This presentation of Sky Hopinka’s Visions of an Island (2016) marks the launch of When the Land Speaks, the MSU Broad’s new yearlong curated video series. Hopinka’s video is a meaningful introduction to the series, not least because of its poetic treatment of the relationship between geography, language, and culture. In the work, an Unangam Tunuu elder describes cliffs and summits, drifting birds, and deserted shores in the traditional language of his Aleutian ancestors. Intermixed throughout, a group of students and teachers play and invent games in efforts to revitalize their language, while a visitor wanders the landscape and chronicles both its earthly and its celestial qualities. Woven together to form a tapestry of different visions, these loosely constructed narratives offer glimpses of an island in the center of the Bering Sea, and of evolving relationships between the people, land, and sea.
When the Land Speaks
This program of video works explores changing, often fractured landscapes as spaces that speak of conflict. Addressing topical issues such as resource extraction, sustainability, land rights, displacement, and dispossession, the featured artists approach language as a form not limited to verbal communication. Instead, enunciation takes place in and through territory: in the sounds and forms of water, in the rumbles and cracks of the earth, in ancestral rituals and practices derived from the landscape. Land and language have always been interconnected, each helping to define the other, but in our present day, there is a growing disconnect between much of human society and any sense of rootedness or care for the land that supports us. Confronting these realities, the artists in this series draw attention to the power of the landscape to express itself and communicate with us, and reflect on how our eroding connection to the land may also represent a fading understanding of ourselves.
When the Land Speaks is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates and Steven L. Bridges, Associate Curators. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross endowed exhibitions fund.