Davida Ingram on Breakfast Series

Davida Ingram on Breakfast Series

Davida Ingram on Breakfast Series

Listen to local artist Davida Ingram discuss how Sonny Assu's Breakfast Series connects to themes of the Figuring History exhibition.

Davida Ingram on Breakfast Series

Davida Ingram on Breakfast Series

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Transcript

Hi, my name is Davida Ingram. I am a Seattle-based artist, curator and educator and writer. I selected the Sonny Assu's The Breakfast Series because I think that there are profound connections between Native identities and African American identities.

I had more stability than maybe most working class black people. But I definitely remember going to private school and having government food in our cabinet. And I remembered it because I was really ashamed of it. But when I talked to my Native friends, they also have that, they talk about commodity foods. So when it comes to Sonny Assu's Breakfast Series, along the way I think he points to foods in Native cultures and really, in a pop art kind of way. He uses cereal boxes. He finds a way of signaling conversations about settler colonialism in ways that I think point to syncretism.

There is a very valid defensiveness that communities of color have around appropriation. But when we remember that we are human and humans have been sharing culture for a very long time, connecting with one another, that means that we show up with different foods, different textures, different spices, and they get woven in. But when he talks about the Bannock Pops, that is a version of fry bread that originated in Scotland. Now the Scottish came over here and they were part of the settlers that colonized, and I find it fascinating that Bannock was incorporated as a version of fry bread and that it mixes well when you're on the trail. And so I find that, there are meaningful ways to talk about the versions of Whiteness that end up getting woven into the fabric of communities of color.

Likewise, when Sonny Assu is talking about the Lucky Beads. Some of the devilment of settler colonialism is when communities of color first connect with white settlers who are eyeballing the land but offering up beautiful shiny things. And there are cultures, and all indigenous cultures care about adornment. You adorn your body, you have ceremony, you celebrate in specific ways. So I find it really interesting that white people had stepped outside of a cultural norm and decided, well, I will use this instead to trick and deceive and to steal.

Whenever I see indigenous objects in white or mainstream institutions, I immediately think who was this stolen from? Native culture is a living culture, and it is also a vital, and resilient culture, so when institutions collect contemporary Native artists, it kind of opens a door that needs to be open. Because if there's any community that should be thriving, it's the original communities who these lands belong to.

What are some things that you can do as supporters and audience members of the museum that would encourage them to invest in artists of color and communities of color and the creativity of Native, African American and immigrant of color communities?

LOW/NO VISION TRANSCRIPT

You are listening to a verbal description of the artwork intended for someone with low to no vision.

Breakfast Series, created in 2006 by Sonny Assu. Five boxes digitally printed with fome-cor, each a foot tall by 7 inches wide and 3 inches deep.

This is an installation of five cereal boxes featuring cartoon mascots. The center box faces parallel to the viewer, the other front surfaces angle slightly in to the center on either side. On the far left, a red box features a smiling shirtless man with long orange hair tied in a low ponytail and wrapped in a green headband adorned with a black and white feather. His torso fills the lower right quadrant of the box. Above his head, "LUCKY BEADS" is written in yellow-orange block lettering, from which a rainbow trails along the left edge of the box to a bowl of mostly tan cereal, sprinkled with green, orange, and yellow. The man looks at the cereal with his left hand giving a thumbs-up. A cursive G logo brands the box as "General Custer," at the top left corner, and has "A Good Source of Trickery," written on a yellow multi-pointed star and "12 Essential Lies and Exceptions" written on a grey banner, both in the top left corner. Its nutritional facts on the side panel are 100% of each as follows: "Lies, Deception, Shiny Beads, Pompous, stuck up, greedy, laughing, white rich men rubbing their hands together saying 'stupid Indians.'" The ingredients below are listed as: "sugar, lies, deception, wheat, corn, bullshit, beads, giggling white men, broken trust, North American, Manhattan."

Moving from left to right, the next box features a smiling cartoon brown bear holding cereal puffs in his hand over a bowl at the bottom edge of the yellow box. His face fills the center, while the cereal below him fills the lower quarter of the box. "Salmon Crisp" is written along the top in a curve like a rainbow over the bear's head. "POTLATCH" is written in white lettering on a red oval logo at the top center edge, and a bold blue number 5 at the top right corner, as part of the phrase "Source of 5 Salmon flavored omega 3 fatty acids." The side panel claims that the cereal "Contains 100% Pacific Salmon Sea-Lice Free!" The 100% fat in the nutritional facts notes that "it's good fat, don't worry. Makes you smart."

The center box is red, and features a smiling blue parrot extending its wing towards rings of yellow, orange, green, pink, red, and purple cereal splashing in milk. The parrot stretches across the bottom third of the box, while the cereal fills the lower right corner. "SALMON LOOPS" is written in bold white block lettering across the top of the box, but with the letter "O"s as rings of purple, yellow, and green cereal. "Kwakwaka'wakw" is written in red scripted lettering across the top, along a white line encircling the box.

The next box features a smiling orange tiger with black stripes and a red bandana around its neck, raising its left arm in the air. The tiger fills two-thirds of the box. In the top third of the box, "Frosted Treaty Flakes," is written in white lettering along an arc above the tiger's head, below the same "Kwakwaka'wakw" logo.

The last box, on the far right, is yellow and does not have a cartoon figure, but features "Bannock Pops" in bold dark blue lettering with red shadow, surrounded white spikes radiating behind, covering nearly the top half of the box. From the letter "O" of the POPS, larger-than-life-sized golden cereal, like corn kernels, fall from the lettering into a red bowl of milk that fills the bottom quarter of the box. "CEREAL MADE WITH THE GOODNESS OF BANNOCK" is written below the cereal name. The same "Kwakwaka'wakw" branding as the previous two is written across the top of box, and a purple badge with "FRY BREAD" and "CHOLESTEROL! SO TASTY!" brands the top right corner of the box, and "SOURCE OF 16 ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS EATEN WITH BUTTER AND JAM" fills a thin blue bubble across the very top edge.

Now, here's an interpretive analysis of this artwork.

Hi, my name is Davida Ingram. I am a Seattle-based artist, curator and educator and writer. I selected the Sonny Assu's The Breakfast Series because I think that there are profound connections between Native identities and African American identities.

I had more stability than maybe most working class black people. But I definitely remember going to private school and having government food in our cabinet. And I remembered it because I was really ashamed of it. But when I talked to my Native friends, they also have that, they talk about commodity foods. So when it comes to Sonny Assu's Breakfast Series, along the way I think he points to foods in Native cultures and really, in a pop art kind of way. He uses cereal boxes. He finds a way of signaling conversations about settler colonialism in ways that I think point to syncretism.

There is a very valid defensiveness that communities of color have around appropriation. But when we remember that we are human and humans have been sharing culture for a very long time, connecting with one another, that means that we show up with different foods, different textures, different spices, and they get woven in. But when he talks about the Bannock Pops, that is a version of fry bread that originated in Scotland. Now the Scottish came over here and they were part of the settlers that colonized, and I find it fascinating that Bannock was incorporated as a version of fry bread and that it mixes well when you're on the trail. And so I find that, there are meaningful ways to talk about the versions of Whiteness that end up getting woven into the fabric of communities of color.

Likewise, when Sonny Assu is talking about the Lucky Beads. Some of the devilment of settler colonialism is when communities of color first connect with white settlers who are eyeballing the land but offering up beautiful shiny things. And there are cultures, and all indigenous cultures care about adornment. You adorn your body, you have ceremony, you celebrate in specific ways. So I find it really interesting that white people had stepped outside of a cultural norm and decided, well, I will use this instead to trick and deceive and to steal.

Whenever I see indigenous objects in white or mainstream institutions, I immediately think who was this stolen from? Native culture is a living culture, and it is also a vital, and resilient culture, so when institutions collect contemporary Native artists, it kind of opens a door that needs to be open. Because if there's any community that should be thriving, it's the original communities who these lands belong to.

What are some things that you can do as supporters and audience members of the museum that would encourage them to invest in artists of color and communities of color and the creativity of Native, African American and immigrant of color communities?