Sky Hopinka: Memories of Movement

Sky Hopinka: Memories of Movement

February 9, 2022–January 8, 2023

A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Sky Hopinka is an internationally recognized multimedia artist who investigates the layered structure of Indigenous identity. Friendship, family, and travel are, in his films, opportunities to reflect on colonialism and what it means to be an Indigenous person in North America.

Memories of Movement features three artworks that connect landscape, history, and personal experiences. The three-channel video installation Here you are before the trees (2020) focuses on the Indigenous histories of upstate New York and their relationships with other regions of the United States. Each of the three channels is set in a different geographical area: the Mahicannituck (the Hudson River area), the Waaziija (the homeland of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin), and the highways that link them. Hopinka lives and works in the Hudson River area and frequently travels between there and the Waaziija. This video features his grandmother, Dolli Big John, who lived in the Waaziija. Through his personal relationship to these places, Hopinka relates to the larger historical narrative of the forced relocation of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians from the Hudson Valley to the Midwest in the early 1800s. The video also incorporates textual and audio materials from Standing Rock Sioux scholar Vine Deloria Jr., Ho-Chunk anthropologist Renya K. Ramirez, and poet Adrian C. Louis (Lovelock Paiute). The scrolling text across the bottom of the three screens comes from a speech written by Mohican diplomat John Wannuaucon Quinney in 1854 about the devastating consequences of the US colonization of Indigenous peoples.

The exhibition also includes an etched photograph (2021) of a group of friends together in the Adirondacks landscape, and a large-scale calligram (2017) that forms a text-based image shaped like a flying goose. The calligram contains a 1923 text by anthropologist Paul Radin describing the Winnebago tribe.

By carefully observing ancestral landscapes, moving through them, and engaging with those who inhabit them, Hopinka develops a poetic visual language comprising references to the personal, the symbolic, and the historical. What links all of these is an understanding of place and belonging through community that goes beyond limiting Indigenous culture to ancestral lands.

About the Artist

Photo of Sky HopinkaSky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) was born and raised in Ferndale, Washington and spent a number of years in Palm Springs and Riverside, California, Portland, Oregon, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Portland he studied and taught chinuk wawa, a language indigenous to the Lower Columbia River Basin. His video, photo, and text work centers around personal positions of Indigenous homeland and landscape, designs of language as containers of culture expressed through personal, documentary, and nonfiction forms of media. He received his BA from Portland State University in Liberal Arts and his MFA in Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and currently teaches at Bard College in Film and Electronic Arts.

His work has played at various festivals including Sundance, Toronto International Film Festival, Ann Arbor, Courtisane Festival, Punto de Vista, and the New York Film Festival. His work was a part of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 2018 FRONT Triennial and Prospect.5. He was a guest curator at the 2019 Whitney Biennial and participated in Cosmopolis #2 at the Centre Pompidou. He has had solo exhibitions at the Great Poor Farm Experiment in 2019 and at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, in 2020. He was awarded the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival, the New Cinema Award at the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival and the Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship for Individual Artists in the Emerging artist category for 2018. 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, an Art Matters Fellow in 2019, a recipient of a 2020 Alpert Award for Film/Video, a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, and is a 2021 Forge Project Fellow.

The Memorial Art Gallery is extremely grateful to Broadway, New York and the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College for their support. The curator would like to thank Pascal Spengemann, Lauren Cornell, Emir West, Amy Linker, and Ian Sullivan.

In Rochester, the exhibition is sponsored in part by Richard A. Bloom, M.D., with additional support from the Thomas and Marion Hawks Memorial Fund, the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Fund, and the Nancy R. Turner Fund for Special Exhibitions.