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MOCA Artist Film Series: Sky Hopinka

Still from Sunflower Siege Engine, 2023. HD video, 16mm to HD video, stereo, color, TRT 12:23. Image courtesy of Sky Hopinka.

MOCA Artist Film Series: Sky Hopinka
Selection of recent films


MOCA Artist Film series is an active and dynamic platform for the presentation of artist films. Inspired by film and video works in MOCA’s renowned collection, the series will offer engaging and notable screenings and live programs with MOCA collection artists and beyond. With presentations in the Ahmanson Auditorium, screenings and Q&As will feature artists, historians, and critics in dialogue with special focus on experiments in long-form, narrative or feature-length films. Centered in the cinema capital of the world, these programs will explore the critical issues of our time and our place.

MOCA presents a screening of Sunflower Siege Engine, Kicking the Clouds, Mnemonics of Shape and Reason, Lore, and When you’re lost in the rain. followed by a conversation with artist Sky Hopinka and art critic Jonathan Griffin.

Sunflower Siege Engine, 2022
HD video, 16mm to HD video, stereo, color, 12 min. 23 sec.
Moments of resistance are collapsed and woven together; from documentation of the Indigenous led occupation of Alcatraz, to the reclamation of Cahokia and the repatriation of the ancestors, to one’s reflections on their body as they exist in the world today, These are gestures that meditate on the carceral inception and nature of the reservation system, and where sovereignty and belligerence intersect and diverge.

Kicking the Clouds, 2021
16mm to HD video, stereo, color, 15 min. 37 sec.
This film is a reflection on descendants and ancestors, guided by a 50 year old audio recording of my grandmother learning the Pechanga language from her mother. After being given this tape by my mother, I interviewed her and asked about it, and recorded her ruminations on their lives and her own. The footage is of our chosen home in Whatcom County, Washington, where my family still lives, far from our homelands in Southern California, yet a home nonetheless.

Mnemonics of Shape and Reason, 2021
HD video, stereo, color, 4 min. 13 sec.
“Hopinka’s video Mnemonics of Shape and Reason (2021) traverses the memory of a place and space visited by the artist. Employing an original syntax of storytelling, the artist interweaves scattered and reassembled landscapes with layers of captured audio, poetic text, and music. A rhythmic account of the spiritual implications of colonial plunder, Hopinka’s fluid reflections transmute ideas of spiritual malleability tied to land, sky, sea, myth, place, and personhood.”

Lore, 2019
16mm to HD video, stereo, color, TRT 2019
Images of friends and landscapes are cut, fragmented, and reassembled on an overhead projector as hands guide their shape and construction in this film stemming from Hollis Frampton’s “Nostalgia”. The voice tells a story about a not too distant past, a not too distant ruin, with traces of nostalgia articulated in terms of lore; knowledge and memory passed down and shared not from wistful loss, but as a pastiche of rumination, reproduction, and creation.

When you’re lost in the rain, 2018
HD video, stereo, color, 5 min. 2 sec.
In this video, drawing from Bob Dylan's song "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," layers of experiences circling loss and longing are overlaid between images of landscapes and movement. In the song by Dylan, a stranger's listlessness and exhaustion are woven through and around Juarez, Mexico, and so too in this video are these stories woven around colonial discontent and uncertainty as they move through an uneasy negotiation with the strangeness of the American pioneer spirit.

Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) was born and raised in Ferndale, Washington and spent a number of years in Palm Springs and Riverside, CA, Portland, OR, and Milwaukee, WI. In Portland, he studied and taught chinuk wawa, a language indigenous to the Lower Columbia River Basin. His video, photo, and text work centers around personal positions of Indigenous homeland and landscape–designs of language as containers of culture expressed through personal and non-fictional forms of media.

Jonathan Griffin is a writer and art critic based in Los Angeles. A contributing editor to Frieze magazine, he also writes for the New York Times, the Financial Times, Art Review, e-flux, Apollo and other publications.

MOCA Artist Film Series is organized by Clara Kim, Chief Curator & Director of Curatorial Affairs, with Brian Dang, Programming Coordinator, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

MOCA Artist Film Series is presented by The Edward F. Limato Foundation.