Thursday, December 10, 2009

James Luna - The Artifact Piece

In The Artifact Piece, artist James Luna creates both an installation and live action performance using his own body an exhibit. When the user walks into the exhibit, they find Luna laying down under glass, as part of an exhibit on Native Americans. Quickly they realize that Luna is actually alive and not just museum piece. Luna uses this piece to criticize the depiction of Native Americans as extinct and that they are still a living entity and people, complete with their own identity.

At first glance, this piece may not appear to fit with the others shown in this curation, due to the fact that there is no technological aspect involved, which is an element in each of the other pieces. However, The Artifact Piece is included to show the effects of documenting and study on still living cultures and their identity. Even today, the other pieces in this exhibit are being used to document and study the subcultures of the internet and analyze the virtual identities we have created for ourselves. James Luna’s The Artifact Piece is included as a warning to what happens to identity when it is stripped and away and rewritten by an analytical method.

Year(s) Created: 1987

Installation/Performance Art

Artist Statement

The Artifact Piece, 1987, was a performance/installation that questioned American Indian presentation in museums-presentation that furthered stereotype, denied contemporary society and one that did not enable an Indian viewpoint. The exhibit, through 'contemporary artifacts' of a LuiseƱo man, showed the similarities and differences in the cultures we live, and putting myself on view brought new meaning to 'artifact.'

Exhibition History

Not found

Image Sources

James Luna in his performance The Artifact Piece. 1987. Photograph. Emory English. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.


Fletcher, Kenneth R. "James Luna." Smithsonian Institution, Apr. 2008. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.

"James Luna: Artifact Piece." Emory English. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.

"James Luna." Charlotte Townsend-Gault. The Canadian Art Database, 1992. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.

Robertson, Jean, and Craig McDaniel. Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art After 1980. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

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