Heid Erdrich, co-director and
curator of the multi-genre art exhibit and performance Artifact
Traffic, has always been drawn to seemingly disparate forms and
“When I work as a curator, I feel
drawn to those things that traffic contemporary images with
traditional images,” she said. “I love pushing forms against one
another – you’re making all those things create a vibration between
Artifact Traffic was born of the
desire to create this vibration between different forms of art and
brought together Indigenous artists with whom Erdrich had
collaborated over her long career as a poet, playwright, and curator.
“It’s really helpful for us to be
in community, even if we don’t do the same kind of art,” Erdrich
This is especially true for Native
American artists, who are often pressured to make their art legible
to mainstream audiences, sometimes at the expense of their creative
“[Indigenous artists] are asked to
make the experience of being Native people understandable to a
non-Native audience and to educate and I think that is kind of a
burden at times to peoples’ artistic sensibility,” Erdrich said.
The Artifact Traffic performance was
part of the 13th Annual Indigenous Voices Series, which is sponsored
through a partnership between Pangea World Theater and Intermedia
Arts. This series focuses specifically on Indigenous worldviews and
experiences. The performance brought together a diverse range of
artists who are working together as part of the newly-formed group
MNdn Arts and each part featured a different collaboration.
“I wanted the audience to witness
and feel a part of a growing movement of Indigenous art in the Twin
Cities and in the region,” Erdrich said. “I wanted them to see it
manifest before them and recognize that there are a lot of
interdisciplinary artists in their communities, maybe people they
didn’t know could do the things that they can do.”
Margaret Noodin translated several
of Erdrich’s poems into Ojibwe and sang the lyrics with guitarist
Birand Morrison improvising blues music in accompaniment. Daina Ashby
danced within the parameters of themes including ice, bones and liver
to improvised music by composer Phil Fried. MC Stuart “Big S2”
Perkins performed his songs to hip-hop dance by youth Kinew. R.
Vincent Moniz, Jr. and Erdrich performed their poems to a variety of
visual art and news articles, including live drawing by Andrea
Carlson. Filmmaker Elizabeth Day presented several short films,
including films of new poetry recited by Louise Erdrich. The
performance was directed by Erdrich and Moniz with Megan Treinen of
Intermedia Arts serving as stage manager and Jake Davis as lighting
The aim of the performance was both
to share common threads of interest across multiple Native
communities and showcase the talented and diverse array of Indigenous
artists living and working in the Twin Cities.
“I wanted people to sense some of
our shared interests and obsessions with image, with popular culture,
with concerns about the environment, and the ability to reach out to
one another across cultural differences, even in the Native
community,” Erdrich said.
The performance ran from November
15-17 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis.