Interviewed by Elizabeth Neal
Dana Claxton, a First Nations artist, was born in Yorkton in northeastern Saskatchewan, and incorporates themes from her Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux heritage into her film, performance art, and photography. Her work explores ecological themes, ideas about beauty, spirituality, and the impact of colonialism on indigenous North Americans, the latter being particularly personal, as her family migrated to Canada from the United States with Sitting Bull. Her works, such as Buffalo Bone China (1997), which cast a light on the slaughter of the wild buffalo for a European luxury item, bring together historical actions and their lasting consequences. Although her work exposes the darkness of American imperial injustices, she has also cited “the beauty of Lakota culture and teachings” as equal inspiration for her artistic endeavors.
Elizabeth Neal: You have exhibited your work overseas, including in Australia, France, Hong Kong, and Poland. How does that experience differ from exhibiting in North America? How do those audiences receive your pieces?
Dana Claxton: Many years ago, I thought I only wanted to “talk” to North Americans through my work regarding Native American history and contemporary life, since I felt that so few people knew the history of the land and the ancient people. The exhibition space is a complicated site. After having several shows internationally, I realize that my art is for all people - in all countries and hopefully they all engage with the ideas - which are really based in honesty, respect and courage. The courage to know really the history of this land and ancient people and the courage to know Indian people now.
EN: Your recent performance piece The Elsewhere (September 2011) has been cited as an attempt to “Indianize space” through the use of gesture, music, and natural and man-made objects. I interpret the title of the piece as a reference to transporting the viewer/participant to a space that is in between a gallery for observation and a space that is much more personal in nature. Would you please elaborate on what you had in mind with the title? What would you like the audience to relate it to in a broader sense, if anything?
DC: For me the elsewhere is going beyond matter into the realm of spirit and I was hoping to take the audience with me, which I am told some did! Also, at the end of the performance I had a “giveaway” and offered the audience to come up and have something from the performance - either stones or shells.
The Elsewhere (2011)
EN: What is your favorite kind of space to present your work? Do you have any specific criteria when you consider a space?
DC: Space is a funny thing. Sometimes I like spacious white spaces, other times small and intimate. Indian and non-indian spaces. I don’t have a fav or criteria and try and work with the space that is provided and then sometimes I make works with spaces in mind. Space can be political, nurturing, disturbing, spiritual, demanding, aloof, controlling, liberating…. space is a complex place for artists and the viewer as so much takes place between the art and the viewer. Sometimes joy, sometimes sadness, sometimes confusion, sometimes deep connections…. the room is full of thought and experience really, besides just simply viewing the “object”, the space provides a site for an enormous exchange between art and the viewer.
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- PIPON 2012 / ISSUE #1 CONTRIBUTING WRITERS + ARTISTS:
Flora Day Rider / Niipomakii
Zondra “Pricelys” Roy
Arnold J. Isbister
Craig Frank Edes
Angela Marie Schenstead
Carrielynn Victor / Xwémentélót
Jeneen Frei Njootli
Plus Featured Writer: Leanne Simpson
and Cover Artist: Virgil Villians
kimiwan is a quarterly publication that showcases words + art from emerging + established indigenous, first nations, métis, and inuit writers + artists. we are based in saskatoon, saskatchewan, treaty six territory. our name means rain in nehiyawewin (plains cree). we are looking for all kinds of art: drawings, photographs, are looking for all kinds of art: drawings, photographs,
Here on Future Earth
i’ve got a case of the mondays
“Media artist and VJ Jackson 2Bears was in Banff recently with A Tribe Called Red‘s Bear Witness for the Source National Media Arts Summit. At their Electric Powwow event in the Club, they talked about where they get their material, and what all those old cowboys and indians movies mean to them.”