Electronic storytelling exhibits at MAG and RoCo reflect on upheaval and identity 

click to enlarge A still from the video installation "Here you are before the trees," from "Sky Hopinka: Memories of Movement," which is now on view at the Memorial Art Gallery. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • A still from the video installation "Here you are before the trees," from "Sky Hopinka: Memories of Movement," which is now on view at the Memorial Art Gallery.
Memory is a slippery thing, but finding ways to tell and preserve stories is as old as time. Storytelling — particularly in the form of electronic archives created in response to incidents of great upheaval — is central to two current shows at local galleries.

At the Memorial Art Gallery, "Sky Hopinka: Memories of Movement" will be on display through July 17. Hopinka is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. The exhibition features new works, including an etched photograph, a large-scale text-based image, and a 13-minute video titled “Here you are before the trees.”

The video, photo, and text installation is presented across three screens, each focusing on a different Indigenous homeland: the Hudson River Valley, areas in Wisconsin, and the landscapes along the highways that link the two. The work explores Indigenous identity with regard to diasporas and people’s homelands, as well as the role of language and visual symbolism in documenting Indigenous cultures and experiences.

It also incorporates the complex relationships — historic and ongoing — the three landscapes have with power and institutional oppression.

Hopinka links his subjects through personal and historical narratives. Each video channel’s soundtrack includes archival audio recordings and recent interviews with Indigenous scholars, as well as scrolling text from a July 4, 1854, speech given by Stockbridge-Munsee Chief John Wannuaucon Quinney about the devastating effects that U.S. colonization had on Indigenous people.

More information at mag.rochester.edu.

Through May 7, Rochester Contemporary Art Center presents “The Warp & Weft [Face to Face],” a collection of stories from the first year of the pandemic, woven together by interdisciplinary artist Mara Ahmed. Originally presented as an online audio archive, released incrementally in collaboration with RoCo beginning in March 2021, Ahmed sought out and recorded experiences from a diverse group of people during a time of global upheaval and isolation.

One year later, RoCo has transformed that archive into a multimedia exhibition that presents photographs and audio — all manner of spoken-word musings about connection, selfhood, changing trajectories, and more. It also asks viewers to reflect on what they’ve learned in the past year about society and its ability to unify and overcome the virus and the inequities it magnified.

An opening reception for “The Warp & Weft [Face to Face]” will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 1. More information at rochestercontemporary.org.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY’s life editor. She can be reached at [email protected].
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