When Veins Meet Like Rivers, the current exhibition at the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, is comprised of a triad of indefinable and ephemeral artworks. Featuring Oglála Lakhóta artist Suzanne Kite, Inuk filmmaker asinnajaq and Métis, Saulteaux and Polish artist Dayna Danger, the rich complexity of the works provoke deep thinking on the nature of convergence and related tensions of resistance.
The exhibition’s name describes its embodied plurality of meeting — that of the artists’ work, creating the space itself, the careers of each artist and the coming together of the artists’ Indigenous nations. The artworks share an intimate bond, generating a frequency of sound and inter-space relation by which the artists can call and respond to one another within the gallery space.
The triad shares a reverence for the land and natural phenomena in tension with the presence of synthetic technologies. Through reference to “rivers, stones, pathways and shores,” the artworks employ non-colonial modes of storytelling to engage with themes of consent, care and the processes of submitting and resisting.
The initial artwork the visitor is invited to witness is Danger’s “to submit, to resist, to submit, to resist.” The visitor is confronted with what is to be discovered as Danger’s performance ephemera — an assemblage of a skull and antlers connected to a brightly painted wooden frame by bright blue nylon rope. The assemblage immediately begs the question of presence — was there a body this rope was once tied on?
The visitor’s senses then check into the sounds of the room — nature samples, drumming and a voice uttering words that echo throughout the gallery: “It’s not gonna work unless we activate it.” There is a video of the space — a recording of Danger’s performance — and instantly the assemblage is recognizable. The performance comprises the careful dressing and bonding of the assemblage by one person to another’s pelvis area. Then the bonded figure, dressed in a spandex camo catsuit gently drags the assemblage of antlers throughout the gallery space.
The action draws the visitor’s attention to the remaining, perhaps unnoticed, gallery space. Entering further, one encounters a second sound frequency from above. Kite’s installation, “Iron Road,” employs a television displaying drone footage of her family’s trust land amidst thunderstorm imagery and Lakota symbols. An overhead speaker playing the sound of a warm voice is storytelling and a second assemblage of stones is on the gallery floor. Kite’s work tells a visual story of her great-great-great grandmother who escaped the Wounded Knee Massacre on foot. Kite’s environment is intimate and tender and the energy between the works is palpable.
Finally, flooded with light in the second gallery is asinnajaq’s massive installation “Cradling River Piece.” asinnajaq’s video performances are displayed on a hanging screen, behind which hang cascading layers of fabric, printed with images of frothing waves. The synthetic waterfall spills onto an image of magnified cranberries on the ground. The video performance is a loop of the artist moving upstream, the soaking fabric of her clothing and dragging herself in the opposite direction of the current. She nearly reaches the edge of the frame and then lets go, floating swiftly with the current off-screen.
The exhibition is tender and provocative. It invites its audience to work through sometimes uncomfortable and complex ideologies of consensual convergence and historical realities.
When Veins Meet Like Rivers is on display at the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art until Dec. 17. For more information, please visit plugin.org.