ANCHORAGE MUSEUM

Created to
Hold Power

(Intellectual Property)

An exhibition by Nicholas Galanin

Created to Hold Power (Intellectual Property) is a digital solo exhibition of new works by Nicholas Galanin.

The work recognizes the continual consumption and deficiency of colonial engagement with Indigenous land, bodies, languages and cultural objects. The exhibition challenges institutional authority and practices through photography, audio, video, sculpture and painting.

The exhibition includes multiple components: Fair Warning, a Sacred Place is a photo and audio series. Galanin says these images document "empty museum cabinets created to hold Indigenous power for captive display. These non-Indigenous institutions do not belong to this power, and this power does not belong to them."

In the (Intellectual Property) photo series, works are carefully titled by Galanin to "humanize our connection to the uses of our intellectual property, and honor the cultural continuum of this knowledge, creativity and innovation."

Architecture of Return, painted on deer hide maps an escape route for Indigenous objects held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The works in the exhibition engage abstraction, warning, escape, celebration, linguistic limitation, and insistence on holding up the continued presence, knowledge and value of Indigenous people.

Fair Warning: A Sacred Place

In contemporary auctions of Native American Art, auctioneers repeatedly announce, “fair warning” before announcing, “sold.” Listen to the recording, which issues a "fair warning" in conversations with the images below. Together, the images and audio speak to loss of access for Indigenous communities to cultural inheritance sold at auction without permission from their makers. At the same time, Galanin suggests they point to the implications for cultural institutions that have built their reputations and collections on theft and if objects are allowed to return to their communities. The collection of images and audio asserts the presence of contemporary Indigenous people and the capacity to see without being seen.

Fair Warning: A Sacred Place - Basketry
2019 - photograph

Who is selling, who is buying, and what relationship or claim do they make to the art and culture they are tracking?

Fair Warning: A Sacred Place - Warfare
2019 - photograph

Consider the presence and absence of Indigenous people in cultural consumption and creation through the intersection of contemporary Indigenous creative practice within non-Indigenous museum spaces built to contain historic Indigenous production. (Nicholas Galanin)

Fair Warning: A Sacred Place - Supernatural Spirits and Animals
2019 - photograph

Absence of skill, technology, and Indigenous knowledge is made palpable in the photographs of empty museum cases where only categorization and compartments remain. (Nicholas Galanin)

Fair Warning: A Sacred Place - Prestige and Wealth
2019 - photograph

Audio continually issues a "fair warning" in conversation with these images. The auctioneer is offering fair warning to those purchasing stolen cultural objects, but no warning to the communities whose cultures and artists created the objects. (Nicholas Galanin)

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property is a series of photographs and sculptures acknowledging Indigenous connection to land, through material, process, community and spirituality. The works honor the continuum of knowledge transfer and storytelling embodied by ceremonial at.oow; as well as the power of community and land embedded within them. Galanin says the work "exists outside the fetishizing and colonizing of our cultural objects through limited anthropological understanding and categorization." The work functions as a warning of what remains without Indigenous knowledge, and as a celebration of Indigenous creativity without commodification.

Created to hold power (intellectual property)
Medicine Amulet NA29356 - Tsimshian Amulet and Pendants. Two Eagles and a human face. Three bird figures and a land otter swimming. Bone, leather, sinew.
2020 - Photograph

And call healing spirits (intellectual property)
Tlingit mask NA34362 - Tlingit Mask. Bear collected in an old box from a grave containing shaman's paraphernalia. Wood, hair, feathers, pigment, shell.
2020 - Photograph

It connected us to the stars (intellectual property)
Tlingit or Haida Shaman's Amulet NA53162 4½" Length, c.1840-1860 - The design represents a shaman's dream, and the principle figures, 8 land otters traveling south in a canoe. Sinew, Ivory, Bear & Eagle claws.
2020 - Photograph

We danced to celebrate (intellectual property)
Tlingit Raven Rattle NA11762 - Tlingit Rattle. Oystercatcher. A shaman reclines between the heads of two horned monsters. Wood, pigment, shell, sinew.
2020 - Photograph

We fed our families (intellectual property)
Tlingit or Haida Goat Horn Spoon NA15348 - single figure carved on handle. Horn, abalone, sinew. Circa 1820
2020 - Photograph

Worn around the neck for protection (intellectual property)
Shaman's Healing Amulet NA1468345 - Possibly Tlingit or Haida. This work represents the raven's head. Stone, sinew, leather. Shaman's healing amulet.
2020 - Photograph

Architecture of Return, Escape

The first in a series of hide paintings for guiding the escape of Indigenous remains and objects in non-Indigenous Institutions to return to their home communities. Architecture of return, escape (Metropolitan Museum of Art) is a mapped escape plan for objects held in the Met in New York City.

The work is a plan for wayfinding during decolonization; requiring return, building new structures for good ways of being. Of the few objects held in display cases, many more (including human remains, and ceremonial objects not intended for public view) are held in museum archives. The cost and processes required to travel and visit these archives limits access to cultural knowledge and inheritance for Indigenous communities, and continues the removal of the objects from their land and people. While institutions control the air temperature, humidity, uv exposure and dust, they are unable to adequately care for these objects in cultural or spiritual ways.

Painting information on hides to remember, and instruct has a long history in many Indigenous communities, particularly for recording significant events or feats of bravery. In this series of work, the hide paintings depict a floor plan referencing a visitors guide and architecture blueprints for building. The objects themselves are unwilling visitors to the museum, and the painting builds a route for escape and vision for reunification of cultural inheritance with community. In the painting, the galleries of the museum containing Indigenous American objects (along with elevators and stairs coming from the archives) are marked with a red dashed line leading to the exit. The exit from the museum is also an entrance for our cultural at' oow (ceremonial objects) imprisoned in these spaces, an entrance for return to land, community and culture. The work serves as a reminder of the past, and as a plan for a good way forward; where stolen objects, human remains and works sold under duress can return home for their own health, for the health of the communities that created them, and for the health of the communities that took them.

Architecture of return, escape
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

32" x 61" deer hide, pigment, acrylic
2020

Architecture of return, escape
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

32" x 61" deer hide, pigment, acrylic
2020

Architecture of return, escape
(Metropolitan Museum of Art)

32" x 61" deer hide, pigment, acrylic
2020

Un-Ceremonial Dance Mask, 21st Century

Video

In an era preceded by 300 years of violent and persistent cultural theft and destruction, Unceremonial Dance Mask is an embodiment of cultural loss, perseverance, alteration, reconstruction, and continuation. An Indonesian copy of a Tlingit mask, carved in tropical wood is splintered into fragments by Tlingit hands, with a Tlingit made adze.

The action is a reclamation of cultural form through destruction and dissolution of a hollow impersonation. The mask fragments are gathered and re-formed into a mask by Tlingit hands.

The transformed mask is not an attempt to replicate the Indonesian copy. The Unceremonial Dance Mask reflects resilience of culture, not form; the theft of formal elements, materials and processes remains evident.

As the mask is danced in firelight it remains Uncermonial; the dance can be performed without the mask. The mask needs to be danced as a performance is of survival.

(Nicholas Galanin)

About the artist

Nicholas Galanin's (Tlingit/Unangax) work offers perspective rooted in connection to land and an intentionally broad engagement with contemporary culture. Galanin investigates and expands intersections of culture and concept in form, image, and sound. Galanin engages past, present and future through two- and three-dimensional works and time-based media, examining collective memory and barriers to the acquisition of knowledge. He creates images and sound moving in time and animals fixed in space. He splinters tourist-industry replica carvings into pieces, as a demonstration of destroying commodification of culture. His carving practice includes cultural customary objects, petroglyphs in sidewalks and coastal rock, masks cut from anthropological texts, and engraving handcuffs used to remove Indigenous children from their families. He also designs and fabricates ceramic riot gear, arrows in flight, and curio masks covered in delftware patterns, employing materials and processes to expand and forward dialogue on what artistic production is and how it can be used to envision possibility.

Galanin's practice includes numerous collaborations with visual and recording artists. He is also a member of the artist collective Black Constellation.

Galanin apprenticed with master carvers and jewellers, earned his BFA at London Guildhall University in Jewellery Design and his MFA in Indigenous Visual Arts at Massey University in New Zealand. He lives and works with his family in Sitka, Alaska.

galan.in

All Images, audio and video courtesy of the artist and Peter Blum Gallery