the films Two A.M. by Loretta Fahrenholz, and Pinochet Porn by Ellen Cantor. Fletcher works with the art collective Bernadette Corporation.
Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil (Ojibway) are filmmakers and artists from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and are currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Their work centers Indigenous narratives in the present—and looks towards the future—while subverting traditional forms of ethnography through humor, transgression, and innovative nonfiction practice. Their films and installations have been exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Sundance Film Festival among other institutions. They both graduated from the Film and Electronic Arts program at Bard College, and are UnionDocs Collaborative Fellows, Gates Millennium Scholars, and current Sundance Native Film Fellows.
Kite, a.k.a. Suzanne Kite, is an Oglala Lakota performance artist, visual artist, and composer raised in Southern California, with a BFA from CalArts in music composition and an MFA from Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School, and is a PhD student at Concordia University. Her research is concerned with contemporary Lakota mythologies and epistemologies and investigates the multiplicity of mythologies existing constantly in the contemporary storytelling of the Lakota through research, computational media, and performance practice. Recently, Kite has been developing a body interface for movement performances, carbon fiber sculptures, immersive video and sound installations, as well as co-running the experimental electronic imprint, Unheard Records.
Jackson Polys is a visual artist whose practice reflects an inquiry into the limits and viability of desires for Indigenous growth. He works in Alaska and New York, and has had solo exhibitions at the Alaska State Museum and the Anchorage Museum. He earned an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University in 2015 and is the recipient of a 2017 NACF Mentor Artist Fellowship.