Raven Chacon “A Worm’s Eye View from a Bird’s Beak”Swiss Institute, New York

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A 2023 MacArthur “Genius”Chacon, a Fellow and first Native American artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2022, uses sound, video, scores and performance to address Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice. The show brings together groundbreaking works from the last 25 years with a newly commissioned sound and video installation, novel iterations of pioneering works, and a major public art mural on SI’s building. The exhibition spans diverse geographic contexts: Sápmi (the Sámi homeland traversed by the present-day nation states of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) and Lenapehoking, or New York, in Turtle Island. Both locations share Indigenous histories that colonialism tried to eradicate for centuries. Yet, they are also places where resilience, or as cultural theorist Gerald Vizenor puts it, survival, continues to thrive. 

The score is displayed upon entering the exhibition American Ledger Number 1The 2018 version of the work is a graphic meditation about the founding the United States, in chronological order. The piece is composed of coins, axes, wood, police whistles and matches. It narrates events of violence, moments of contact and the enactment colonial law. At the center of SI’s first floor gallery is Chacon’s sound installation, Still Life No. 3 (2015). A woman tells a Navajo tale of origins through a series speakers installed on a cascading arch. This story includes four worlds beneath and many others above. In Navajo cosmogony the multiple worlds exist or still do, rather than conceiving the worlds below and above in a linear fashion, as Western narratives would suggest. The creation myth is repeated and overlapped, blurring the progression and allowing for multiple temporalities and worlds to coexist. The gallery continues inside. Report(2001/2015), an ensemble of firearms composed and scored by a composer, punctuates the silence with a cacophony that is both powerful and resistive.

On the second floor, Chacon’s new video installation For Four (Caldera)The 2024 sculpture features four women reading the landscape of the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico and singing about what they see. Video documentation of the creation of the newly commissioned statue is also on display. . . . The sky ladder (2024), emerging from a workshop with members of the Bål Nango family of artists, lawyers and activists in Northern Norway. Participants drilled holes in wooden planks, tracing the outline of mountain ranges or other culturally significant landscapes as a reference to intergenerational knowledge transfer. For a brand new iteration, Still Life No. 4, Chacon sounded a Diné drum from the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian that had not been played in a long time and recorded the beat, playing it back at listening stations at SI and elsewhere at different tempi ranging from fast to slow the further each station is located from the drum. Field Recordings (1999) from American Southwest magnify silence to produce sound that reveals vibrational patterns in these locations. Viewers are also invited to perform and take prints of the scores throughout the building. Painted as a large-scale mural on the outside façade of SI facing St Marks Pl, the new score for Vertical Neighbors The 2024 will be activated with a performance during the exhibition, along with extensive public programming for the duration of the show.

“A Worm’s Eye View from a Bird’s Beak” highlights the multidisciplinary depth of Chacon’s prolific practice of the past 25 years. Between past, present and future, silence and noise, violence and resilience, Chacon’s work proposes new as well as ancient ways of relYou can find out more about this ating through which alternative politics may be glimpsed.  

at Swiss Institute New York
until April 14, 2024

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Original content by www.moussemagazine.it – “Raven Chacon “A Worm’s Eye View from a Bird’s Beak”Swiss Institute New York

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