Kelman Duran

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Artist Statement

My primary research goals are at the intersection of architecture and social control specific to populations on borders, specifically Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I use text, media, and objects/ephemera to create domains related to the concept of states of emergencies.

I have been creating work at Pine Ridge since 2012 and this is an ongoing, long-term project. My interest in border towns is in their capacity to give us insight into resistant aesthetic practices. My practice negotiates the way in which one documents people in states of emergencies and how to create an archive of this specific place knowing that translation ultimately destroys the “native information.” In what way can we create archives around subjects whose mode of archiving is oral? How do we navigate the terrain of documenting that is not ethnographic and historicist? To The North is a series and takes many different forms depending on the context. Some iterations are video installations, some are talks, other iterations include a printed book.

The video archive uses film and video to document the not so ordinary instances of what it means to live in a state of emergency, a reservation. Subjects range from uranium fracking on the reservation, to the weather, to documenting architecture as social control, to history and myths told through first person narratives. Another resource is the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. and its collection of photographs in South Dakota dealing with Lakota life from the 1880’s until the mid 1890’s, many of which have still not been digitized. The video archive I am creating is juxtaposed alongside the photographic archive provided by The Library of Congress.

The format of using two different resources to explore the themes of the archive would hope to would question the way institutions archive, that what is left out is just as important as what is being presented, that there can be a way to document a language not based on an institutional ways of linear historicism, a way of documenting and archiving history and myth; that this decentered archive ,created collaboratively at Pine Ridge can attest to the disruption of the archive created by an linear system that detested not only them as beings but as cultural signifiers; those Indians who roamed free. This archive in form should be malleable and changeable. Some of the problems that arise in trying to make “postcolonial” archive or for Lakotas a post-genocide archive is that of translating, since translation creates and destroys information and culture, or that an “actively speaking subject” cannot be rendered transparent. So how is it that video can try and manage this contentious relationship? One should be careful saying that one can “understand cultures by understanding the various conducts of their culture.” If anything, being reflexive, critical, and suspicious of the way the humanities tries to make things transparent can help us understand the limits, and hence, these “limits” is where a useful artwork can maybe come out of.