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Emerson Contemporary Exhibit Collapses Time to Examine Cultural Identity

layered photographic images to create abstract image
“Lore” by Sky Hopinka

Present Joys, a new solo exhibition by Indigenous artist Sky Hopinka at Emerson Contemporary’s Media Art Gallery, combines visual storytelling with poetry, songs, and historic texts to illuminate the role image and language play in shaping cultural identity.

The exhibition is on view in the 25 Avery Street gallery from September 23-November 7. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12:00-7:00 pm. Masks are required.

An enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, and a descendent of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Hopinka uses personal and collective memories to destabilize traditional colonial narratives and critique cultural systems, such as ethnography, museology, and anthropology, that continue to depict indigenous cultures in limited and static ways.

Images layered on top of one another to create one cohesive image
“This Is the By and By” by Sky Hopinka

In Present Joys, textural fragments are juxtaposed with symbolic and abstract imagery in video, photography, and 16mm film to explore personal and historical understandings of different native homelands, their stories, and their interconnectedness.  The works collapse a linear sense of time, as historical events are acknowledged as actively informing and coexisting with the present.

Hopinka’s work has played at various festivals, including ImagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, Images, Wavelengths, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Sundance, and Projections. His work was part of the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial, the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and the 2018 FRONT Triennial. He was guest curator at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, and was part of Cosmopolis #2 at the Centre Pompidou. He was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in 2018-2019, a Sundance Art of Nonfiction Fellow for 2019, and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow.

He holds a BA from Portland State University and an MFA in film, video, animation, and new genres from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He teaches film and electronic arts at Bard College.

clouds rolling in over landscape, with text superimposed at bottom of image
A still from Sky Hopinka’s “Here You Are”

A virtual companion screening of Hopinka’s film, maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore, will take place Thursday, October 28, with a director’s conversation at 7:00 pm. The film follows Sweetwater Sahme and Jordan Mercier’s wanderings through each of their worlds as they contemplate the afterlife, rebirth, and the place in-between. Spoken mostly in Chinuk Wawa, their stories are departures from the Chinookian origin of death myth.

Sky Hopinka: Present Joys is co-presented by the Video Data Bank, University of Chicago, and supported by Emerson’s School of the Arts.

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