Jan 24, 2020 – Jul 11, 2020
Adrian Stimson, Video still from Buffalo Boy's Sacred South, single-channel video, 2008
The Pan-American Highway was initially conceived of in 1923 as a way to connect countries of the Americas. Spanning from northern Alaska to the southern tip of South America, the roughly 19,000 highway miles weave their way through nine countries—Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Canada, and the United States.
Built as a trade road, it can also be seen as a metaphoric unifier of a collective people—that of continental Americans. While the word “American” has long been used to denote citizens of the United States, that single-use definition disregards citizens of two entire continents who, in their individual ways, hold and define American identity.
This video series, The Pan-American Identity Project, seeks to explore Americanness in its broadest terms. Throughout 2020, the series will highlight three artists from different countries along the highway. Each artist was chosen because of their tackling of “Americaness” through current and historical ideas of national identity within their home countries and beyond.
Starting with one of the Northernmost nations on the Pan-American highway, The Pan-American Identity Project, Part I explores the work of Adrian Stimson, a two-spirit member of the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation from Alberta, Canada.
Stimson’s work parodies stereotypes about Native Americans and cowboys that were perpetuated by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which traveled the globe in the late 1880s. By mashing up the trope of the Indian, the cowboy, the shaman, and the buffalo, Stimson created Buffalo Boy, what he calls, a “gender-bending colonial-busting persona that tackled both historical and contemporary issues of colonialism.” Shot during the Burning Man Festival, his performances vary from humorous to solemn and draw, performatively, on the same spectacle of Buffalo Bill.
The work also makes reference to the decimation of buffalo populations due to European settlers, as a way to illustrate a cultural, spiritual, and metaphoric connection between the buffalo and Native Americans.
Supported by ZAP and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts.