White Hawk presents Listen in Santa Fe

LISTEN, 2020, HD video (still)
Shandiin Hiosik Yazzie (Diné, Akimel O’odham, Yoeme), Language: Diné, Location: Tsé’ báa’ádotłizhí: Blue Hills, St. Michaels, AZ

Self-Determined: A Contemporary Survey of Native and Indigenous Artists, a selection of works by 13 Indigenous creators, features Dyani White Hawk’s Listen (2020), a video installation created in collaboration with cinematographer Razelle Benally. Neebinnauzhik Southall notes that the work “models mindful intertribal responsibility by exposing listeners to ‘the cadence and sounds’ of Native languages,” while Caitlin Lorraine Johnson, writing for Southwest Contemporary, offers a poignant and personal response to encountering Listen:

In one video, Shandiin Hiosik Yazzie (Diné, Akimel O’odham, Yoeme) stands in an open field and addresses the camera in Diné. Onscreen, juniper branches gently sway and she slowly releases a handful of dirt into the wind. Her voiceover continues for the duration of the video—even when her onscreen image stops speaking and closes her eyes to the sun.

I step forward to hear more clearly, then to the left and right of the monitor. Yazzie’s voice is barely audible, although her mouth continues to shape words. Eventually, I realize I can only listen if I stand directly in front of the screen.

My glance shifts to the wall text. The Indigenous Language Institute estimates more than 300 Indigenous languages were once spoken in the United States. Around 175 exist today, and, without significant change, the organization projects only twenty Indigenous languages will be spoken in 2050.

I imagine standing directly in front of this video and hearing nothing.

Self-Determined is on view at the Center for Contemporary Arts – Santa Fe through December 30, 2022.