The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York will debut “Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound” Friday, November 10, 2017. The exhibition runs through January 6, 2019.
Through video projection, innovative sound technology, interactive digital media, performance, and installation, “Transformer” presents the work of 10 artists who reflect on their place in and between traditional and dominant cultures, demonstrating the continuity of Indigenous cultures and creativity in the digital age.
This is the museum’s first exhibition entirely composed of works using technology-based media and experiential art. The exhibit is co-curated by Kathleen Ash-Milby (Diné), museum associate curator, and David Garneau (Métis), associate professor of visual arts, at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada
Jordan Bennett (Mi’kmaq, b. 1986)
Raven Chacon (Diné, b. 1977)
Jon Corbett (Métis, b. 1971)
Marcella Ernest (Ojibwe, b. 1979)
Stephen Foster (Haida, b. 1966)
Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Unangax̂ [Aleut], b. 1979)
Keli Mashburn (Osage, b. 1977)
Kevin McKenzie (Cree Métis, b. 1961)
Julie Nagam (Anishnawbe/Métis, b. 1977)
Marianne Nicolson (Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw, b. 1969)
“Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan (We will again open this container of wisdom that has been left in our care), 1 and 2” (Galanin, 2006):
This two-part video both surprises and challenges viewers to rethink their ideas about our cultural responsibility to maintain or adapt tradition. David “Elsewhere” Bernal, a non-Native contemporary dancer, improvises an eclectic, organic dance to a lone male voice singing a traditional Tlingit song. Dan Littlefield, a traditional Tlingit dancer, performs a Raven dance in Tlingit regalia to the rhythms of an electronic music soundtrack in front of an elaborately carved wooden screen.
“Still Life, #3” (Chacon, 2016):
The Diné creation story describes continual movement from one distinct world to another, each defined by light and color. The sound of a voice reciting the story palpably moves within this gallery, like a physical presence, as the glowing light shifts through the four sacred colors, from white (dawn) to blue (midday) to yellow (dusk) to black/red (night). This multisensory installation transforms both the space and the story into an ephemeral and otherworldly experience.
Visitors are invited to join an opening “Curator’s Conversation,” with Ash-Milby and Garneau, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 9, at 6 p.m. Admission is free.
The National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center is located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green in New York City. For additional information, including hours and directions, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu.