A Nation Is a Massacre
Demian DinéYazhi' and R.I.S.E.: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment
“Death and grieving for Indigenous Peoples is like a war zone—a space unlike any other far removed from the ‘stars and stripes.’ We are expected to die without news headlines or revolution, and in this way we expect nothing; we accept death. It’s a slow death, but with the same urgency as endangerment or extinction or invasion, or an asteroid the size of england or complete and inevitable economic collapse. Even in our survival and resilience, we come to the table ready to protect the most sacred of human rights.”
In A Nation is a Massacre, the first New York institutional solo exhibition by artist and activist initiative R.I.S.E.: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment and Demian DinéYazhi’, its founder, provides a space aimed at creating awareness about ongoing inhumane acts of settler-induced violence against Indigenous bodies. Utilizing a risograph machine, which in operation and aesthetic resembles silkscreen, DinéYazhi’ will be producing a wall-based montage of text and image-based posters on-site. With their political aphorisms, all-caps fonts resembling newspaper headlines, and graphic images and colors, they resemble activist agitprop first popularized by Soviet Russia in the early 20th Century and later adopted and refashioned by artists in the wheat-pasting tradition, like Jenny Holzer and the Guerilla Girls.
Unlike these artistic forebears, however, who excluded Indigenous womxn and other Indigenous communities, DinéYazhi’ focuses exclusively on these marginalized groups, noting that, “The details are gruesome and american and as patriotic as gun violence and mass murder. A Nation Is a Massacre considers over 500 years of mass shootings and massacre, missing and murdered indigenous womxn, queers, trans, gender gradient/nonconforming, and two spirit folx, and numerous instances of environmental racism/injustice that continue to be ignored by citizens of a colonized country.”
Demian DinéYazhi’ and R.I.S.E. (Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment): A Nation Is A Massacre was made possible with production support from Small Editions.
Demian DinéYazhi´’s artwork is materialized through the lens of art production, site-specific installation, poetic expression, social engagement, and curatorial inquiry. DinéYazhi´ was raised in a matrilineal household and their maternal grandfather served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Navajo Code Talker. The undercurrents of DinéYazhi´s work include a reverence toward traditional Diné practices, storytelling, traditional ceremonies, and acknowledging the criticality and sacredness of land, while simultaneously challenging contemporary archetypes of authenticity and jurisdiction. They received their BFA in Intermedia Arts from Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2014. DinéYazhi´ is the founder of the artist/activist initiative R.I.S.E.: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment. DinéYazhi´ also serves as co-editor of the zine Locusts: A Post-Queer Nation Zine. DinéYazhi’ is a recipient of a 2015 Art Matters Foundation grant as well as the Henry Art Museum’s 2017 Brink Award. Currently, he has a solo exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, and is in the group exhibition Between the Waters at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.