|Luna's performance installation "Artifact Piece"|
"Don't be fooled that he is a nice Indian "Storyteller" as his anecdotes are humorous and painful at the same time. The stories are more about the strife, misconceptions and commodification of ethnicity in America than about Indian people alone."Indeed. The first time Luna came to my attention was in the early 90s when I heard about his jaw-dropping performance installation "Artifact Piece" (above). In a brilliant critique of longstanding museum practices of exhibiting Native American bodies or burials in gallery displays, Luna clad in only a loincloth, installed himself in a glass case at the San Diego Museum of Man. Luna later reflected on this installation:
"The exhibit was not announced which was good because of the element of surprise...Then these people came, just 'Joe Family' on a Saturday to the museum, were, like, totally blown away. That told me something about the power of the piece, and also about what people come to museums for. They don't come to see living things, they come to see dead things. I've been requested to do it numerous times and I've refused because it's a really emotional piece for me"*
The exhibit, “Turtle/Television Island,” will feature Luna’s photographs, video utilizing innovative storytelling formats, and objects that create humorous commentary. The exhibit will also present historic Wabanaki birch bark artifacts and contemporary birch bark art by ssipsis. A new video and other material highlighting forty years of ssipsis’s activism will also be on display.
|Burnurwurbskek Singers of Penobscot Nation|
The series of events will include a 1 p.m. gallery talk by James Luna on September 24th at the Burnham Lounge, USM Robie Andrews Hall in Gorham; Luna's performative lecture "Phantasmagoria" with the Burnurwurbskek Singers of the Penobscot Nation on September 25th at 5 p.m. in USM Gorham's Corthell Hall; and a Talking Circle "Thirty Days to Move: The Art and Activism of ssispis" featuring a short video of ssispis produced by Susan Evans on November 4th.
All events are free and open to the public.
For more information, call Carolyn Eyler at 207-780-5008, Judie O’Malley at 207-780-4200, or see
* Farmer, Gary 1994 Aboriginal Voices 1(4):20