Luna—raised in a mix of Pooyoukitchum, Ipi and Mexican-American heritage and traditions—says this convergence of experiences, information and histories propels his creative thought and ingenuity as a multimedia performance and installation artist.
The 2015 National Artist Fellowship is recognition to Luna’s extraordinary talent. His upcoming project and working title, “Atmospheric Rituals” has Luna intensely examining and pondering “cultural authenticity” as it relates to Indigenous origin stories and current DNA mapping of human migration. This new work will incorporate numerous elements: live performance, video, original music, autobiography, cultural identity, juxtaposing poignancy and humor. His plans to maximize efficient use of modern technology inventively and innovatively will make the project ready for tour as either a live performative work or an installation.
Luna’s collaborator for the project will be Denise Uyehara, like Luna, also an award-winning interdisciplinary performance artist. Uyehara’s work “investigates what marks us in our migration across borders of identity.”
In studying DNA mapping, James learned that the theory indicates that Native cultures originated from Central Asia. This contradicts countless traditional creation stories and other scientific theories. So Luna and Uyehara together are exploring the intersecting overlays and fissures between their own genetics, cultural backgrounds, and imaginations to develop “Atmospheric Rituals.” The larger scope of “Atmospheric Rituals” will re-imagine theory and story considering Indigeneity to include Siberia, Tibet and the Pacific Rim.
“I think somewhere in the mess, many Indian artist forgot who they were by doing work that had nothing to do with their tribe, by doing work that did not tell about their existence in the world today, and by doing work for others and not for themselves.”
~ James Luna
On Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, in observance of Columbus Day, performance artist James Luna (Puyoukichum [Luiseño]) invited the public to “Take a Picture with a Real Indian” at 4:15 p.m. at the Christopher Columbus statue outside the front of Union Station in downtown Washington,D.C.