Sky Hopinka: Around the Edge of Encircling Lake
15 January – 15 March 2020
Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 15, 6 – 9 pm
Artist, writer, and videomaker Sky Hopinka’s work centres around personal investigations of Indigenous homeland and landscape, languages as containers of culture, and the play between the known and the unknowable. This exhibition brings together a selection of Hopinka’s recent videos and related artworks, as well as a film and video program, What Was Always Yours and Never Lost, curated by Hopinka. Around the Edge of Encircling Lake is also the title of a recent collection of writings, essays, and calligrams by Hopinka that take up movement through the Encircling Lake, a Ho-Chunk Nation way of describing the boundaries of the earth.
Currently based between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Hopinka started making videos around the time he first began learning (and later teaching) Chinuk Wawa, a language rooted in the Lower Columbia River Basin and prevalent in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. In both spheres, language and video, Hopinka is interested in notions of fluency, proficiency, and experimentation and the moments when things fall apart.
Ethnopoetic is a term Hopinka uses to describe his work. This approach is a reclamation, countering the ethnographic gaze of historic depictions of Indigenous cultures, drawing on poetry to explore identity and representation,both historical and contemporary. Weaving together documentary and experimental practices, the works in the exhibition explore diverse yet interconnected topics, taking up land (and landscape), language, music, and memory.
Existing within a continuum that negotiates histories and their relevance for the future, Sky Hopinka’s films draw together stratums of experience, presence, temporality, and recollection. Hopinka writes, “I think about how I can express those parts of my relationship to my identity and culture without being overly didactic. All those layers are still there—not to confuse the audience but to add more information. More information means more complication, I believe; but I’m interested in the idea of complication without confusion, and how relationships between different elements can generate emotion.”
At this divisive moment, when it feels like messages are often oversimplified, reduced, then amplified at a rapid pace, the many elements and fragments that coexist in Hopinka’s work are more vital then ever. These films and writings are thoughtful and reflexive, unfurling complex layers of images and sound. Rather then reducing, in their strata they make space for divergent perspectives, for uncertainty, for questions and deep reflection.
Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga) was born and raised in Ferndale, WA, and spent a number of years in Palm Springs and Riverside, CA, Portland, OR, and is currently based out of Vancouver, BC, and Milwaukee, WI. He received his BA from Portland State University in Liberal Arts and his MFA in Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His work has been featured at numerous festivals including ImagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, Images, Wavelengths, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Sundance, Antimatter, Chicago Underground Film Festival, FLEXfest, and Projections. His work was a part of the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial and the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and he was a guest curator for the film program of the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Hopinka was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and Sundance Art of Nonfiction Fellow for 2019. Hopinka recently joined the faculty of The School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, as Assistant Professor in Film Production.
Sky Hopinka: Around the Edge of Encircling Lake is curated by AGYU Assistant Curator Clara Halpern.