Edgar Heap of Birds
This thematic chapter returns to tribal lands in Oklahoma, bringing the artist back home in a path that recalls indigenous understanding of time as circular and cyclical. The chapter focuses on public artworks, including temporary sign panels in London and Vancouver, collaborations with indigenous artists in South Africa and North America, and a 2013 photomural permanently installed in the Cheyenne-Arapaho Nation. These artworks are contextualized in terms of what Anishnaabe writer Gerald Vizenor has called “survivance,” a neologism that brings together the terms “survival” and “resistance,” and explores the theme that there must be an accounting of the past in order to make way for renewal and new growth. Heap of Birds’s community-based projects are contrasted with contemporary relational aesthetics, as theorized by Nicolas Bourriaud. The chapter concludes by arguing for the relevance of Heap of Birds’s engaged and critical practice for contemporary art history.