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Alutiiq artist looks for history in the present

Trina Landlord
Courtesy Tanya Lukin Linklater

Tanya Lukin Linklater is the featured First Friday artist for the month of December 2012 at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation in downtown Anchorage. Her show, titled, “unspoken-ness” is a compelling, mixed-media body of work that delves into the meditative process of “locating, excavating and tracing history” within the present moment.

Linklater is of Alutiiq heritage from the community of Port Lions on Alaska’s Kodiak Island. She spent summers in the rural community, which is accessible only by plane or boat, while living the rest of the year in Colorado and is now residing in northern Ontario, Canada. She is firmly situated as a contemporary artist and brings elements of intention and movement to her practice.

She began participating in the arts at a young age, taking part in singing, dancing and theater activities at school in Colorado. Linklater majored in English at Stanford University, where she received the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and Louis Sudler Prize in Creative and Performing Arts. She trained in performance art at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre in Toronto and The Banff Centre in Alberta, and received her Master’s education at University of Alberta, Canada. In 2010, she was awarded the Chalmers Professional Development Grant and nominated for the K.M. Hunter Artist Award in Dance in 2011.

Linklater has exhibited at numerous locations in Canada, including Latitude 53’s Visualeyez in Edmonton, Modern Fuel in Kingston, and Grunt Gallery in Vancouver. She has also had an exhibition at the Culver Center of the Arts in California. Linklater said that her cultural heritage informs her choreographic work, drawing on memory as a generational element related to her home on Kodiak Island. In her exhibit at the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, she indicates that history and memory complicate her relationship to place as an Alutiiq woman now living in non-Alutiiq spaces. Linklater added that she is “compelled by how memory is embodied and activated in the present moment.”

She says what she carries from her home in Port Lions is collective memory, a common theme in her solo exhibit. She has researched traditional Alutiiq dance and respects it deeply as a tradition that was once lost, but revived and re-infused in the communities on Kodiak in recent years. Linklater currently, with research support from Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts, has investigated contemporary forms of Alutiiq dance. She has utilized a similar process with her indigenous language in live performance.

Linklater said that she “sometimes investigates what it means to be indigenous or not indigenous to a location, which is why much of my work happens in sites rather than black box theaters or studios.”

This is her first solo exhibition in Alaska.

An excerpt from Tanya Lukin Linklater's “In Memoriam"(text is meant to be spaced):

in a place where words do not exist / no-words          pass          through   my   t r u n k / d i s s o l v e / s i l e n c e / five hundred         I call            by tender names / guts caught in their throats – gasping / and grasping, they fall, / heaped                   into              earth / s u p p l e           s i l e n c e / five hundred nestled within / knife-sharp slate and amiq of sea otter / salt spray and cannon ash / relentless swell and musket strike / in no-place,  soundlessness         passes through my             limbs      lips      belly / until tips of fingers, outline of spine     surrender to / a parcel       heaped         with five hundred tender shoots                  pulled apart / edges of               r e f u g e      r o c k  / s o a k e d    in      u n s p o k e n – n e s s  - Part 1

Trina Landlord is the Executive Director of the Alaska Native Arts Foundation. She can be reached at trina(at)alaskanativearts.org