California Forgets. Luna Remembers: Sensing contemporary Native American realities in James Luna’s performance Native Stories: For Fun, Profit & Guilt
James Luna’s multimedia performances are largely rooted in his culture and daily experience as a Pooyukitchchum (Luiseño) Indian living on La Jolla reservation north of San Diego, in Southern California. Informed by a polyphonic style, they interweave, converse and collide with various personal, collective, fictional, and non-fictional stories and discourses. This fluid and yet fractured approach incorporating visual, aural, written, and body language directly engages contemporary viewers through the resonances and dissonances of present and past, the physical presence of the artist’s acting body, and through the immersive environment they are invited to share with the artist in the here-and-now of the performance site. This article is based on the performance Native Stories: For Fun, Profit & Guilt that James Luna presented in October 2014 in San Francisco during the Litquake festival featuring Sheila Tishmil Skinner and followed by a spoken-word monologue by Guillermo Gomez-Peña. It aims to highlight how Luna senses today’s native people’s experiences and how he mediates California’s present and historical past. The play with metamorphosis, distortion, and dissonances, the slippages in various personae, along with the combination of technology-mediated devices, are some of the strategies he uses to trace the complexities of contemporary indigenous people’s realities.
KeywordsPerformance art California’s mission system Anthropology Pablo Tac Ishi Rituals Memory and fiction memory Survivance Silence
I wish to thank James Luna for granting me permission to reproduce five pictures taken by Nola Mariano during the performance Native Stories: For Fun, Profit & Guilt on October 10, 2014 in San Francisco.
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