Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alaska House, New York; Identity Exhibition

Part Two, Concept of Identity as Interpreted by Indigenous Artists

Curated by the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, the exhibit examines how these artists create work that questions and sheds light on the complicated issues surrounding their identity as Alaska Natives. Through multi-media video, photography and sculpture, these artists explore the painful, and sometimes ironic, constructions of identity; whether it is racial, legal or cultural, and provide new pathways for understanding identity as it relates to Alaska Native peoples.

Since the 19th century, Alaska Native people have been subject to U.S. laws that govern Native American/American Indians using racial systems to define identity. For example, the blood quantum system is a race-based measurement of how much Alaska Native blood an individual has. Today, the use of blood quantum in relation to identity remains a key issue. Alaska Native artists are questioning the use of Certificates of Indian Blood (known as CIB’s or CDIB’s), and, in Alaska, the use of corporate shareholder status as a means of identification. It is a double-edged sword because these racial systems protect the tribal status of individuals, but they also create a gate-keeping system that is insensitive to cultural ideas of tribal or village membership.

Identity will explore these issues from the artists’ perspective, while also posing more general questions such as “Who is an Alaska Native?” “Who determines this categorization?” “Is identity cultural or biological?”

An opening reception will be held in mid-November. For more information, contact Tracey Foster at 212-431-1580.

The gallery is located in SoHo at 109 Mercer Street.

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