Logo for 'This Is a Stereotype' film project designed by Cannupa Hanska Luger and Dylan McLaughlin

He Killed His Art to Prove a Point. Now He's Making a Film About It

Alex Jacobs

This is a Stereotype is a film project motivated by an art exhibition, installed by Cannupa Hanska Luger and further inspired by the vision of filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin. Hanska’s body of work, Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American exhibited at the MoCNA from Aug. 15- Dec. 31 2013. The exhibition addressed several preconceived notions about Native people supported by popular culture that have been invented, imagined and rooted within the American public's social conscience. Highlighted in this exhibition was a performance, Destroying the Stereotype, where Hanska let go of the stereotypes embodying his sculptures and invited the community to witness their destruction. The remains of the destroyed ceramic sculptures were then placed on view for the duration of the exhibition. McLaughlin documented this process and together they felt this conversation needed to go deeper than this exhibition.

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There were many viewers attending the Destroying the Stereotype event with a lot of questions, and many of those were of the “That was fun, but what’s next?” variety. Those images and sounds went viral because the audience at MoCNA were carrying cell phones and cameras and sent out the digital documentation around the world. The need arose to create a video documentary, a permanent record, so these performances, images and issues can be shared with native and non-natives alike in educational, teaching moments.

The filmmakers are currently soliciting funds to make their movie at Kickstarter -- the deadline is April 27 -- where they've posted the following statement:

“By contributing, you are allowing this film to be free to all. The film would be available to everyone through the Internet as a digital download and on databases of educational institutions and museums. Your contribution will cover production costs, rentals and purchases and we will not be forced to “sell” the film. Our goal is to offer it free to all.”

The film This is a Stereotype will allow for the continuation of this dialogue, with broader brush strokes than just one artist's perspective. The exhibition/performance, Stereotype: Misconceptions of the Native American, was just the spark. It pushed artist Cannupa Hanska and filmmaker Dylan McLaughlin to ask why? Where do these stereotypes come from? Are all stereotypes negative? Do they come from some level of truth? Is there a place to blame? How can we break down these ways of thinking into something positive and useful? Can stereotypes become empowering? How has history influenced the way Native Americans themselves today, and how do non-Natives and popular culture perceives Native Americans? What are the economic parallels of stereotyping? How do you let go of stereotypes? The questions kept coming. The more they talked about it, the more there was a need to dig deeper, to look at many stories of past and present, of ordinary and esteemed, in order to have the proper tools to address the idea of the stereotype. 


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