Artists' talk Jan 23, 2013, 6:30 pm at the Logan Center
Organized by the Open Practice Committee and followed by a reception in the gallery
Logan Center Exhibitions presents Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater's Modest Livelihood, a film project that departs from a hunting trip on Dane-zaa Territory in Northern British Columbia that the artists undertook in Fall 2011. The footage has been translated into two film works, which do not fit easily into any single genre but raise questions of self-determination, self-representation and the sharing of knowledge.
The artists first met and began to think about documenting a hunting trip while on a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada. After a trial with video documentation, they settled on engaging the cinematographer Jesse Cain to shoot on Super 16mm film as they hunted with the guidance of Jungen's uncle, Jack Askoty. Modest Livelihood marks their first foray into film proper.
For both artists the act of hunting remains fundamental to their First Nations identity (Jungen is of Dane-zaa and European ancestry while Linklater is Omaskêko Cree), yet it is deeply fraught with the debate over the current legal status of ancestral ways of living. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld First Nations' rights to fish and hunt on their own territory, but with the proviso that this activity did not exceed the sustenance of a “moderate livelihood,” which “includes such basics as ‘food, clothing and housing, supplemented by a few amenities,’ but not the accumulation of wealth.” The wording of the decision was highly controversial among native communities, given their dispossession and decimation at the hands of colonizers. As they carved nine hours of footage into a 50 min. film, Jungen and Linklater gave this legal jargon a poetic twist, asserting their own limits; hence Modest Livelihood.
Silent and slow, Modest Livelihood (2012) follows the artists as they follow an animal, speaking the language of naturalism to a natural landscape. In the steady gaze and the strong silence, one can detect certain echoes of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979) or his more auto-biographical Mirror (1975); attempts to document First Nations lives made by the National Film Board of Canada, such as Tony Ianzelo and Boyce Richardson’s Cree Hunters of the Mistassini (1974); and the deployment of earlier ethnographic lenses, like those of Edward S. Curtis or Robert J. Flaherty who made Nanook of the North in 1922. But listing such references one realizes this may be a compulsive response to the utter discomfort of confronting a film that is as stripped of effect as the moose may be stripped of its skin.
The film recently premiered as a chapter of dOCUMENTA(13), organized at the Banff Centre for the Arts in the Summer and Fall of 2012. Its subsequent presentation at the Logan Center gives both artists another chance to combine working methods: Jungen and Linklater experiment with a fragment of their original footage, constructing a looped projection in the adjacent gallery provisionally titled lean (2012).
The exhibition aims to extend the dialogue between Jungen's predominantly sculptural practice and Linklater's interest in the moving image, pedagogy, and performance. It is also an opportunity to learn from their shared attempt to find forms for experiences, which are particular to their positions as contemporary First Nations artists, yet impact the broader cultural ecology.
Curated by Monika Szewczyk, Visual Arts Program Curator, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.
Sponsored by The Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory, The Open Practice Committee, and UChicago Arts.