The Necessity of Jimmie Durham’s Jokes
W hen patterns of commerce between cultures ac quire regulation, noncommercial effects often follow, since exchanges of this sort involve iden tities as well as goods and money. A case in point is the
Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, passed into law Novem ber 29, 1990. It specifies what can be represented as “United States Indian products,” as distinguished from all works resembling or imitating them, which might otherwise be sold on the same market. Why did the Indian art market, far removed from what is usually considered “big business,” merit its own regulation and protection? Sales of Indian artifacts have actually grown so great that significant com mercial interests are at stake; although Native Americans control only a portion of this market, a large number make their living as producers of Indian arts and crafts.
From simple pottery containers to complex sculptural installations, Native American artifacts acquire much of their monetary value according to their origin in what both Indians and non-Indians regard as the traditional ethical values of Native American society. Euro-Americans attach a mythology to Indian crafts and other signs of “Indianness,” so that the objects reflect an idealization of their makers’ way of life—the Indian respect for processes of nature and natu ral materials, their environmentally sensitive economy, their refinements of handwork, which assembly-line labor fails to supply. For better or worse, the worth Euro-American society attributes to Indian artifacts is often there simply because the work has been done by people considered authentically “native.” Collecting thus in itself becomes a form of coloniza tion, an appropriation of the world of the other to make up a lack in one’s own. This is colonization by metonymic ex change, the redemption of product (artwork) for process (con duct of life, system of values). As aggressive consumers, the colonizer-collectors control what is to be desired in the life process of the “native,” for the collectors create the market for certain goods, inducing their production. The resultant in dustry both determines and symbolizes the conduct and perhaps even the values of the Indian producer (this commer cial circuit might be seen as a case of ideological coloniza tion).1 Commercial gain rewards the Indian producer for creating signs of a life deemed valuable to the Euro-
American consumer. The collectors return to the values of living in harmony with the land by purchasing products of those they think never left nature’s estate.
Because the Indian art market is far from saturated and demand keeps increasing, a profit motive leads entrepre neurs to introduce inauthentic goods, works that may well have an aesthetic and ethical significance of their own, but do not originate from a proper, authorized source—a real Indian. For the purposes of the commercial enterprise that the 1990 law is designed to protect, inauthentic sources for “United States Indian products” are not only the likes of Koreans or Taiwanese (clearly non-Indian), but also Indians themselves, Native American or First Nations peoples from Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere in the hemisphere: “As the law is designed to protect United States Indian products, it will be necessary for sellers to make sure that the products of other Indian groups are sold in such a way that it is clear they are not United States Indian products. . . . Sellers [should] clearly label the country of tribal ancestry.”2 This United States law safeguards the commerce of its citizen Indians, protecting them from foreigners, including foreign Indians.3
This is not the final wall of protection and exclusion. Given the law’s definition of who actually qualifies as a “United States Indian,” many who regard themselves as members of that category find themselves outside it, rejected from the Salon of Native American art for not having met the official entry requirements. The law defines an “Indian” as “a member of a federally-recognized or state-recognized tribe, or a person who is certified as an Indian artisan by such a tribe.” One can be recognized as a member of some Indian tribes with as little as 1/64 Indian blood, that is, anyone with one great-great-great-great-grandparent who was full- blooded; but membership in other tribes may have nothing to do with blood and racial identity, which seems to have become the dominant concern only after North America was colonized.4 For diverse reasons, many Native Americans have no membership or legally certifiable connection to a particular tribe. So the Indian Arts and Crafts Act provides that Indian artisans can apply to their tribe of ancestry for certification. Yet (as commentary from the Department of the Interior notes), “Just as in membership criteria, the criteria
for certification as an Indian artisan are entirely at the discretion of the tribe, and it is possible that some tribes will choose not to certify anyone or even adopt a certification process.” Since the law was written with commerce in mind, it also insures against an obvious abuse: “A tribal official will not skew the artisan certification process by trying to turn it into a source of revenue.”5 Imagine this nightmare scenario: you wake up on November 29, 1990, to find yourself a Native American artist but not an Indian, your authentic art trans formed into imitation during the night; you have no recourse but to try to buy membership in whichever tribe is willing to sell.
The ironies of the situation have been well exposed by Kay WalkingStick and other artists and academics, who reacted quite immediately, once the implications and actual effects of the law began to be felt. WalkingStick, who is Cherokee, noted that to be an official member of this tribe one needs the registration number of an ancestor who chose to be listed with the federal government at the turn of the century. Whether in protest of federal renegotiation of treaties and imposed outside control, or simply because they lacked any economic motive to enlist, many Cherokee chose not to regis ter, with the result that today there are many of Cherokee blood who “cannot prove they are Indian.” This historical and legal wrinkle is curious enough, but WalkingStick readily conceived of a still stranger one, the case of a person born to a Hopi father and a Salish mother, anywhere outside the Salish reservation. Because membership in the Salish requires that birth be on tribal land, whereas membership in the Hopi is matrilineal, such a person, although full-blooded Native American, would have no possible tribal affiliation and could not become a legal Indian.6
After a period of several months, during which infor mation about the 1990 law was disseminated and clarified, it began to be enforced on a voluntary basis. The Department of the Interior advised those with doubts about the authenticity of a product “to consult their attorney, just as they would on other important business matters.” One of the first products that failed to pass the new legal tests was Jimmie Durham’s; Durham is Cherokee, but without a registration number, and hence not “Indian.” A show of his work, previously on exhibi tion at Exit Art in New York, was scheduled for July 1991 at the Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe; another show of his work, also scheduled for July 1991, was to be held at American Indian Contemporary Arts in San Francisco. Both were canceled (or indefinitely postponed) because of the artist’s lack of certification.
Durham, who has always been politically active and is no stranger to the legal, linguistic, and pictorial manipula tion of identities, responded with an open letter addressing many of the general principles at stake in the situation. “I am Cherokee,” he writes, “but my work is simply contemporary art [and] not ‘Indian art’ in any sense. … I do not want a Cherokee license to make money selling ‘Indian’ art or any
other art.”7 Although Durham’s work “quite naturally . . . reflects [his Cherokee] background in some ways,” it is not about “Indian identity”; on the contrary, “it often deals with how whites identify themselves and the world.” So the content of Durham’s art is at least as much white as Indian, if not more. No wonder he thinks certification is beside the point— “white” art is not what the market desires from Indians.
Why art created by Durham the Cherokee should be about white rather than Indian identity is hardly obvious and requires some explanation. Durham’s position will strike many as counterintuitive, since the prevailing modernist belief holds that art is self-expressive and self-reflective— art refers first of all to its own origins, to its creator and his or her most immediate sensations, emotions, and concerns, all of which may well bear a reciprocal formative relationship with the creator’s proper language of representation (the expressive limits of the language corresponding to and per haps determining the individual’s limits of feeling). But what of those artists for whom the self has somehow been lost or separated from its means of self-expression, its language of representation? What of those who have no language of which they consider themselves the true possessors?
Durham argues, in effect, that Native Americans are such people. They speak—and must live in the world created by—the language and discourse of the colonizing Euro- Americans.8 It is as if the Native American is decentered at birth, tribal certification notwithstanding; the Native Ameri can has no essence, or at least no essence that can be represented, given what the dominant cultural discourse accommodates (again, we encounter a kind of ideological colonization). Thus, to whatever extent Native Americans become representable through their “authentic” Indianness, such representation or classification serves only the aims of colonialism and racism—the colonizer’s collection policies, so to speak.
This problem of representation, which is political, has sparked Durham’s interest in all aspects of collecting, museology, and ethnography.9 His 1986 installation On Loan from the Museum of the American Indian parodies the omniv orousness of the ethnographic collector; anything “Indian” is worth being shown, dissected, and labeled, even “Pocahontas’ Underwear,” panties adorned with feathers and beads. Durham’s installation also undermines the way museological display customarily neutralizes the emotional impact of statistical data and other forms of evidence. He appropriates a series of maps of the continental United States, titling them “Current Trends in Indian Land Ownership” fig. 1); they parade as an informative graph while simul taneously revealing, to anyone sensitive to the ironies, the political absurdity of a continual decrease in the area of Indian occupation (indicated by a dark color on the maps). The first of the five maps is entirely dark, as if the Indians “owned” everything. In the last map the dark spots of Indian possession have become so small one hardly sees them (and
what if this “current trend” should continue? Where are all the Indians?). Durham’s graphic meaning is both comic and biting, as with the most effective of political caricatures. His target, however, is not an individual political figure, but an entire history.
On many occasions and by diverse means, Durham has argued that Euro-American concepts of ownership and au thenticity form a discursive alliance with colonialism and racism. His open letter states that “authenticity is a racist concept which functions to keep us enclosed in ‘our world’ (in our place) for the comfort of a dominant society.” Authenticity is to be associated with property (you are, presumably, the sovereign master of your own authorship) and with ownership in general. These traditional Euro-American concerns do not correspond to Indian beliefs: “European culture’s emphasis on the sovereign subject and its private property is alien to a Native American concept of the self as an integral part of a social body whose history and knowledge are inscribed
fig. 1 Jimmie Durham, “Current Trends in Indian Land Ownership,” detail of On Loan from the Museum of the American Indian, 1986, mixed media, dimensions variable. Whereabouts unknown.
across a particular body of land.”10 Hence, the ultimate irony of Durham’s maps of Indian land ownership, whether it decreases or not—a traditional Indian ethic cannot properly accommodate a concept of land ownership. It would be more accurate to say that Indians belong to, or with, the land than to claim it belongs exclusively to them or anyone else. Exclu sive possession is the social practice of Euro-Americans. By the same token, enclosure (whether by land division, statu tory regulation, historical narrative, or statistical mapping)
becomes the ethnographic practice of whites as they attempt to construct an authentic “Indian” reality.
“Were given [authenticity],” Durham has said. “We have it inflicted upon us. So Indians want to be authentic, to see ourselves as authentic, especially for those who see us as authentic.”11 Such authenticity is double, referring to the fact that whites not only construct the Indian reality but also cause the Indian to personify authenticity, to be its image. The white creates the operative image of the Indian by
imposing a European set of concepts and names: “None of the words you call us by are words by which we call ourselves.”12 With adopted names and manners, the Indian serves to mirror the white, representing not only what the white has provided (imposed), but also aspects of character which form part of the white—such as “native” authenticity—that the white yet lacks, desires, or must forever expel from his or her being. The Indian becomes the white’s own proper otherness and mythological property.13 Of necesssity, to represent the Indian is to represent the white at one and the same moment. This cultural contradiction overdetermines representation, pushing it to its limits.
In his open letter, Durham offers the example of a contemporary Iroquois leader commissioned by the Franklin Mint to design a series of coins bearing images of famous Indians of the past. The white formulators of the project had no thought to include any twentieth-century figures. As a result, Durham observes, the commemorative image would represent the Indian solely “as in-the-past” (such historical distancing being a potent form of “enclosure”). This relega tion of the Indian to past history suits the cultural interests of a society of colonizers. It corresponds to the system for marketing Indian art, with its emphasis on traditional forms and tribal identities, a system that allows certain desirable social values to be appropriated—through the mere pur chase of aesthetic objects—without causing any social dis ruption. The commemorative coin project, as well as the marketing of Indianness in general, encourages the mainte nance of a pattern of cultural stereotyping through economic incentives. Durham again: “The ‘Indian art market con tinues to expand, but it has never been ours. It has served to isolate ‘Indian artists through commercial success in a spe cialized area.”14 The significance of Durham’s insisting that he creates “contemporary” art, not “Indian” art, becomes obvious.
I have expanded on the content of Durham’s letter in order to articulate certain issues in contemporary Native American art, taking additional cues from Durham’s various essays as well as his visual imagery (which, we recall, might reflect white society even more than Indian). Durham’s open letter also addresses an implied challenge to his authority to engage himself as a Cherokee (uncertified) in matters of concern to Native Americans—to work as an Indian on Indian problems. Recalling his participation in the Ameri can Indian Movement during the 1970s, and the fact that his coworkers may never have been assured of his identity as a Cherokee, Durham states that “the only sensible question would be, did I perform my jobs with integrity.” Given the issues at hand, Durham’s reference to the integrity of his performance is not a matter of a man offended by criticism who responds with indignation. Far more than that, the distinction Durham offers—identity by birth, title, or name, versus identity by conduct or action—is basic to the motiva tion and effects of the 1990 law regarding the authenticity of
Indian art. Through conduct one acquires a specific identity, even when one’s status seems unclassifiable by any existing set of evaluative terms. Rather than owning (through certi fication) the legal right to make authentic art, one can be true to an artistic purpose through one’s actions.15 Through the mere performance of the act, an Indian artist, like any other artist, makes art; and its effect need not be confined by the discursive limits established for Indian art that goes by the name (and now by the law). Nevertheless, if received and judged by name alone, the effect of any “Indian” art will remain within whatever field of meaning has been pre established for it. This is why Durham claims that the authenticity of officially sanctioned Indian art is a trap to limit the cultural power of the Native American artist.
I think we [Indians] are, of necessity and natural bent, funny people. —Jimmie Durham16
Following Jimmie Durham, I have alluded to a contra diction in “authentic” Indian (Native American) art: it is art about whites (Euro-Americans) because white society estab lishes what counts as “Indian.” This relationship has the structure of a joke, a pun, a mutually subversive doubleness. The white so dominates as to define the Indian’s realm of representational practice; yet whites need Indians to produce signs of the nativeness that completes the white’s own myth ological structure.
Jokes are unstable. They seek out victims but can also turn upon their perpetrators when conditions of presentation are unfavorable. Jimmie Durham uses the joke not only because Indians have a “natural bent” to be funny, but also because his cultural situation demands this of him—he must turn the dominant discourse against its nominal masters (the colonizers), or at least deflect it from himself. To say that Indians are funny “naturally” eliminates any question of their having acquired the trait in response to historical exigencies. Perhaps Indians have practiced humor for so many centuries (and well before 1492) that no one can imagine a time when jokes were regarded with suspicion or not heard at all. To say, however, that Indians are funny “of necessity”—and for this to be stated by Durham with a sense of irony in the context of the enunciation—is to allude to a very active engagement with discourse, as if in resistance to its historically determined designs for the speaker. The dif ference between attributing naturalness to Indian joking and ascribing the practice to necessity (as an active response to external conditions) should be somewhat familiar. It resem bles the difference between authenticity by certified title (for instance, as Cherokee, or as a genuine “United States Indian product”) and authenticity established by performance. In the one case the humor is expected (because “authentically” and conventionally Indian); in the other it works against the grain of the culture and discourse that contains it, asserting an idiosyncratic particularity.17
Jimmie Durham recognizes that he must live within
fig. 2 Jimmie Durham, Self-Portrait, 1986, mixed media, 76 x 30 x 4 inches. Collection of Jean Fisher.
the web of contradictions of his own discourse and its humor.18 His 1986 Self-Portrait fig. 2), a red-skin surface marked by text and other signs of ethnographic self-study, demonstrates this condition of his existence, both his stan dardization and his particularity. Jean Fisher has aptly de scribed Durham’s pseudo-self-construction: the body, “emp tied of real substance, is no more than the sum of vacuous inscriptions written by a language incapable of translating concepts alien to it.”19 Durham’s Indian body is alienated from itself, having no way to integrate its ethos with present forms of culture and society. Its outside (its skin, its appear ance) has no corresponding inside or substance; its inside (its ethos, its performance) finds no representation. Yet this travestied body is funny—in the prickly manner of self deprecating ethnic jokes. One inscription reads: “My skin is not really this dark, but I am sure that many Indians have coppery skin” (he’s trying to look like an Indian).
Durham’s comic and ironic elements open up discur sive routes of escape from the cliches of character and value that his Euro-American culture—he does not deny that it must in some sense be his—imposes upon his Indian body. The jokes insure that his art avoids all claims to self-mastery, as well as any possibility that this particular “Indian” iden tity will ever be mastered by the colonizers. If Durham must live in two worlds, or in a divided world, so must his art be bilingual. This is so in a figurative sense, and at times in a literal sense as well, for Durham incribes some of his images in Cherokee along with the English. The Cherokee often amounts to simple punning, jokes “any Indian would get.”20 No matter how obvious, however, they cannot be understood by whites, who must recognize their exclusion and failure to control. Durham has no desire to explain things to his white viewers: “What I want them to know is that they can’t know.”21 Perhaps the jokes thus become emblematic of an oddly struc tured distance that separates the two cultures as unequal partners. Euro-American culture normally acts to deny this distance; its Indians, like Pocahontas or Tonto, have been silently incorporated within it. Durham’s Cherokee puns and, indeed, all his jokes, give such distance voice once again. But its resonance will be heard only by those who care to listen. As Lucy Lippard states in relation to Durham: “Qui etly laughing at white people has long been an Indian pas time rarely acknowledged or understood by its targets.”22
Indeed, there is a persistent quiet humor in Durham’s art—this is perhaps its true Indianness—a Native American quality that can live undisturbed within Euro-American culture, which is not without its own capacity for irony. The humor is no more or less authentic than any other part of the Indian character, but this quality has one of the best survival rates. What can the operation of such humor mean to whites? Will there always be something withheld from the white’s understanding? Among the many jokes constituting Dur ham’s Self-Portrait, there may be more than one that my Euro-American mentality fails to grasp, even though their
inscription has resulted from the artist’s subjection to a culture that is presumably mine. Does the white’s inability to decipher the Indian’s representations, whether of self or others, have any inherent meaning, a lesson to be learned?
Aside from being struck by the fact of a repressed ethnic difference, a white audience learns from Durham’s jokes not to try to master things by categorizing and fixing them. Relations between things shift and change. Despite Native Americans’ enclosure within Euro-American society, they understand this, Durham argues, because they retain a “religious” difference. They have never developed the hier archies and classifications Western religion uses to rank degrees of spirituality against profane worldliness. Instead, Indians “need to be in conversation with everything . . . [theirs] is a religious system that attempts to break down separations.” For the artist this entails engaging the medium at all levels of its significance, as both matter and image. Note that in the following example aesthetic sensibility must merge with socioeconomic and political concerns: “When we do works on paper we cannot forget the paper-making process, the fact of the trees on our land. What symbolic combinations can we make?” In general, Indians value “adaptability, the inclusion of new ways and new material. . . . Every object, every material brought in from Europe was taken and trans formed with great energy.”23
Like materials in the hands of Indians, jokes are adapt able and they transform. I am looking at Durham’s 1982 ink- on-paper drawing, Ace Unbreakable Comb fig. 3); it depicts a plastic hair comb, a consummate Euro-American consumer item, which, I imagine, must circulate among Indians as well as whites. This characteristic product of white industry is alter ego to objects of “authentic” (and now protected) Indian craft, such as traditional ornamental combs. Durham’s mod est drawing appears to make a single visual pun: the Ace comb, despite its claims to immortality, has been broken; it has been transformed, so it seems, into a prowling (and limping?) animal, the teeth of the comb, now bent and reduced in number, becoming legs and perhaps a penis. Shown above the comb-animal is the natural force of light ning, which may be the narrative or fictive source of the transformation. If so, it appears that nature’s organicism has reclaimed the comb, a synthetic, nonbiodegradable product of consumer culture. Yet the figured animal remains a hybrid form, as “broken” and ambivalent as the comb.
Does Durham intend some kind of political allegory? Has his art converted the comb, a fetish of popular fashion, into a primitive’s animal fetish? Primitivism, Durham would argue, is itself a fetish of Euro-Americans, something they insist on seeking and finding in “authentic” Indians as a substitute for the repressed history of their domination: “America has an idea of the primitive . . . that actually drives the U.S., and its idea has to be that it owns not only the primitives but primitivism.”24 Ideologically, the primitive animal—like a mascot—is as American as the plastic
fig. 3 Jimmie Durham, Ace Unbreakable Comb, 1982, ink on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches. Private collection.
comb. As an Indian artist, Durham knows how to make the joke, how to transform one fetish into another, perhaps reveal ing that throw-away Euro-American culture must remain connected to the land (and culture) upon which it feeds— “primitive” Indian land, Indianness, the consumer’s obverse and other.
It is as a white that I’ve been viewing Durham’s draw ing. Perhaps I miss some of its punning; maybe I’ve gotten everything wrong. There may be something Cherokee about this transformation, to which I’ve applied my Euro-American interpretation. Nevertheless, I know that representations— whether by or of Indians or whites—always retain a reserve of meaning; art that jokes exploits that reserve and becomes the natural enemy of categorization, enclosure, and fixity. So it is to be expected that interpretations will remain tentative and approximate. All the same, perhaps the Indian is quietly laughing at me.
Notes 1. A cult of individual personality is one of the ironic by-products of Euro-American interest in traditional Indian life and art; see J. J. Brody, “The Creative Consumer: Survival, Revival and Invention in Southwest Indian Arts,” in Nelson H. H. Graburn, ed., Ethnic and, Tourist Arts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 75-76. 2. This and other facts and quotations concerning the substance of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 derive from a summary, commentary, and fact sheet supplied by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, United States Department of the Interior, May 1991, as well as from the statute itself (Public Law 101-644). I thank W. Jackson Rushing for numerous conversations that introduced me to this material and the
significance of the issues it raises. 3. The curious notion of a “foreign Indian” (my term for it, not that of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board) indicates how political boundaries of nation-states often fail to correspond to social and economic affiliations and affinities. And it is not only ethnic groups who cross boundaries but also (at the other end of the scale of ethnic identity) business groups. The definition and status of the “foreign” remains forever under review. 4. See Donald A. Grinde, Jr., “Who Is an American Indian?” Indigenous Thought I (March-June 1991): 24A. 5. Or, as stated directly in Public Law 101-644, Section 107: “An Indian tribe may not impose a fee in certifying an individual as an Indian artisan.” 6. Kay WalkingStick, “Indian Law,” Artforum 30 (November 1991): 20-21. Similar examples are offered by Grinde, “Who Is an American Indian?” 7. Public open letter, distributed and copyrighted by Jimmie Durham, 1991. See also Jimmie Durham, “A Certain Lack of Coherence,” in Pocahontas and the Little Carpenter in London, exh. cat. (London: Matt’s Gallery, 1988), n.p.: “My intention. . . is always to be a person in the world: the entire world as it is. That was the Cherokee reality before the enclosure. The objects here are not mine or yours; they are ours.” 8. English (or some other European tongue) is the first language of many Native Americans, and many speak no Indian language. Given the politics of contemporary Native American life, a European problematic dominates discourse even when Indian languages are spoken. 9. See Jimmie Durham, “Collecting,” Artforum 29 (May 1991): 20-21. 10. Jimmie Durham and Jean Fisher, “The Ground Has Been Covered,” Artforum 26 (Summer 1988): 102. 11. Jimmie Durham, interview with Susan Canning, Art Papers 14 (July-August 1990): 35. 12. Jimmie Durham, “Savage Attacks on White Women, As Usual,” in We the People, exh. cat. (New York: Artists Space, 1987), 18. 13. This pattern of cultural domination and projection has been extensively studied; see, e.g., Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., The White Man’s Indian (New York: Knopf, 1978); and Raymond William Stedman, Shadows of the Indian (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982). 14. Jimmie Durham, “Cowboys and . . . ,” Third Text 12 (Autumn 1990): 18. 15. The distinction is parallel to one Durham articulates in an essay on Walton Ford, a painter who lacks the kind of professional technical facility that would authenticate his work before a jury of certified artists and critics; Ford’s authenticity “does not come from technique [but] looks more as though it came from rage.” Jimmie Durham, “To Be a Pilgrim: Walton Ford,” Artforum 30 (January 1992): 59. 16. Jimmie Durham, “A Central Margin,” in The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, and Studio Museum in Harlem, 1990), 174. 17. “Cherokees are very funny people, were always using humor. It’s really part of us. I think it’s always been there … I think it also comes as a defense from what we’ve been through the last three hundred years” (Durham, interview with Canning, 35). 18. This recognition accords with tenets of poststructuralism and postmodernism in the arts. While certain Euro-American artists may have selected the option of a postmodernist mode of representation because of their allegiance to a body of critical theory, the Native American may have no other logical choice. Native Americans have been living the experience that postmodernist Euro-American artists seek to repre sent. On choices, see Richard Shiff, “On Criticism Handling History,” History of the Human Sciences 2 (February 1989): 63-87. 19. Jean Fisher, “Jimmie Durham,” in Jimmie Durham: The Bishop’s Moose and the Pinkerton Men, exh. cat. (New York: Exit Art, 1989), 12. 20. Durham quoted in Lucy R. Lippard, “Little Red Lies,” in Jimmie Durham: The Bishop’s Moose, 26. 21. Jimmie Durham, “Conversation between Jimmie Durham and Jeanette Ingber- man,” in Jimmie Durham: The Bishop’s Moose, 30-31. 22. Lippard, “Little Red Lies,” 28. Concerning a painting by Walton Ford, Durham writes that it “is very like the jokes American Indians tell each other about ‘whites.’ Its metaphoric heavy-handedness works as humor, but the humor is about American self destructiveness and obliviousness” (Durham, “To Be a Pilgrim: Walton Ford,” 59). 23. 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—2. Adaptability is encouraged by the traditional Indian belief in the instability of relations of power; because individuals and objects can acquire or lose power unpredictably, everything merits respect and all encounters must be approached warily. See James Axtell, The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 16. 24. Durham, interview with Canning, 33.
RICHARD SHIFF directs the Center for the Study of Modernism at the University of Texas at Austin. His essay “Constructing Physicality” appeared in the spring 1991 issue of Art Journal.