‘Suturing Is Remembering’: See How the Art Collective Postcommodity Stages Unforgettable Scenes to Reframe Indigenous Issues in the Americas

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from "Postcommodity in 'Borderlands,'" an extended presentation of the artist's segment from "Art in the Twenty-First Century," Season 10. © Art21, Inc. 2020.

For the interdisciplinary art collective Postcommodity, the story of America is one of Indigenous people, whose voices are often obscured or silenced by politics and reductive cultural studies of the 21st century. In large-scale, site-specific installations and interventions, current leaders Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist work to spark constructive conversations about power structures and imbalances.

Right now at Canada’s Remai Modern museum in Saskatoon, the artists have taken over two of the largest gallery spaces and installed works throughout the museum, interrupting the normal flow of the architecture. In a press release for the show, titled “Time Holds All the Answers,” the museum is described as “rooted in the Western intellectual tradition of collecting, studying, and displaying objects, reflecting a cultural paradigm.” Postcommodity sets out to destabilize and reconstruct that narrative by highlighting Indigenous objects and upending the innate colonial perspective of the museum system.

Production still from "Postcommodity in 'Borderlands,'" an extended presentation of the artist's segment from "Art in the Twenty-First Century," Season 10. © Art21, Inc. 2020.

Production still from “Postcommodity in ‘Borderlands,'” an extended presentation of the collective’s segment from Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 10. © Art21, Inc. 2020.

In an exclusive interview with Art21 filmed in 2020, Martínez and Twist reflect on Repellent Fence, their 2015 installation constructed with former Postcommodity member Raven Chacon. In that work, the group orchestrated a two-mile-long line of hot-air balloons along the Arizona-Sonora border. Martínez described the symbolic fence as a way to “almost flip the script or to complicate the way we understand fences,” adding, “The idea of the balloons is to intersect the U.S.-Mexico border. That signified a suturing or connecting of the Americas together.” 

Martínez, who was born in north-central New Mexico, is descended from native American Pueblos, Chicanos, and Mexicans. Twist is the son of a Cherokee plumber and grew up in California, three hours from the Mexican border. Each of the balloons is decorated with an open eye symbolizing knowledge, the artists explain.

“If the word ‘Mexican’ in this country is synonymous with ‘alien’ and ‘illegal,’ we’ve forgotten the indigeneity of those people,” Martínez tells Art21. “Suturing” he says, “is remembering.” 

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century series, below. “Postcommodity: Time Holds All the Answers” is on view at Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada, through January 23, 2022. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series, like New York Close Up and Extended Play, and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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