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Visiting Artist Response: Heap of Birds'

Heap of Birds’ s lecture was interesting and he has a great personality. During his lecture he showed his works of art that included work from the beginning of his artistic carrier. I was amazed how broad his use of media was. The types of media spanned from traditional art media - like drawing, painting and sculpture - to new art media like installations and a short movie clip. It seems to me that nowadays artists increasingly expose themselves to a variety of media besides the media that they originally worked with. I can imagine that it must feel liberating to be able to change media but I also ask myself if this trend trivializes artists who have devoted themselves to a type of medium for a long period of time.
Heap of Birds’, a Native American artist, has devoted his art to mainly unpleasant issues that deal with the social and political oppression of Native Americans. He also tries to create a bond between Native American and other native people by traveling around the world and working with other native artists.
By using imaginative text and symbolic motifs as the focus of his pieces, his art seems to be more provocative and inflammatory rather than emphasizing beauty. One piece that really stood out for me and on which I feel reveals his attitudes towards art, was the piece called Building Minnesota, an installation where names of 40 Dakota tribal citizens were written down on 40 metal signs. Abraham Lincoln ordered their execution in Minnesota. This work was not only to honor the 40 Native Americans but also to educate the public and to confront the people with something that they don’t want to see. Abraham Lincoln is such a beloved US president, and Heap of Birds’ wants to show a less attractive side of Lincoln’s career. During the lecture Heap of Birds’ constantly spoke about history and education and how we artists are responsible for educating the young. I think that when he spoke about education he spoke about a different kind of education than we usually understand. He believes that education is too centered on the European version of history and there are many sensitive issues in history that are not covered because of their scandalous nature. I completely agree with Birds’ attitude toward education because we are living in an era in which most of the time unpleasant truths are denied and they need to be revealed. If art does not reveal these truths, who else will?