First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 22

A HOME BEYOND Indigenous Futurisms in the Visual Arts By Suzanne Newman Fricke, PhD M O H AW K A R T I S T SKAWENNATI (born S k a w e n n a t i Tr i c i a Frag nito) remarke d, “Science fiction is an interesting place to play,” 1 as evidenced in her work. Her digital constructions have included a place to converse and share images through CyberPowWow; a virtual paper doll in Imagining Indians in the 25th Century; and an adventure story with TimeTraveller™. TimeTraveller™ features nine machinima 2 episodes about a Mohawk time traveler from the future who visits major historic events in Indigenous history, including the Aztec Empire at its height in 1490 before the arrival of Hernán Cortés; the death of Mohawk-Algonquin Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in 1680; the Dakota Uprising of 1862; the Oka Crisis in 1990; and 2121, when Indigenous nations have again become sovereign. For the artist, claiming space in the digital world is key. Skawennati had feared that there would be no place for Indigenous people online, so she argued, “We need to make space to encourage people to occupy the future. I want to envision futures in which we are thriving, so I create images of Indians in the future.” Imagining the future from a Native perspective is the essence of Indigenous Futurisms, a term first explored in depth by scholar Grace L. Dillon (Bay Mills-Garden River Ojibwe) in Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction (2012). Indigenous Futurisms are based on Afrofuturism, a term Mark Dery coined in 1993 to describe futuristic art based on African and African diaspora cultures 3 by people such as Octavia Butler, Sun Ra, Grace 1. All Skawennati quotes from discussion with the author, September 4, 2018. 2. Machinima refers to the use of computer graphics to create a video. 3. Mark Dery, “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose,” in Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture, edited by Mark Dery (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993): 179–222. 20 | WWW.FIRSTAMERICANARTMAGAZINE.COM