He Killed His Art to Prove a Point. Now He's Making a Film About It

Artist Cannupa Hanska Luger has teamed with filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin to make a movie out of his 2013 Stereotypes sculptures and performace art.

This is a Stereotype is a film project motivated by an art exhibition, installed by Cannupa Hanska Luger and further inspired by the vision of filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin. Hanska’s body of work, Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American exhibited at the MoCNA from Aug. 15- Dec. 31 2013. The exhibition addressed several preconceived notions about Native people supported by popular culture that have been invented, imagined and rooted within the American public's social conscience. Highlighted in this exhibition was a performance, Destroying the Stereotype, where Hanska let go of the stereotypes embodying his sculptures and invited the community to witness their destruction. The remains of the destroyed ceramic sculptures were then placed on view for the duration of the exhibition. McLaughlin documented this process and together they felt this conversation needed to go deeper than this exhibition.

RELATED: Smashing! Watch Cannupa Hanska Luger Destroy his Stereotypes
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Lake Eldorado tipis at Coachella. Source: coachella.com

There were many viewers attending the Destroying the Stereotype event with a lot of questions, and many of those were of the “That was fun, but what’s next?” variety. Those images and sounds went viral because the audience at MoCNA were carrying cell phones and cameras and sent out the digital documentation around the world. The need arose to create a video documentary, a permanent record, so these performances, images and issues can be shared with native and non-natives alike in educational, teaching moments.

The filmmakers are currently soliciting funds to make their movie at Kickstarter -- the deadline is April 27 -- where they've posted the following statement:

“By contributing, you are allowing this film to be free to all. The film would be available to everyone through the Internet as a digital download and on databases of educational institutions and museums. Your contribution will cover production costs, rentals and purchases and we will not be forced to “sell” the film. Our goal is to offer it free to all.”

The filmmakers are offering this limited-edition t-shirt for Kickstarter donations of $50 or more.

The film This is a Stereotype will allow for the continuation of this dialogue, with broader brush strokes than just one artist's perspective. The exhibition/performance, Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American, was just the spark. It pushed artist Cannupa Hanska and filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin to ask why? Where do these stereotypes come from? Are all stereotypes negative? Do they come from some level of truth? Is there a place to blame? How can we break down these ways of thinking into something positive and useful? Can stereotypes become empowering? How has history influenced the way Native Americans themselves today, and how do non-Natives and popular culture perceives Native Americans? What are the economic parallels of stereotyping? How do you let go of stereotypes? The questions kept coming. The more they talked about it, the more there was a need to dig deeper, to look at many stories of past and present, of ordinary and esteemed, in order to have the proper tools to address the idea of the stereotype. 

Luger and McLaughlin were allowed access to IAIA’s permanent collection and discovered a treasure trove of old video documentation. So they will be using footage resourced from The Institute of American Indian Arts archives juxtaposed with interviews by current Native artists, activists and scholars. These pieces will be tied together with the thread of Native Art and specifically the MoCNA exhibition mentioned above. This project is very important because it will create a multi-faceted conversation, allowing a space to understand the possible causes and effects of stereotypes. They will offer various perspectives regarding these misconceptions, and will invite the viewer to practice critical thinking in the future when addressing stereotypes. The vision is to make a free digital dialogue to open a conversation and create understanding from an academic and human perspective.

The filmmakers have confirmed interviews with: 1491’s, Indigenous Activist and Comedian Collective; Douglas Miles, Founder of Apache Skateboards, Artist/Activist; Frank Buffalo Hyde, Artist/Pop Cultural Activist; Steve Fadden, Scholar IAIA; Bob Haozous, Chiricahua Apache Sculptor.

The idea behind the film will be to invite the audience to ask their own questions, not to simply understand the information they will view about Native identity and stereotypes in this film, but to utilize that information and become active participants in society, thinking critically when making decisions regarding culture and appropriation. We hope to inspire people to seek out their own answers.” - Cannupa Hanska Luger and Dylan McLaughlin.

There are several reward categories for donations, they include stickers, prints, T-Shirts, producer credits, special editions of clay slip Beat Boxes signed by the artist, and Shadow Box framed prints of your favorite stereotype complete with shard from the destruction event. To keep up on the project, follow Cannupa Hanska Luger on Facebook at facebook.com/cannupa.

Alex Jacobs

Santa Fe NM

April 10, 2014