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Ketchum-Heap of Birds - Native American Performance Art
Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds, PhD student

Native American Performance Art

The human body as a site for social, sexual, and political conflicts is an established medium in the mainstream art world since the 1960s and 1970s in the realm of conceptual and performance art. Contemporary Native artists in North America and elsewhere have been using this art form to articulate historical experiences such as indigenous loss of land, language, and identity. These historical experiences have either been forgotten or subsumed into the nationalist discourse of the US and Canada without recourse to social change. Furthermore, the historical amnesia of both countries has established an image of the Indian as either absent, vanquished, or embodying a commodified version of the stereotypical Indian. The emergence of both a male and female voice in contemporary Native American and First Nation body art presents an opportunity to analyze issues inherent to gender, sexual identity, race, and class, to only name a few things. These artists represent a growing body of performance and installation artists that deal with the redefinition of Indian identity by situating the struggle for culture as a struggle for life. My research interests focus on the indigenous subject whose art practice functions as a site of cultural politics to allow the artist to speak to an ascendant discourse from a dissident position within it.