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Photos and stills by Cait NiSimon,
animation still by Wesley Creigh
Duets with James Luna
Ancestral Cartographic Rituals (2017)

What happens when Indigenous artists test their DNA? How do their findings confirm, authenticate, or contradict traditional creation stories? In this new interdisciplinary work-in-progress, award-winning performance artists James Luna and Denise Uyehara investigate “cultural authenticity,” as it relates to Pacific Rim, evolution and migration, and the here and now.

Denise Uyehara (Okinawan and Japanese American)
James Luna (Payómkawichum, Ipi, and Mexican-American), performers

Wesley Creigh, animation

Presented at Stanford University, Art & Art History Department

Continental Drift, a durational performance film, which opens the evening-length performance, Ancestral Cartographic Rituals.  Videography by Cait NiSimon.

Transitions - with James Luna.jpg
Photo and design by Adam Cooper-Terán
Transitions (2012)

Everybody has a past. For James Luna and Denise Uyehara, that past began in Orange County — land of malls, surfers and the 405 Freeway. How did they evolve from being ethnic minorities in suburbia to the artists we are today? And in the sea of consumerism and cultural amnesia, what makes an Indian or Asian American truly “authentic?”

The artists springboard off their seminal works to create new meanings. James revisits his performance from the 1970’s, also entitled Transitions, in which he unpacked a bag full of “Indian” objects and created a new rituals with them.  Denise performs Blue Marks, recounting a Chicana biker girl and her Holocaust survivor mother.

They conduct a series of rituals that recount surviving life behind the “Orange Curtain”: remixing surfing music, disco, narrative and home movies and surfing footage projected onto a psychedelic kimono with 30 foot long arms that can wrap around Denise like a cocoon or straight jacket.

Transitions was commissioned by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) for Los Angeles Goes Live as part of Pacific Standard Time, an initiative of the Getty. Pacific Standard Time is a collaboration of more than 60 cultural institutions across Southern California coming together for the first time to celebrate the birth of the L.A. art scene, beginning in the fall of 2011.

Denise Uyehara and James Luna, Performance

Video, audio and visual design Adam Cooper Teran

Stage support and performance, Erin Genvieve O'Brien

Transitions, at LACE, November 10, 2012
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