Each / Other Presents Indigenous Social Engagement Exhibit at Denver Art Museum
“The works are tangible, but more importantly, they are memories of collaborations that show us how to come together and participate in something bigger than ourselves”, are the words printed on the walls of the new. Each other exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, which debuted on May 23.
Both contemporary Indigenous artists emphasize social engagement in projects, drawing on the contributions of others to infuse a deeper and more inclusive meaning and longevity into art. Addressing cultural environments, environmental issues and social justice are pillars of their work.
Raised on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, Luger is well known for his Shield Mirror project: a protest response to the Dakota Access Pipeline. He posted videos on social media teaching attendees how to build mirror shields to use for frontline actions and to protect the waters of Standing Rock.
In Everyone (2018), more than 4,000 ceramic beads pay homage to 2016 photography Sister by Kali Spitzer. The project commemorates the victims of widespread cases of missing indigenous women, girls, trans and queer communities (MMIWQT) throughout the United States and Canada. Similar to his Shield Mirror process, like a call to action, Luger invited participants to make two inch clay beads through instructional videos, each bead representing a lost individual.
At This is not a snake (2017) – an analogy with the ongoing climate catastrophe – Luger said: “This myth [of snakes terrorizing humans and bringing the end of time] has been featured several times in our stories. First with the train, then with the pipelines. I had the impression that it was all industrial. It can demonize anything other than us. By using the waste from his own projects – like the white blades used to make clay slides and old tires – Luger hopes that by recognizing our own contribution to the exploitation of the environment, we can take responsibility for the environment. consequences.
An alumnus of the 2013 Denver Art Museum Artist Residency Program, Watt focuses on social connection and storytelling in his work. A citizen of the Seneca Nation, Watt intersects history, Indigenous teachings, feminism and biography to engage in interdisciplinary conversations about connection, culture, time and place. Her collaborative sewing circles – many of which are on display – invite open conversations, inviting participants to create meaning in each fabric, culminating in projects such as Butterfly (2015) and Companion speciess (2017).
Watts Cover stories sculpture had participants from 21 states who contributed blankets attached to a significant story. It led to a 105-blanket tower that rises to the sky, a tribute to a Seneca creation story of the woman of heaven who plunged to earth and connected the two kingdoms.
“A lot of people have shared stories about the pandemic,” Watt explained, “So I think it’s a sculpture that really speaks to this moment. When it comes to thinking about pandemics, it’s important to recognize that Indigenous peoples were affected early on by disease and pandemics and this decimated many Indigenous communities. When I think of the pandemics in my life, the blankets have also been used to commemorate the stories of people who have been lost to cause of the AIDS pandemic. ”
For Each other, Watt and Luger collaborated with the attendees to present a huge she-wolf sculpture covered in bandanas donated by more than 850 attendees. Combining the symbolism of face coverings during the pandemic, kinship, vulnerability and connection, Watt’s said the sculpture represents something more than just a collaborative art installation. “It’s really meant to reflect not only our relationship with each other, but also with animals and the environment.”
“For the last 1000 years, perhaps, we have focused on art as an object and removed it from its process and from its being. We don’t maintain the culture in these spaces, we preserve it, ”said Luger. “Art is one of those wonderful channels that can cross time, generations and cross language barriers and share ideas about culture and concepts.”
Each other is on view at the Denver Art Museum until August 22, 2021.
All photographs provided by the Denver Art Museum, unless otherwise noted.