Cannupa Hanska Luger: Artist as Social Engineer

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A large amount of skinny rectangular mirrors held by different people in winter gear on the ground with spots covered in snow.

Mirror Shield Project /1 (2016); Oceti Sakowin camp, Standing Rock, ND December 2016, Drone video still. Drone operation/Performance organization: Rory Wakemup; Image/Cannupa Hanska Luger


Cannupa Hanska Luger is a multidisciplinary artist who uses social collaboration in response to timely and site-specific issues. Raised on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, he is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold and is of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota and European descent. Through monumental installations that incorporate ceramics, video, sound, fiber, steel, new media, technology, and repurposed materials, Luger interweaves performance and political action to communicate stories about 21st Century Indigeneity. This work provokes diverse audiences to engage with Indigenous peoples and values apart from the lens of colonial social structuring and often presents a call to action to protect land from capitalist exploits. He combines critical cultural analysis with dedication and respect for the diverse materials, environments, and communities he engages.

Luger is a recipient of a 2021 United States Artists Fellowship Award for Craft and was named a Grist 50 Fixer for 2021, a list which includes emerging leaders in climate, sustainability, and equity who are creating change across the nation. He is a 2020 Creative Capital Fellow, a 2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, the recipient of the 2020 A Blade Of Grass Artist Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art, and the recipient of the Center For Crafts inaugural Craft Research Fund Artist Fellowship for 2020. He is the recipient of a 2019 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grants, a 2019 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Honoree and the recipient of the Museum of Arts and Design's 2018 inaugural Burke Prize. Luger has exhibited internationally including venues such as the Gardiner Museum, Toronto; Kunsthal KAdE, Netherlands; Washington Project for the Arts, Washington D.C.; Art Mûr, Montreal; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arizona; and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta; among others. He lectures, participates in residencies and large scale projects around the globe and his work is in many public collections. Luger holds a B.F.A. in studio arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts.


In a world polarized politically, economically, racially, and sexually we are forced to question our trust. However, our trust is the mortar that binds our intelligence. We need one another now more than ever. But, how do we see eye to eye with human groups we don't trust. Enter the artist. If we can subvert the idea art is an object, a noun, then we can reinstate the truth that art is a verb, an action. In developing processes that include society as a medium, the act of making builds communities that are embedded in the object of these processes. It connects people that may not engage with one another to create work together. Thus the role of artist is bridge builder.   


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