MFA Thesis Exhibition
Culture Vulture was a one night only multisensory performative event held at TeePee Junction in Lawrence, Kansas on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. It mirrored Buffalo Bill’s Wild West by entertaining, educating, and engaging the audience through performance, dance, video, fashion, alternative storytelling, participatory, and interactive elements. It incorporated multiple senses including sight, sound, touch, and taste to give viewers memorable and uncomfortable first hand experiences.
In contrast to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, Culture Vulture urged viewers to ask questions about how colonization, religious influence, oppression, assimilation, American history, and uneven power dynamics, have contributed to a loss of cultural identity. In addition to historical events, it more subtly urged viewers to consider other factors that influence contemporary identity construction including geography, desire to belong, stereotypes, and cultural consumption. The event focused on my conflicting Native American and Irish Catholic identities.
Culture Vulture was structured in two acts with a pre-show, intermission and reception. The first act addressed colonization and the continued repercussions of religiously oriented oppression and assimilation in both Native America and Ireland. The second act addressed events in American history, like the gold rush, that further disenfranchised Native peoples while providing opportunities for immigrants. Conflicting ancestral histories, stereotyping and a desire for culture all contribute to my personal identity confusion. The goal of Culture Vulture was to create conversations about identity formation, expose racism and discrimination, and celebrate diverse cultures.
This participatory performance piece explores the change in lifeways and foodways of Indigenous people due to colonialist efforts. It specifically draws on language loss, religious influence, and contemporary economic strategies of Native American tribes.
Dress Made of Treaties
This performance piece explores a change in the homelands, lifeways, and foodways of American Indians as a result of treaties with and forced relocation by the United States government. The dress is constructed entirely out of paper and thread with treaties between the Ioway tribe and the US government as well as maps of original homelands printed on them. It was modeled after a Victorian era dress from 1872.
In the performance, the artist walks through the landscape, picking and consuming berries while the audience follows. Suddenly, her pace quickens until she has veered off the path and is running full speed away from the audience into the woods until stumbling and collapsing from sore bare feet and exhaustion. The dress begins to tear and pieces fall from it. When the audience reconvenes, she slowly regains composure, becomes more confident and marches towards a house and into a living room. Once here, she proceeds to turn on a television playing the Lord of the Rings, eats junk food and drinks beer. As she gets comfortable on the couch, the dress breaks apart and is torn from her body, exposing modern clothing underneath. When most of the dress is on the floor, the artist picks it up and places it into a chest for safe keeping, only the cuffs around her wrists remain. She unbraids her hair. The performance ends when the artist turns off the television set as Frodo embarks into the sunset via canoe.