Here You Are Before the Trees

Sky Hopinka

2020 | 00:13:00 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Collection: New Releases, Single Titles

Tags: History, Indigenous, Landscape, Memory

Here You Are Before the Trees is a three-channel synchronized video installation. A composite of the three channels presented side by side in one video is available from Video Data Bank for educational use only.

Here You Are Before the Trees traverses Indigenous presence in the Hudson River Valley, Wisconsin, and the areas in-between. Each screen focuses on different homelands and their complex relationships with history, landscape, power and institutional means of oppression. 

One channel is set in and around the Mahicannituck (also known as the Hudson River in upstate New York)–the homelands of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, and another is set in the Waazija–the homelands of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin. The third channel is situated between the two and is a single take, a glimpse of the road and the static yet transient stretches spent traveling. These nations are connected through relocation, as the Stockbridge Munsee were removed by the US government in the early 1800’s to Wisconsin near Ho-Chunk homelands.  

Spread throughout the soundtrack of each channel are archival audio recordings of Vine Deloria Jr. and a recent interview with Renya Ramirez–two Indigenous scholars situated in conversation across time and space resolved by a reading from Paiute poet Adrian C. Louis. Text from a speech given by Stockbridge Munsee Chief, John Wannuaucon Quinney on the 4th of July in 1854 scrolls across the bottom of the three channels providing a platform and foundation for this work to confront these places, these names, and these sagas, culminating with images of my Grandmother. These videos point to issues of authority and the struggle between signifier and signified, met by individual and burdened ciphers used to code these landscapes and these histories.

“In a single day, how many really nonsignifying fields do we cross? Very few, sometimes none. Here I am, before the sea; it is true that it bears no message.”
–Roland Barthes, Mythologies

Here You Are Before the Trees is available for educational use as a three-channel composite. Please contact VDB for exhibition requests.

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