Channeling Indigenous Histories: Sky Hopinka in Conversation [Video]

The multidimensional work of artist Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) employs video, photography, music, and poetry as different pathways approaching Indigenous experience. In his two-channel video installation, Cloudless Blue Egress of Summer (2019) – on view in Fall 2021 alongside Who Says, Who Shows, What Counts: Thinking about History with The Block’s Collection – image, sound, and text together tease out legacies of colonial oppression and Native resistance. In this program, Hopinka discussed the many facets of his practice, joined in conversation by Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts Michael Metzger.

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From the Conversation

I remember growing up and wanting to be taken seriously as a filmmaker and not a Native filmmaker, wanting to be an artist and not a Native artist, and to separate identity from the validity of who you are and your practice.

I am inherently who I am, and I don’t want to be ashamed of that. There’s a certain sense that I need to separate my identity from who I am in order to be taken seriously. And I resist that. I resist that idea because it’s how I was raised. It’s how I grew up. It’s part of the communities that I am in, and I can’t be anything other than who I am.

And if that means that I’m an Indigenous artist, then I’m okay with that, because as long as I’m doing it on my terms and I’m not making concessions in order to get screened or to get sold as long as I’m maintaining the integrity of my voice and the things that I’m interested in, which are very Indigenous things, that is ok. I am interested in Indigenous language, landscape, homelands, religion, cosmology, that’s what I wanna make. There’s no one asking me to make these films. There aren’t a lot of requests for proposals for meditation’s on Ho-Chunk reincarnation. And so it’s like, if I wanna make these films and I want to be able to make them with as much agency as I can, that’s really shaped the way that I think about the possibilities of an Indigenous cinema. What are the films that we wanna make? And how can experimental film be a way for Indigenous filmmakers to question these ideas of what is cinema. What is an Indigenous cinema? I want responses and I want conversations around that and justifications and reasons why, and to be part of a dialogue and a conversation.

The thing that I’ve retreated to that I feel the safest in is my indigeneity and my identity and who I am, because that’s all that I know.

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