In Search of the “Inauthentic” Disturbing Signs in Contemporary Native American Art Jean Fisher

In Search of the “Inauthentic” Disturbing Signs in Contemporary Native American Art

Jean Fisher

For those of us who bridge the gaps within our culture in possession of Indian knowledge, as well as trained artists, I coin the label of ‘Contemporary Traditionalists.’

—James Luna1

I t was perhaps with more enthusiasm than sobriety that, in 1987, Jimmie Durham and I coordinated an exhibi­ tion of contemporary Native American art, “We the People,” at Artists Space, New York.2 Artists from across th

country had been invited to submit projects reflecting their local concerns, with the aim of celebrating both the diversity and commonality of Native American experiences. In this way, we hoped to create a context for Native artists in current debates on cultural difference, and to intervene in long-held assumptions about Native American perceptions of contem­ porary life. The two main spaces of the exhibition were designed, with attempted irony, to draw attention to the conventions of display.3 The fact that, despite its public popularity, the exhibition was met with near total silence from the art press raised questions about the relations between Native artists and mainstream institutions.4

The work itself covered a broad range of media prac­ tices, from stone carving to video; what distinguished it, however, was a critical position that not only posed a chal­ lenge to Western expectations of what “authentic” Indian art is, but presented an ethical and political critique of the configurations of (neo)colonialism experienced by Native peoples.

I shall argue here that contemporary Native American art presents aesthetic and political strategies that do not conform to the categories usually assigned to it. When the Native artist speaks as the author rather than the bearer of (an other’s) meaning, she or he precipitates an epistemological crisis, which exposes the fundamental instability of those knowledges that circumscribe the social and political place of colonized peoples. The present paper traces the contours of this crisis, first, through a brief summary of the persistently colonial nature of the exhibition contexts offered to Native American artists, despite curatorial good intentions; and second, through challenges to the coherence of the colonial text posed by the work of two artists in particular, James Luna and Jimmie Durham.

“We the People” was immediately preceded in New

York by two institutional shows of particular significance to this debate: “ ‘Primitivism’ in Twentieth-Century Art,” at the Museum of Modern Art, 1984, and “Lost and Found Tradi­ tions: Native American Art, 1965—1985,” at the American Museum of Natural History, 1986. I do not wish to reiterate the critical debates that surrounded the former show, except to note that they illustrated that a modernist and imperialist view of the relationship between Western and non-Western ceu ltures could no longer be sustained, providing added impetus for questions of cultural difference to enter into postmodernist aesthetic discourse.

“Lost and Found,” described in the catalogue as a collection of “contemporary traditional” Native American arts, was compiled by the curator of an earlier exhibition of strictly historical arts, “Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Art.”5 “Sacred Circles” actually opened in Britain as part of the 1976 Independence Bicentennial celebrations. However, it was contested there by a group of contemporary Native American artists, organized jointly by the American Indian Movement (AIM) and Artists for De­ mocracy, on the grounds that the show failed to acknowledge not only the circumstances under which such collections are formed but also the modern existence of Native peoples.

Historical arts were again hijacked to celebrate settler culture in the more recent “The Spirit Sings / Le Souffle de l’Esprit” at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum. Advertised as “the flagship event of the 1988 Olympic Arts Festival” by its corporate sponsor, Shell Canada, it was the target of another “alternative” show, “Re-visions,” at the Walter Phillips Gal­ lery in Banff, and a boycott called by the Lubicon Cree in support of a resolution to their land claim and a cessation of the infringement by oil companies on the disputed territory.

“Lost and Found” was an attempt by its curator to demonstrate the survival of Native American “traditions” through contemporary examples of tribal processes and arti­ facts, some of which, however, were “rediscovered” by the curator himself and reintroduced into communities from which they had ostensibly disappeared. Although subtitled “Native American Art 1965-1985,” art that engaged with modernist strategies was absent, reproducing a Western ten­ dency to position “ethnic” artists outside the discourses of modern experience.

This promotion of the “tribal” artifact as the signifier of

FALL 1992



“authentic” Indian art reappeared in the selection of Native American artists for the global art show “Magiciens de la terre” in Paris, 1989 (whose development was heavily depen­ dent on the advice of anthropologists), in a curatorial quest for art “uncontaminated” by Western influence that could be juxtaposed with an elite selection of Euro-American artists, implying that modernist practices somehow possessed less “authenticity” as a means of expressing experience for non­ Western artists.6 Both exhibitions, undoubtedly mindful of the ethnocentric follies of MoMA’s “Primitivism,” scru­ pulously authorized and geographically located each work. The catalogue for “Magiciens” also illustrated a world map for each artist that centered his or her place of origin. These strategies were contradictory: while they advanced the notion that the (post)colonial artist possesses the status of a full speaking subject equivalent to that of the Euro-American male artist, ignoring the political and economic relations between the “First” and “Third” worlds, they reintroduced the centered subject of modernism, which, as postmodern debates (to which the curators laid claim) have argued, now has to be regarded as an untenable Western ideological illusion.

The persistent institutional reduction of Native Ameri­ can arts to “ethnographic” spectacle has several implica­ tions. The widely held view that aesthetics and scholarship are distinct categories with no responsibility to sociopolitical life means that institutions controlling such discourses are not obliged to interrogate the ideological assumptions of their own practices. This inevitably and conveniently excludes the voice of contemporary peoples for whom there may be no such category distinctions, and denies their status as historical and political subjects. The emphasis on the “premodern” artifact, decontextualized from its cultural meaning, as in “Magiciens,” or displaced into “natural history,” as in “Lost and Found,” reinforces the notion that Native America has truly vanished,7 or, in a maneuver that erases five hundred years of ethnocide, that Native America exists in some prein­ dustrial arcadia perpetually available for rediscovery by the next Lieutenant Dunbar, cultural explorer. Indeed, this is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the consistency with which “collecting” and “exploring” recur throughout the texts of these exhibitions. But it becomes clear that to explore is not to discover the other’s reality.

The persistent refusal of a Native American voice outside the acceptable signs of “Indianicity”—a voice that would indeed contaminate the aesthetic with the political— ensures that the “explorer” secures the coherence of his own boundaries and maintains mastery of the narrative. More­ over, since this coherence demands absolution from a guilty past—a question, as Michael Rogin suggests, of “how to reconcile the elimination of the Indians with the American liberal self-image”—then the repeated return to “exploring” has to be seen as a reinscription and sanitization of history.8

Undoubtedly, the obsession with exploring also arises

from a recognition that there is something in Native Ameri­ can cultures that exceeds the limits of the prescribed Indian other; and, to be sure, when the explorer seeks this other, as does one of the curators of “Magiciens,” it constantly “eludes his grasp”;9 the other is never where the seeker expects to find him.

I want to pursue this seeker, since Jimmie Durham’s theme for “We the People”—“us looking at them looking at us”—and a substantial body of his own work refer directly to the exploratory ethnographic gaze by which the other is structured in the colonial text. But does Durham’s theme imply a simple reversal of the Euro-American gaze as it constructed its colonial other—“redness” substituted for “whiteness”? Or does it suggest a far more complex articula­ tion of Native American positions? What, first of all, does the seeker desire to see?

Since the first contact, Native America has been the object of the feverish stare of the Euro-American and his obsession with collecting and documenting. Through an eli­ sion of the ways by which indigenous peoples, as active and historical subjects in their own right, perceived, or looked back, at the European, the writing of Anglo-Indian history has privileged the perspective of the colonizer, whose story this becomes. Despite the claims of postmodern debate to open a space for the marginal, recent exhibition strategies indicate that this structure remains largely in place. The inclusion of “ethnic” artists in such shows as “The Decade Show,” 1990, at New York’s New Museum and Studio Mu­ seum, suggest that “multiculturalism” is a new variant of “assimilation”—a means by which the mainstream incorpo­ rates diverse cultural perspectives, without essentially relin­ quishing control.

The image-effects of the gaze that both empower colo­ nial discourses (insofar as they form a “knowledge” of the other that facilitates surveillance and control), and disem- power it (insofar as an excess always escapes the colonizer’s framing devices), are primarily a function of European de­ sire. By far the most provocative and insightful analyst of this process remains Frantz Fanon. Some years ago Fanon wrote in frustration of Jean-Paul Sartre’s relativizing of “negritude” in his reading of historical process. Fanon cites Sartre’s dismissal of black experience as symptomatic of the diffi­ culties he faced in entering Western discourse as a black man speaking in his own right, given the existing relations of power between the colonizer and his narrated other.10 Euro­ pean culture was the privileged term that defined all others, denying the latter a legitimate historical and political space. Fanon recognized that a path to the realization of black selfhoods lay in unraveling the politics of a psychic economy that coerced the colonized person into a masquerade of identification with the white European and his (mis)recogni- tion of black subjectivity “perceived on the level of the body image.”11 “Blackness” was that difference which challenged Eurocentric narratives of an ideal, unitary self-identity.



If not framed in exactly the same way, European per­ ceptions of America’s indigenous peoples and seeming un­ bounded “wilderness” as a state of nature they felt themselves to have transcended clearly provoked a fear of loss of ego boundaries that had, somehow, to be brought under control. Even now, in an era described as postcolonial, which pur­ ports to encompass a plurality of voices, indigenous peoples remain bound to a state paternalism that is more disciplinary than benevolent. The suppression of AIM during the 1970s and of the Mohawks at Oka in Quebec in 1990 shows that attempts by Native peoples to organize themselves and air legitimate grievances are still met by institutional violence. The extent to which the latter exceed the demands of the situation, and the unwillingness of authorities to negotiate, suggest that there is no legitimate ground or text from which the colonized person can speak back. If this is so, colonial discourse reduces its subject to an abject state of psychic dependence and inaction, where, as Fanon says of the colo­ nized African, “the goal of his behaviour will be The Other (in the guise of the white man), for The Other alone can give him worth.”12

Following Fanon, Homi Bhabha suggests that the colo­ nial other arises in the space of an ambivalence: between the colonizer’s narcissistic identification with what she or he sees as a reflection of an ideal unified image of the self (the sameness of the native), and with what he perceives as a discontinuity or lack of the self (the radical otherness of the native). According to Bhabha, “It is precisely these two forms of ‘identification that constitute the dominant strategy of colonial power exercised in relation to the stereotype which, as a form of multiple and contradictory belief, gives knowledge of difference and simultaneously disavows or masks it.”13 However, the Freudian narcissistic self, fearing loss of ego integrity, “goes out from itself, but not into ‘otherness’: it remains one with itself, having simply ‘intro- jected’ into its sphere the spatially distinct object.”14

What gives the configuration of Indian stereotypes its particular nuance is indeed “introjection.” As Michael Rogin has meticulously noted, Anglo-Indian relations are inscribed with a familial pathology that casts the state in the role of the (benevolent) father and Indians as children:

In the white fantasy, Indians remain in the oral stage, sus­ tained by and unseparated from mother nature. They are at once symbols of a lost childhood bliss and, as bad children, repositories of murderous negative projections. Adult indepen­ dence wreaks vengeance upon its own nostalgia for infant dependence. The Indians tie with nature must be broken, literally by uprooting him, figuratively by civilizing him, finally by killing him. … In relation to Indians, whites regressed to the most primitive form of object relation, namely the annihilation of the object through oral introjection .15

Thus the colonial discourse framing Native America has a curiously vampiric configuration. Repression of Native

American difference differs from that of India under British rule, which infiltrated an existent hierarchical Indian society with a civil and legal organization administered by a sub­ altern class schooled in the “British way of life.” But the introjective gaze of United States colonialism stages the Native American not as the “partial presence” of Bhabha’s mimic man of the British Raj, but as a disappearance: he is not “almost the same but not quite”; rather, he is not there at all. He has vanished, later to be mourned and resurrected through a constant return to the signs of his once-having- been-there—which is what gives the institutional obsession with “tribal” artifacts its particular psychic charge, and through white hybrids (the character of Lieutenant Dunbar, also known as Dances with Wolves, in the eponymous film is the most recent revenant), by which the Euro-American white male subject may endlessly incorporate himself as his desired other in a constant disavowal of its absence. As Jimmie Durham dryly remarked, “At some point late at night by the campfire, presumably, the Lone Ranger ate Tonto.”16

While the United States failed to assimilate fully the Native American body into a labor economy, it nonetheless, as Edgar Heap of Birds points out, turned its image into fetishized commodities,17 or into psychic capital held in reserve as “an insurance policy on humanness.” As Fanon says, quoting a friend, “When the whites feel that they have become too mechanized, they turn to the men of color and ask them for a little human sustenance.”18

If “Indianicity,” as a body of signs, acquires meaning from the symbolic order that produces it—dominant Euro­ American society—Fanon helps us to grasp how Native America might internalize an identity constructed by the colonial text, and its efficacy as a mechanism of control and dependency. Durham articulates the alienation of the self in the Imaginary of the Other (the “noble savage,” in this case) as the feeling of inauthenticity: “We do not feel that we are real Indians. But each of us carries this ‘dark secret’ in his heart, and we never speak about it. . . . For the most part, we just feel guilty, and try to measure up to the whiteman’s definition of ourselves.”19 Thus, with the attempted dismem­ berment of traditional Native organizations and the life worlds that give them meaning and authority, the individual, as Fanon says, risks losing his own framework of identity to the Euro-American systems of signification that take its place, and that tell him who he is. Incapable of accepting difference or ambiguity, this totalizing system appropriates selective signifiers of the subject people and reassigns them to a narrative capable of containing the threat that difference poses to the coherence of colonial order. Deformed and dislo­ cated from their “proper” context, these signifiers neverthe­ less remain recognizably “Indian” and potential sites of (mis)identification for the people themselves.

If this is one means of reproducing those knowledges by which colonial discourse strives to maintain its cultural hierarchies, is it impervious to resistance? What interested



fig. 1 Alan Michelson, Up-Biblum Cod (detail), 1987, mixed-media installation as part of the exhibition “We the People,” Artists Space, New York.

Fanon and concerns me here is a question of agency: is the colonized individual irrevocably trapped in his or her as­ signed roles, or does a space exist for him or her to develop some form of emancipatory action?

The Mohawk artist Alan Michelson’s installation Up- Biblum God (fig. 7) introduces a historical instance in which the colonizer’s gaze was, however momentarily, turned on itself. Michelson recounts an attempt by the English evangel­ ist John Eliot to convert the Narragansett to Christianity. After listening to his sermons, the Indians asked, “If God was so powerful, why didn’t he just kill Satan? If you English have God, then how come you’re so bad?” Such fractures in the logic of the colonial text suggest the impossibility of a narrative uncontaminated by the voice of its other; indeed, one might begin to ask whether such narratives are formed equally by it, with all the inconsistencies that this implies. Moreover, one might argue that despite the totalizing efforts of colonial discourse and the worst excesses of its practice, local memory and the reservation system have provided the ground for a continuity of Native American social and cul­ tural narratives, tending to confirm Jacques Derrida’s con­ tention that “totalizations never succeed in producing a per­ fect structure of inclusions and exclusions . . . the unassimilable elements determine (and disallow) any total­ ity.”20 It is to these “unassimilable elements,” expressed in contemporary art, that I now turn.

During the mid-eighties, both Jimmie Durham and the

Luiseno artist James Luna independently made installations referring directly to the ethnographic gaze. Durham’s On Loan from the Museum of the American Indian, 1985, was a collection of part-found, part-fabricated “artifacts,” “socio­ facts,” and “scientifacts,” displayed with printed labels and notes both in a museum vitrine and on the wall (fig. 2). It purported to illustrate the “natural history” of the Indian. However, family photographs, “An Indian Leg Bone,” “Real Indian Blood,” a series of map diagrams showing “Current Trends in Indian Land Ownership,” a story about death by dehydration (a reference to Indian water rights), among other things, presented a portrait of a body dismembered and reassigned to the dead space of the museum. Despite the absurdity of the items, their signs of “Indianicity” led many viewers to mistake them for genuine museum articles, miss­ ing the parodic humor in this mime of the act of ethnographic surveillance.

Durham’s exposure of the ambivalence of accepted signs of “Indianicity” provides a commentary on the primacy of vision as the medium of “knowledge” or “authenticity” in the Western symbolic order, and its assumption that the signifier and signified are analogous. What Roland Barthes describes as a “symbolic consciousness of the sign” is distin­ guished by a “massive privilege of resemblance,” where “the form resembles the content, as if it were actually produced by it.” He goes on to say: “Indeed, for the symbolic conscious­ ness, the symbol is much less a (codified) form of communi-



cation than an (affective) instrument of participation. . . . What interests it in the sign is the signified: the signifier is always a determined element.”21

This consciousness characterizes the ethnographic gaze, in which the object, displaced from the cultural knowl­ edge that gave it meaning, as in “Magiciens,” becomes a pastiche of itself: the bearer, as On Loan points out, of misrecognized signifiers redirected toward meanings autho­ rized by alien systems of signification, coming to rest finally in an affective liberal sentimentalism.

Luna’s The Artifact Piece, 1987, first installed among the Kumeyaay exhibits at the Museum of Man in San Diego, presented the artist lying on a bed of sand in a museum case, complete with name tag (fig. 3). Accompanying labels drew attention to scars on his body, documenting injuries received during an episode of “excessive drinking.”22 Two additional cases contained the artist’s personal documents and ceremo­ nial items from the Luiseno reservation.23 These, together

fig. 2 Jimmie Durham, On Loan from the Museum of the American Indian (detail), 1985, mixed-media installation.

with the impression of his body in the sand, constituted the signs of his presence at moments when he was absent from the

case. Following the installation of The Artifact Piece in “The

Decade Show” in New York in 1990, one reviewer had this to say: “The realization that Luna was not an inanimate object was stunning. Who was watching whom? I already had a relationship with this person. What would he do if I talked to him? Touched him? I felt self-conscious staring at Luna, yet I

was riveted.”24 There is a diabolic humor in this parody of the “Indian”

in the realm of the “undead.” But Luna’s work does not look back in any literal sense; it does not simply reverse the gaze. (To do so would be to accept the terms of established struc­ tures of power, which was a limitation of political activism in art of the 1970s.) If the purpose of the undead Indian of colonialism is to secure the self-identity of the onlooker, the shock of his real presence and the possibility that he may



indeed be watching and listening disarms the voyeuristic gaze and denies it its structuring power.

Michel de Certeau claims that this frustration of desire behind the gaze is produced by a speaking more than a visible body, and that, if I understand him correctly, this evolves from an oral tradition.25 Marked by scars in Luna’s case, and by scars and text in Durham’s Self-Portrait of 1986, this body “speaks” itself as the site both of colonialism’s disciplinary demands and of a possible liberation.

Durham’s Self-Portrait presents a life-size canvas cut­ out body, like a two-dimensional target-practice figure or flayed skin, topped by a masklike carved wood-and-bone head (see p. 78, fig. 2). The surface of this “body without organs” is crisscrossed by a doubled language (English text and “Indian” signs), and a doubled form of address: direct and indirect speech (“Hello! I’m Jimmie Durham . . “Mr. Durham has stated that. . .”).

While the work resembles its maker, it is not coinciden­ tal with him. Like the assumed Anglo name, this “disabled” body is a feint or masquerade that mimes and parodies stereotypes of “authentic” “Indianicity” (unemployment, al­ coholism, sexuality, and so forth); but there is, literally, nothing behind it. Indeed, the masquerade masks a noniden­ tity (the other is never where he is sought, since he is, in truth, of the Euro-American Imaginary); through its laughter

the boundaries of the stereotype are exceeded and the colo­ nial text loses its coherence.

Strictly speaking, the form of aesthetic utterance these artists employ is less a statement or a representation in the Western sense than a performative act—a “speaking” body continuously retracing the boundaries of the self in the world. In such an utterance the art object is not necessarily privi­ leged over the gesture that informs it or the communal space it addresses.

Does this distinguish a Native American “tradition” from that of Western modernism? In any case, Luna’s defini­ tion of the “contemporary traditionalist” challenges the inter­ pretation of this term presented by “Lost and Found.” Al­ though the persistence of non-Western forms can be argued as evidence of resistance to the hegemony of Western culture, for them to function as such beyond their cultural boundaries depends on a radical reconceptualization of existing conven­ tions of transmission and reception—a fact well understood by Native artists such as Luna and Durham, but that institu­ tions have so far failed to realize. At the same time, a past dependence by Native peoples on institutional definitions of cultural “authenticity” has often seemed a retreat into nos­ talgia, an avoidance of resolving the conflicts of the present, or a capitulation to the demands of the marketplace. The latter has also been true for much work confined by an

fig. 3 James Luna, The Artifact Piece (detail), 1987, mixed-media installation and performance at the Museum of Man, San Diego.



imposed European aesthetic, a phenomenon that “gives art a burden of tradition without real value for us.”26

Luna and Durham express “traditional” aesthetics through what the latter calls “turning around on purpose: acts and perceptions of combining, of making constant con­ nections on many levels.”27 “Tradition,” then, lies not in the object itself, but in organizing principles of thought: the dynamics of circulation and return, continuity and change by which Native systems of knowledge synthesize the paradoxes and heterogeneity of life experience. Alien to the European concept of progress, such systems produce art that is trans­ gressive rather than progressive, and resistant to easy commodification.

Its elusiveness lies in the “tricksterlike” mobility with which it dances between a nonmarketable or vernacular speech, which has meaning or value only to the culture that generates it, and the commodifying language of dominant culture referred to by Heap of Birds, which, in Western society, ceaselessly works to erode the former in its demand for a homogeneous consumer.28 But Native American values, histories, and experiences exceed the representational frame of the European, providing the potential for a constant re­ newal, transformation, and diversification of cultural mean­ ings. If contemporary Native American art eludes our totaliz­ ing efforts to place it, it is perhaps because it is not reducible to our commodifying systems of signification. This is not necessarily because there is a transcendental or impenetra­ ble “authenticity” to Native American cultures, but because “authenticity” is a category of our Euro-American invention—a function of the gaze, which displaces to the margin the otherness it fails to see at the center of our own being.

Postscript: At the time of writing, the full implications of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board Act, Public Law 101-644, passed by the United States Congress in 1990, are now being realized. It is an act designed ostensibly to secure the “authenticity” of Native arts, but I know of no other ethnic group whose artistic identity is legislated by the state, rather than by self-determination.


1. James Luna, James Luna, exh. cat. (San Diego: Centro Cultural de la Raza Gallery, 1985). 2. See the People, exh. cat. (New York: Artists Space, 1987). The catalogue lists the participants in the exhibition and film/video program.

3. We faced obvious limitations, but the design of the first room was intended to evoke an “ethnographic” display, while the second space attempted to override rec­ tangularly through the curved placement of sculpture pedestals and by flooding the space as far as possible with color and sound (John Rainer, Jr.’s flute music). 4. The show had two reviews, one in a radical but marginal art paper, Lucy R. Lippard, “Holding Up a Mirror to America,” Guardian, December 16, 1987; and one in an English journal by a reviewer who had clearly never visited the exhibition. 5. See Ralph T. Coe, Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Art, exh. cat. (London: Hayward Gallery, Arts Council of Great Britain, and the British- American Associates, 1976); and idem, Lost and Found Traditions: Native American Art, 1965—1985, exh. cat. (New York: American Federation of Arts, 1986). 6. For critiques of “Magiciens de la terre,” see Rasheed Araeen, “Our Bauhaus Others’ Mudhouse,” Third Text 6 (Spring 1989): 3-14; and Jean Fisher, “Fictional Histories,” Artforum 28 (September 1989): 158-62. 7. In a Sunday morning TV arts program, a schoolteacher in the “Lost and Found” exhibition was heard telling her pupils, “These were the kinds of things the Indians used to make when they lived on our land.” 8. Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan, the Movie and Other Episodes in Political Demonology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 134. 9. Mark Francis, “True Stories, ou Carte du monde poetique,” in Magiciens de la terre, exh. cat. (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1989), 14-15. 10. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (London: Pluto Press, 1986), 133. 11. Ibid., 161. 12. Ibid., 154. 13. Homi Bhabha, “The Other Question: Difference, Discrimination and the Dis­ course of Colonialism,” in Francis Barker, Peter Hulme, Margaret Iversen, and Diana Loxley, eds., Literature, Politics, and Theory (London: Methuen, 1986), 164. 14. Henry Staten, Wittgenstein and Derrida (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), 152. 15. Rogin, Ronald Reagan, 138-39. 16. Jimmie Durham, “Cowboys and . . . ,” Third Text 12 (Autumn 1990): 11. 17. Edgar Heap of Birds, Sharp Rocks (Buffalo: CEPA, 1986). 18. Fanon, Black Skin, 129. 19. Jimmie Durham, Columbus Day (Minneapolis: West End Press, 1983), 84. 20. Jacques Derrida paraphrased by Robert Young in White Mythologies: Writing History and the (London: Routledge, 1990), 137. 21. Roland Barthes, “The Imagination of the Sign,” in Selected Writings (Glasgow: Fontana Press, 1989), 213. 22. James Luna, “The Artifact Piece,” Fiction International 18, no. 1 (1987): 38—42. 23. Judith McWillie, James Luna: Two Worlds/Two Rooms, exh. cat. (New York: Intar Gallery, 1989). 24. Elizabeth Hess, “The Decade Show: Breaking and Entering,” Village Voice, May 1990. 25. Michel de Certeau, “Montaigne’s ‘Of Cannibals’: The Savage ‘I,’ ” in Heterologies: Discourse on the Other, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 67-79. 26. Jimmie Durham, “Ni’ Go Tlunh A Doh Ka [We Are Always Turning Around on Purpose],” in NT Go Tlunh A Doh Ka, exh. cat. (Old Westbury: Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, State University of New York, 1986), 1. The exhibition was curated by Jean Fisher and Jimmie Durham. 27. Ibid., 2. 28. This thought was prompted by Ivan Illich, “Vernacular Values,” in The Schu­ macher Lectures (1980), ed. Satish Kumar (London: Abacus, 1982), 70-79.

JEAN FISHER, an artist, is co-director of the masters degree program in visual arts at Goldsmiths College, University of London, associate editor of Third Text, and a writer on contemporary art.

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