Fainting Spells, a 2018 film by artist Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga and American), is the latest installment in the Museum’s New Media Series. The video work tells a story of walking through the spirit world with Xąwįska, or the Indian Pipe Plant, used by Ho-Chunk peoples to revive those who have fainted. Cursive text floats across the screen and hazy pinks, reds, and blue-greens overlay otherworldly landscapes and a cloaked figure. Together, the text and poetic images construct a new myth of Xąwįska, foregrounding ideas of the spirit world and the everyday, cultural history, the land, and the self.
Hopinka’s work focuses on indigenous languages and histories, especially in how they function in the present, deftly weaving culturally specific knowledge with the experiences of the artist’s generation. His work was recently featured in Counterpublic, the public art exhibition located on Cherokee Street in St. Louis organized by the Luminary, and the 2017 Whitney Biennial.
The New Media Series is dedicated to showcasing film and video as an integral part of contemporary art practice. This exhibition is curated by Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, and Alexander Brier Marr, assistant curator for Native American art.