Kade L. Twist is a writer and multidisciplinary artist working with installation, video, two-dimensional media, text and sound. Twist’s written and visual work explores how dominant economic systems impact Indigenous and intercultural sensibilities. A member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Twist has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Arizona State University Art Museum. He is a member of Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary American Indian arts collective that focuses on the contemporary realities of globalism and neoliberalism.
Twist asserts that when Indigenous people see the land, they see the land, however when colonizers come, they see financial and hegemonic potential. The configured economic spaces that stem from this philosophy are imparted with imagined narratives of First Peoples. Examples include Our Land Your Imagination (2008), a series of multichannel video installations that acknowledge the impact of Judeo-Christian Western scientific world views on the now suburban landscapes of North America. In one installation from the series Twist re-contextualizes Youtube videos of women singing songs about love, loss and longing. Juxtaposed are slow-moving images of the suburban detritus from where they live. Cars whizz by on busy roads, cookie-cutter homes become melancholic backdrops, and an empty house is scoured—a reminder of broken dreams and economic downfalls. The melodic work reveals the complexities caused by inherited colonial ideologies that dominate intercultural engagements with the land.
Twist’s visual process involves transferring and repositioning his writing into installations. The poem such “Marginal Equity” provide text for the video installation What Did You Find Out West? (2009). Twist reflects upon the impact of moving away from important cultural groundings, such as the seven sacred fires, in search of perceived economic opportunities. Fusing haunting sound, pieces of his poetry and Cherokee syllabics, he exposes the tension that exists for those who grapple for place and resolution in consumerist systems. Here, the use of Cherokee text exists as cultural codification, referencing Cherokee sensibilities in encoded form. The work calls to those whose sense of cultural self is altered from diasporic existences and is a reminder that removal from home does not negate culture, but alters cultural experience.
Through re-imagining tribal stories, Twist also embeds a Cherokee cultural system within the art. In the ongoing video series Buzzard Via Satellite, Twist repositions tribal narratives to look at landscape and colonial interference. Narratives such as the “Cherokee Story of the Hunter and Buzzard” create visual metaphors about the treatment of First Peoples and the California Condor, a bird nearly driven to extinction that is now held captive in a federal government endangered species breeding program. In these works, the at times tense intercultural engagements with the land are exposed, while affirming Cherokee presence and sensibility. Twist thoughtfully probes our contemporary existences, reminding us how we got here and questioning where we are going.
Additional Resources compiled by students in Contemporary Native American Art History course at the Institute of American Indian Art, Spring 2013
Twist, Kade, “Native Labs,” http://nativelabs.com/
This contains a link to Twist’s personal website.
Lawton, Claire, “36: Kade Twist,” Phoenix New Times (blog) August 23, 2010.
This blog contains a brief biography as well as a short interview with the artist Kade Twist.
“Postcommodity,” Postcommodity http://postcommodity.com/index.html
This is a link to the Postcommmodity website.
“Kade L. Twist and Raven Chacon on indigenous art,” ussc.edu.au July 5, 2009.
This link contains a brief four minute video Kade L. Twist and Raven Chacon as they discuss their latest work at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Baker, Joe and McMaster, Gerald, ed. Remix: New Modernities in a Post-Indian World. National Museum of the American Indian, 2007.
This book contains an artist profile followed with a statement by Twist accompanied by selected group exhibitions and performances.