This blog post presents performance documentation from a performance I attended on August 20th, 2011. Vestige Vagabond was a public art performance by artists Maria Hupfield and Charlene Vickers. It was presented in conjunction with the exhibition Counting Coup at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The piece has been developing over the past couple years, but the locale for it’s most recent presentation is particularly significant. The version I witnessed took place in the midst of SWAIA’s annual Santa Fe Indian Market. The event has been held every year since 1922. The streets around the central plaza become an open-air market that attracts indigenous North American artists to sell their work. Indian Market brings an estimated 80,000 people to Santa Fe.
Artists Maria Hupfield and Charlene Vickers described their intentions this way: In this performance, the value of Native American culture, ingenuity, function, aesthetics, and sharing will be emphasized through a series of new and unexpected objects and actions in a public interactive open market setting – under the museum’s portal.
I saw the performance on the first day of Market, August 20th. It was repeated the following day. All the photographs accompanying this article are from this first performance. The heart of Vestige Vagabond is the street-market dynamics played out in a cultural market, where artists/artisans lay their handmade objects on a table for the perusal of buyers. Hupfield and Vickers began their performance with arrival and set-up, like the hundreds of artists at market, by pulling roller bags behind them, unpacking, and laying out objects on a market table. Ordinarily, there is a look-but-don’t-touch-without-permission standard for behavior at market. Many of the art objects for sale come with prices in the tens-of-thousands. The performance artists overcame audience reticence by demonstrating the use of some of the objects, such as the braids/Walkman/rock apparatus, and then passing the object to a bystander. They never gave verbal instructions and only spoke to each other. As the performance progressed, people in the audience became braver about exploring and using the objects being passed around. At the end of the performance, the artists wiped their sweaty faces with the napkins printed to resembled Canadian bills.Then they gathered up and arranged all the objects in an attractive sales display, positioning themselves behind the table, much like the artists selling their work at the market.
I did not get to see the second performance, on Sunday, August 21st. Hupfield sent me the following statement about changes she and Vickers made to the second performance:
For the second day we wanted to find ways to help the santa fe crowd break through their role as passive observers and get them really involved. To help with this we started the performance by hand-printing two signs that read “not for sale” and “demos here now.” We also integrated a few more staged style actions together and responded directly to individuals in the crowd. For example we singled out Amber Dawn (Bear Robe) to wear our fringe gloves, distributed and boxed with the beads and did an impromptu honor dance with the tea cup for a mother who was carrying her child on her back. It was good times!
Maria Hupfield works across disciplines to engage in intersecting points of dialogue between Western and non-Western visual representations and philosophies. Her practice evidences the body as a site of resistance, agency and social engagement. She is a member of Wasauksing First Nation and is of Anishnaabe/Ojibway Heritage. A graduate of the MFA program at York University, Maria holds a BA Specialist in Art and Art History from the University of Toronto and Sheridan College. Hupfield lives and works in New York City.
Charlene Vickers is an Anishinaabe artist living and working in Vancouver. She graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1994 and Simon Fraser University, Critical Studies in 1998. Born in Kenora, Ontario and raised in Toronto. Her art explores ancestry and living in urban spaces.