The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) presents an exhibition of recent works by artist and filmmaker Sky Hopinka (b. 1984, Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians). On view March 12 through July 19, 2020, “Disfluencies” investigates concepts of Indigenous homeland and landscape, as well as language as a container of culture, memory, and the play between the known and the unknowable. This new body of work will showcase video, photography, and calligrams.
The exhibition title, “Disfluencies,” or breaks in the natural rhythm of speech, cuts to the heart of Hopinka’s experimental films. His technique of intricately layering images, audio, and written and spoken text is used to emphasize the fluid nature of language and memory, while poetically referencing the unnatural breaking and reassembling of language and memory. For the artist, language is the vessel of culture, memory, and knowledge.
“Sky Hopinka brilliantly articulates the hope, challenges, and power of memory—cultural memories resuscitated, personal memories not spoken or forgotten,” said Nicole Soukup, assistant curator of contemporary art at Mia. “After viewing the exhibition, visitors will walk away with a new sense of the optimism and fallibility of memory.”
Anchoring the exhibition are two films: Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer (2019) and Lore (2019). The former—a two-channel video (13:15 min)—tells part of the Indigenous histories of Fort Marion, Florida (also known as Castillo de San Marco), which served as a prison during the Seminole Wars in the 1830s and at the end of the Indian Wars in the late 1880s.
The segments in Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer are stories of persistence, of presence and memory experienced though confinement and incarceration, and of hope. Placed side by side in the gallery, the film segments highlight Seminole Chieftain Coachoochee’s historical account of his escape from the fort and the ledger drawings created by Native prisoners removed from the Plains who were told to draw what they saw and remembered.
In Hopinka’s very personal film Lore (10:16 min), spliced images of friends and landscapes are placed on an overhead projector, where they are edited, reassembled, and shaped by a pair of hands. The film, inspired by avant-garde filmmaker Hollis Frampton’s Nostalgia (1971), tells a story about a “not too distant past, a not too distant ruin, with traces of nostalgia articulated in terms of lore; knowledge and memory passed down and shared not from wistful loss, but a pastiche of rumination, reproduction, and creation.”
Alongside the powerful films is a series of small-scale photographs that weave together poetry and landscape. The landscapes are from around the Pacific Northwest, the western Southwest, and the Great Lakes—all places Hopinka considers home.
Sky Hopinka is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and a descendant of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. In 2019 he was a fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and at the Sundance Institute. His work has been featured in festivals and exhibitions at the ImagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Sundance, LACE, the Whitney Biennial, and the Front Triennial. Hopkina studied and taught chinuk wawa, a language indigenous to the Lower Columbia River Basin. He received his BA from Portland State Uiversity in Liberal Arts and his MFA in Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres from the University Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He currently serves as the assistant professor in film production at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C.
Thursday, March 12, 6:30 p.m.: Sky Hopinka discusses his artistic practice, including his new exhibition at Mia. Tickets: $10; $5 My Mia members, and free to members of the Contemporary Art and Native American Art Affinity Groups.