What do you experience when you encounter a giant stone building with columns that resembles a Greek or Roman temple? What does that architecture say about history and memory, especially when constructed in contemporary times? What would you do to reimagine and remix these buildings?
Over the course of two years, Monument Lab has partnered with artist Cannupa Hanska Luger (an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, and Lakota heritage), the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the University of Michigan Arts Initiative to consider these questions. Together, we have been experimenting with U-M’s neoclassical architecture to delve into inquiries of public memory, Indigenous histories and futures, and the creation of a college campus. Drawing from a deep time perspective, this project navigates the architecture of U-M’s iconic Alumni Memorial Hall—a neoclassical war memorial erected in 1910 that now houses the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)—and engages official and unofficial places of remembrance on campus.
You’re Welcome is a dynamic exhibition featuring Luger and co-curated by Monument Lab at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) revolving around the question “How do we remember on this campus?” The exhibition examines the foundational narratives of the land now occupied by the university, and taps into and activates campus conversations around land sovereignty, extraction, and official and unofficial sites of memory.
The project centers on GIFT, an experimental, time-based, commissioned work by Luger on the front facade of Alumni Memorial Hall that challenges institutional memory and the whitewashing of history. Luger’s point of departure is the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs, in which Odawa (Ottawa), Ojibwe (Chippewa), and Bodewadami (Potawatomi) tribes “gifted” land to the University that was then sold to found its endowments. GIFT is accompanied by two indoor installations: Meat for the Beast, which delves into Luger’s artistic practice and the relationship between museum collections and resource extraction; and Monument Lab: Public Classroom, which examines formal and informal modes of memory on the U-M campus and beyond.
You’re Welcome explores the relationship between the Museum’s historic building, the land it stands on, and a long history of colonial narratives deeply embedded in public structures. Drawing from institutional archives, the legacy of stone quarries, and stories of student activism, the project supports critical dialogues about the responsibilities of public institutions as cultural history makers and stewards, and it is a key component of UMMA’s ongoing efforts to challenge its history and practices to create an institution more reflective of its community and present explorations of art, culture, and society with honesty and integrity.
You’re Welcome is co-curated by Paul Farber (Monument Lab) and Ozi Uduma (UMMA).
Watch Luger paint GIFT on Alumni Memorial Hall
Cannupa Hanska Luger (Born 1979 in Standing Rock Reservation; he/him/his) is a New Mexico based multidisciplinary artist creating monumental installations, sculpture and performance to communicate urgent stories about 21st Century Indigeneity. Incorporating ceramics, steel, fiber, video and repurposed materials, Luger activates speculative fiction, engages in land-based actions of repair and practices empathetic response through social collaboration. Luger is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold and is of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and Lakota heritage. Luger’s work has been exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gardiner Museum, Toronto; and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta. Luger has been awarded fellowships from Guggenheim, United States Artists, Creative Capital, Smithsonian, and Joan Mitchell Foundation.