Cannupa Hanska Luger

Cannupa Hanska Luger was born in 1979 on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and currently lives and works in Glorieta, New Mexico. In 2011, Luger graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts with a BFA. Spanning performance, sculpture, and video, the artist’s practice engages elements of Indigenous history and culture to simultaneously address present-day grievances and sources of trauma while projecting that culture into the distant future. Through his work, Luger aims to call attention to the harmful ideologies and practices that support genocide, destroy our environment, and distort our sense of self and community.

Across media, the artist’s work draws upon Indigenous cultures, aiming not to preserve them as a remnant of the past but to emphasize their continued importance. In his project Future Ancestral Technologies (2018–ongoing), the artist repurposes the detritus of American life, from sports equipment to thrifted afghans, and deploys them in a speculative science-fiction narrative about a postcapitalist, postcolonial future. The series of works, which includes videos like New Myth (2021) and We Live (2019), public works like the billboard titled We Survive You (2021), and sculptures like Unziwoslal Wašičuta (2021–2022), look to Indigenous cultures to chart a path forward. In his 2021 exhibition at Garth Greenan Gallery, New Myth, the artist included a three-channel video titled Future Ancestral Technologies ++ a new generation of myth ++ (2021) alongside sculptures resembling slain monsters with titles like Greed (2021) and Corruption (2021). For Luger, monsters like these are slain in the world of Future Ancestral Technologies, and in his work, he proposes how we might arrive at this future.

The artist invites active collaboration in his practice, be that with his family, who travel with him to exhibitions and residences and work alongside him, or through calls to the general public. In 2016, Luger created the Mirror Shield Project, which protected water defenders at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation who were working to save local water supplies from the potential threat of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The artist shared a tutorial video on how to make mirrored shields on social media and invited people to create them for use at the frontline actions in North Dakota. Other similar projects include Counting Coup, a series of works that Luger makes collaboratively that aim to turn data into something tangible and human by asking volunteers to shape one clay bead for each data point that the artist later fires and turns into sculptures. One work, Every One (2018), uses 4,000 clay beads to represent the number of missing or murdered indigenous women reported by the Native Women’s Association of Canada in 2016, making the overwhelming number physically present for viewers and providing a place of mourning and remembrance for those who have lost loved ones. Throughout his practice, Luger provides tools for rethinking how we live in relation to one another and the planet and finds ways to support Indigenous communities.

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“What I’m trying to do is remove the idea of art as an object, and think of art as a process. Something in action, something living.”

Cannupa Hanska Luger