Arts & Culture, Went There

Went There: Future Ancestral Technologies: Nágshibi @ Emerson Media Art Gallery


In “Future Ancestral Technologies: Nágshibi” artist Cannupa Hanska Luger transports us to the generations of the future, hundreds of years from now, as we look back on our ancestors, the original people that were left behind on earth after the colonist society leaves the planet, leaving natural destruction in their wake. Cannupa Hanska Luger grew up in North Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation but is now a New Mexico based artist who works with multiple medias. He created the entirety of the exhibit for “Future Ancestral Technologies: Nágshibi”, from the wall paintings, to the multiple videos playing on projection screens, audio recordings, recycled clothing pieces, ceiling tall solar powered tipi, and photographs.

Through his multi-media approach Luger seems to encapsulate the participant into his narrative by completely immersing the viewer in visionary and auditory stimuli. The present is now the future, looking upon the past. Luger transports the viewer to a kind of science-fiction future, but in fact it is a future that seems all too possible. “Nágshibi is the Hidatsa word for to be past, to be after” and the exhibit epitomizes that image of life after capitalism and colonialism have completely left the planet. Luger uses the exhibit to focus on not only how the Earth replenishes itself physically, but also how humans replenish their bonds with the earth and each other in the wake of a new type of lifestyle.

Indigenous people reinvent their relationship to the land, in a story of new creation and reinvention. People use technology in a new symbiotic way, using a blend off the old and a new; materials and the ethos of more humble beginning are literally and figuratively recycled.

Each piece of the exhibit serves to thread together a narrative encompassing the essence of how drastically different life would be in this reimagined future. The projections, which cover two walls and three screens feature repeating clips of people adorned in similar clothing to the ones in the gallery, with two of them being narrated in the first person, by people telling stories of the destruction of the past compared to how life is lived now. The clothing pieces, which are placed on various mannequins throughout the gallery seem to be largely created out of recycled material from the consumer world, melded with vibrant patterns and adornments transforming them into the wardrobe of the future. The video of Luger painting the gallery wall or cave wall as he describes, voiced over by his telling of a new creation story is one of the most interactive pieces in the exhibit. The cautionary story he tells, one about how a colonizing people came and because of their ignorance to the fragility of the world, abused the earth in their journey to leave the planet, leaving only the people too poor and those who wanted to rebuild, is a powerful one, only intensified as you see him paint the story on the wall in front of you.

The photographs taken by Luger around the exhibit only intensify the reality the viewer is drawn into, exposing them to this futuristic world through visualization. Lastly, the solar powered tipi stands as the largest object in the exhibit, and arguably the most revealing piece about how drastically our lifestyles would change in this era. We are experiencing a creation story of humility, reckoning and a powerful return to a nomadic, elemental existence; one where this new being is tasked with a relationship with the earth that stems from deep reverence and deference. In this new universe, we are given an opportunity to exist beyond colonialism, land boundaries, consumerism and to make ourselves anew. There is stark beauty here in the geographic landscape and we can envision a future of hope and rebirth.

Luger is a multi-disciplinary artist who is of “Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, Austrian and Norwegian descent”. It is impossible not to contextualize his work within his cultural background, just as it is impossible to comprehend the exhibit without the context of film without narration; documentary style film; video of the author narrating a creation story as he paints on the gallery walls; and, a narrative story that accompanies the tipi installation. While the exhibit is visually tantalizing and utilizes many different mediums, including photographs, it is just that without the context of a powerful story in which a new people ascend to a higher way of being by both returning to an ancestral past, but also transcending civilization as we know it. There is tremendous depth, beauty and truth here and it is inspiring to embark upon and visualize a radical future. This is a call to consciousness and involves the viewer to be participant and engaged. Cannupa Hanska Luger has given the viewer an opportunity to experience and practice divination and healing through his artwork.

(Quotes are taken from the gallery description in a handout-included in images sent with email)

Photo’s Taken by the Author

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