Friday, March 8, 2013

Boozhoo Jiibayag

A film still from my latest 16mm film in progress "Boozhoo Jiibayag (Hello Ghosts)"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

a poem found in my notebook from summer 2006

And bones could still
rest in peace, nourishing
ghosts of dandelions,
no one to plow them up.

As if the dead really
do persist, even in a
bottle of wine.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Has Burned I Will Redeem

A sight specific installation at Deep End Ranch Santa Paula, CA

Burned out tree, Santa Clara river silt, sage, elderberry, oak, willow, bones

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Artist Statement for My Ghost Dance, Scavenged and Bartered

I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico to a Turtle Mountain Chippewa sculptor and a Jewish writer. My art practice is an investigation into piecing together a contemporary identity as a Native American and Jewish woman through fragments of histories, cultures and languages that have been repeatedly and systematically decimated. Most of my work is about what is left behind, what is relegated to the past, to the domain of memory. I search for hidden stories through my camera lens, interpreting the objects I find and retelling the stories they hold within, whether they be truths or myths. Integrating photography, film, video, book arts, historical research and imagined history I create untold stories of people, cultures and objects.

My most recent project is a sculptural video installation entitled My Ghost Dance, Scavenged and Bartered. The piece started with a 10’ x 5’ tapestry I hand-wove with found theatrical 35mm motion picture film. This weaving became the fabric for a tipi structure, the skeleton of which is made from sticks found near my studio. Inside the film tipi is a video projector on a low stand, made by collaborator Conor Fields, that rotates 360 degrees counterclockwise once a minute. The video projector plays 16mm film I shot on a handmade motion picture pinhole camera and videotaped from a live film projection. The audio in the piece is the sound of the 16mm projector I used during the telecine process, original Ghost Dance songs recorded by James Mooney in 1894 and my own voice struggling to introduce myself in Ojibwa, my tribe’s traditional language. These elements create a paracinematic event – light shining through film onto a white wall – abstracted by the distance of the film from the light source and the fact that the film is woven together into a still object and it is the light that moves instead. The images created in the darkened space become ghosts dancing across the walls, patterns of color and shadows of weaving.

The Ghost Dance was a ceremony based on a dream of bringing back the old way of life. Wovoka the prophet spread his vision throughout many tribes of Native American people in the western territories in the late 1800’s. The dance spread so quickly and was practiced by so many people that it threatened the US military into action and, in December 1890, hundreds of people were killed at the Massacre at Wounded Knee as a result of a gathering for a Ghost Dance ceremony. The people killed, families with small children and babies, were buried in a mass grave, their ceremonial shirts which they believed to be impenetrable by bullets, where taken from their frozen bodies and kept as souvenirs by the soldiers and later ended up in private collections and museums. What inspires me about the Ghost Dance is that it was the first time that Native American people came together as one and created a new tradition in order to save the old traditions.
In My Ghost Dance, Scavenged and Bartered, I too create my own new ceremony in order to understand the old ways of living. How do I, a contemporary mixed blood woman living thousands of miles from my family and cultures, hold onto traditions, learn my tribal language and reenact the ways my ancestors lived? My ancestors created their homes and lives based on what was around them. Survival is adaptation. I don’t have buffalo hides to make a tipi with but as a filmmaker I do have film. My fire is the flicker of a projector shining through the layers of an imposing culture, and through that gossamer I find glimmers of the ghosts I carry with me. The ghosts of my ancestors, friends and family who walk with me through my life as I explore who I am by attempting to understand where I come from and build a home and community for myself.

I use the camera as a means of self-representation in media that have historically represented Native people from the outside looking in. As an Anishinabe Ashkenazi I am fortunate to come from survivors, those who fought when their people were being killed. Now I honor my ancestors by using my camera to shoot back, to reassemble the lost stories and make sure they are not forgotten.

Eve-Lauryn Little Shell LaFountain
February 2012