“Hatkiraar”: American Indian Avant-Garde at Bemis


January 10th, 2018

Photo courtesy of Nathan Young

Omaha, NE—The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts unveiled the exhibition Monarchs last month, curated by Risa Puleo. Bringing together almost 40 different artists on the themes of migration and Native American Culture, Monarchs negotiates visual art, sound and performance. This week, multidisciplinary artist and composer Nathan Young will perform Hatkiraar, or Stutter, blending electronic sound and Pawnee voices.

“I work across many disciplines, sometimes photography,” Young said. “Primarily, my experience is in video and installation environments, making an ambient space for people whenever I’m creating art for the white box. I’m one of these artists that, just through the historical cannon, I’m making art for the white box for the gallery, but I’m also critiquing the history of the gallery. Sound and video have a very—not really problematic—but have a very interesting history when we think about visual arts, so I use sound a lot because I find it really reflects a lot about the values that I was taught growing up listening, the importance of listening, the importance of your sound in your environment.”

Holding an MFA in Music / Sound from Bard College’s Milton-Avery School of the Arts, Young isn’t confined to what some listeners might assume to be the style of Native American Music.

“While that might be one of the greatest influences, it’s also very much in the tradition of the Black Arts Movement, such as free jazz—what Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, Sonny Murray, Sun Ra—what they were working on. It’s as much influenced by their attitudes towards western music, so I’m very influenced by free jazz, especially on contemporary composition. A touchstone for me are two very important minimalist composers, La Monte Young and Tony Conrad, and I would say that my music, while I might be referencing American Indian life in my music in the titles, I’m not trying to recreate or re fashion these types of traditional musics they’re just ideas that I’m working with.”

In his work, Young utilizes synthesizers, pedals, tape recorders and found sound. In his upcoming performance, he will mix electronics, his own voice and the recorded voices of Pawnee elders.

“Even as a young person I felt that American Indian sound was not being totally understood. We have the problem of being monoculturized. At one time somebody gave me this idea that there are sounds, there are Native American musics, that will never be heard or understood, and it’s not just the big drum of the pow wow, or the small drum of a ceremony or certain other types of what we think of today as traditional musics. There are American Indian traditions of musics that were never recorded, that were never entered into the archive of ethnology and anthropology and into that kind of scientific realm.”

Nathan Young will perform Hatkiraar, or Stutter, Saturday, Jan. 13 at 2:00pm at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit Bemis Center.org.


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