A young woman sits in a roundabout at the entrance to the Lummi Nation Reservation, dressed in regalia. Below her, a projected image of her and her brother catches the viewer’s attention. The photograph is one of seven on view in the new exhibition Jac Trautman: Specter of the Young and Indigenous.
The upcoming exhibition by 23-year-old Seattle artist and Duwamish tribal member Jac Trautman highlights the Lummi Nation youths behind the new Young and Indigenous Podcast.
To display Trautman’s work, the Museum is harnessing the power of the Lightcatcher building’s Lightwall. The photographs are visible in the courtyard and are perfect for socially distanced outdoor viewing. View the exhibition by booking a private self-guided tour.
Jac Trautman: Specter of the Young and Indigenous
The subject of Trautman’s photographs are young adults from the Lummi Nation who are producing the new podcast through Children of the Setting Sun Productions (CSSP).
For the exhibition, the photographs are printed on large transparent panels and adhered to the outside of the Lightwall.
Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka says one of the goals of the exhibition is to highlight more Indigenous voices at the Museum. Rather than interpreting the works, the exhibition lets the artist and subjects speak for themselves.
“We are not curating the exhibition,” Chaloupka explains. “We are providing the space and location for others to hear this artist’s voice.”
The exhibition will also be accessible, as it’s free and open to the public outdoors. Viewers will be able to scan QR codes so they can listen to the podcast while looking at the photographs.
Chaloupka describes Trautman’s use of projection and layering as a “smart and beautiful way to communicate depth within the photographs, which visually connects to the people he features.”
“He’s projecting in the real world and then re-photographing that,” she explains. “He’s not working in a straight documentary style, which is a fresh take on melding both portraiture and landscape photography into one composition.”
Trautman has long had an interest in how people project their idea of landscape onto the world. Although he became interested in photography in high school, it wasn’t until college that he began thinking more about landscape as a construction and how to convey that theme.
Then the opportunity arose to document the Young and Indigenous Podcast crew.
Trautman describes his process as eschewing traditional Lummi mediums of expression while making sure the culture isn’t forgotten.
To create the pieces, Trautman uses a battery-powered projector to display an image before taking the photo. Each exposure is several minutes long.
“By taking a single exposure with multiple projected images contained within, I draw attention to the concept of splitting and projection in the ongoing history of interactions between the colonizer and the colonized,” Trautman says in his artist statement.
As for photography, Trautman describes it as an “imperial tool to pillage the cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples.”
For example, he references the work of photographer Edward Curtis, pointing out that white people frequently project their own idea of what Indigenous people should look like.
He hopes Indigenous people will construct their own landscape.
“Each generation has to create their own traditions and come up with their own rules for how to do things,” Trautman says.
The Young and Indigenous Podcast
Launched in early 2020, the podcast grew out of a desire to amplify the voices of Lummi Nation youths and explore current events, says Elli Smith, Development Administrator and Youth Program Director at CSSP.
So CSSP, which specializes in Coast Salish storytelling, reached out to a few Lummi members about creating a podcast.
Isabella James, Michelle Polasky, Kyla Polasky, and Eliza Julius rose to the challenge. The four, all between 19 to 25 years old, helm the podcast. They produce the episodes themselves, from researching and interviewing to recording, editing, and publishing.
The goal is to keep oral traditions alive through modern technologies and spark discussions about relevant topics. Along the way, the team learns valuable cultural protocols.
For Kyla Polasky, one of the highlights is learning from the interviewees.
“I feel more excited to listen to the elders and everyone from our community,” she says.
James hopes the podcast serves as a reminder for those outside the Lummi community.
“I want the world to know we’re still here,” says James. “We’re still living our culture, learning our language, and surviving. We’re going to continue to tell our stories.”
Michelle Polasky seconds that sentiment.
“Some people don’t know where Lummi is, and they have so many questions,” she explains. “I hope people can learn about us and our culture. I hope the content we’re recording can be used as archives for the next generation.”
In addition to the producers, Smith says CSSP Executive Director Darrell Hillaire and filmmaker/composer Mark Nichols are also instrumental to the podcast.
As of early January 2021, there are four podcast episodes available online. They touch on everything from language to identity to wellness. Give them a listen here.
Related: The Young and Indigenous Podcast in Vanity Fair.