Survivance, Signs, and Media Art Histories: New Temporalities and Productive Tensions in Dana Claxton’s Made To Be Ready
Dana Claxton’s 2016 exhibition, Made to Be Ready, like her practice in general, is in many ways paradoxical, at least according to a reading premised on traditional approaches to prescriptive categories in visual arts, such as Indigenous and contemporary art. The group of works resists being analyzed according to a specific framework, and it is intentionally couched in a form of ambiguity that is best described as epistemological instability as it builds from what initially reads as the incompatible interpretive codes of “Indigenous art” and “new media.” This sense of generative indeterminacy is the result of her deliberate bringing together of Indigenous themes and histories with digital art forms. According to the binary paradigms of settler colonialism and Western art historical conventions within media arts, such a pairing is uneasy and ambitious, even if building from a field that has been emerging in Indigenous art since the 1980s and that has an extant and expansive, if understudied, discourse. This article’s intersectional approach to the interpretation of Claxton’s work, premised on broad and specific art histories, foregrounds and critically questions the inequities in the critical strategies common to the production and reception of Indigenous art. It also engages with the circulation of the politics of decolonization and survivance in Claxton’s practice as well as the ways that her work extends beyond the restrictive boundaries of art about identity. This interpretive method allows viewers of Claxton’s work to gain access to these notably central issues without risking losing sight of the important connections Claxton makes between her contemporary practice, Indigenous realities, and media art histories.