‘Transformer’ Exhibit Takes Over Your Senses

By: Owa Kankhwende

“Art transforms, translates, transgresses, transfixes, and transcends”

Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound, will do just that for you at the National Museum of the American Indian. The exhibit invites you in with soft warm lighting and features installations from 10 artists. Aiming to shift the broader perspective of the indigenous tribes of America, each piece is meant to be a meditation on “breaking tradition.”

Have you ever heard the Diné creation story? Raven Chacon’s Still Life, #3 (2015) recounts it in a multi-sensory exploration of belief and understanding of the story. Using a row of suspended rotating analog speakers, Chacon projects a recitation of the creation story along with alternating texts to accompany the retelling.

If you love dance, check out Nicholas Galanin’s Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan 1 and 2 (2006). This two-part video features David “Elsewhere” Bernal, a non-Native contemporary dancer, and Dan Littlefield, a traditional Tlingit dancer, performing interpretations of modern and contemporary music.

A truly immersive experience can be found at Julie Nagam’s Our future is in the land: if we listen to it (2017). The installation surrounds the viewer with the silhouettes of aspen parkland forest, ambient nature sounds and voices telling stories about the animals that move among the trees.

Jon Corbett’s Four Generations (2015) is a pixelated, ever-changing portrait of the artist, his grandmother, his father and his son. The pixels also resemble beads and are arranged to spark reminiscence of Native designs.

And finally, on February 3 the limited engagement installation of Manifestipi (2016) will be on display through March 25.  Walk around colorful, illuminated tipis in a futuristic setting that includes video projections and a “ghostly” soundscape.  The interactive display is meant to challenge perceptions, promote individual perspectives about shared spaces and remind us of the communal effort it took to build a sense of place for the Plains Indians.

Each work in Transformer is both participatory and performative, requiring visitors in the physical space to encounter the work.

The museum is free and Transformer runs throughs January 6th, 2019. Open daily, the museum is in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green. For more information, click here to view the museum’s website.