Raven Chacon:

American Ledger No. 2, 2019

pyrograph on wood
fabricated in partnership with North Dakota State University’s School of Design, Architecture and Art, Tasha Kubesh and Laura Youngbird

artist site

“Signal and Noise: Scoring Tulsa's history of forced migration,” Blayklee Freed, TulsaPeople

Dispatch, a collaboration with Candice Hopkins

An Anthology of Chants Operations recording

Feature on The Native American Composers Apprentice Project in NPR Performance Today

For Zitkála Šá series of prints at Crow's Shadow Institute for the Arts

“Navajo Artist / Composer Raven Chacon Brings ‘Repellent Fence’ to the World,” Jason Aesnap, Indian Country Today

“A Concert with Raven Chacon,” November 2020 video from Bergen Kunsthall festival 

Short documentary by The New School GIDEST seminar

“There surely must be a better word than ‘protest’ for coming together to protect the land, as the very presence of this many Native peoples had not materialized in over 100 years,” Raven Chacon has written, of being a guest at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in 2016. For Chacon, an artist, composer, and performer from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation and currently residing in Albuquerque, this gathering of Water Protectors in defense of Native land, culture, and sovereignty was itself a transformative, visionary action:

“The camps became the imagined microcosm of a North America where we were still the majority, self-sustained and self-governed, no other direct action than simply being alive and retaining our ways. What became apparent—even in the short time I was there and under the shadow of militaristic surveillance—was a shared experience: remembering one’s identity, while at the same time re-imagining who we aimed to be. What was achieved there was not a funneling of a pan-Indian sameness, but rather a radial explosion of every potential dreamt history.”

The quality of this kind of “radial explosion” – across histories, cultures, generations – is also a condition many audiences encounter in Chacon’s works. With a training in music composition from mentors such as James Tenney and Wadada Leo Smith, Chacon carries forward an experimental practice that dwells in relationship with Native musics, landscapes, and knowledge – convergences expressed in sound, visual scores, installations, and relational experiences.

His attention to material and place bridges these forms, as was evident in his nearly decade-long presence within the Indigenous art collective Postcommodity. In The Ears Between Worlds are Always Speaking (2017), the collective utilized the same LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Devices) technology Chacon experienced being used against the Water Protectors at the Oceti Sakowin Camp to create a long form opera in Greece at Aristotle’s Lyceum that both honored and critiqued the western philosophical tradition and amplified its legacy within global market structures and mass, and forced, migrations.

Chacon’s significant American Ledger series continues, in new ways, elements of this interdisciplinary practice, welcoming individuals and communities to perform visual, site specific scores. Invited by the curatorial platform Atomic Culture to a Tulsa Artist Fellowship in 2019, Chacon created American Ledger No.2 in response to the historical forces within that ground – the 1830 Indian Removal Act, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the current detainment and deportation of undocumented immigrants – with its graphic notation visible from a billboard along Interstate 244 in downtown Tulsa. 

“Through its symbology and subsequent sound, the score recounts episodes of the region’s forced migrations, both into and out of the city. To be performed by either a large ensemble or a soloist, American Ledger No.2 utilizes a battery of classical, jazz, and indigenous instruments, in conjunction with other playable objects and artifacts. The score can be presented as a flag, a billboard, railroad debris, or any pyrographed object sourced from the region”

Chacon has exhibited work and performed nationally and internationally, at spaces including documenta 14, the Kennedy Center, and the Whitney Biennial, and he is the recipient of a recent United States Artists Fellowship and a Creative Capital award. In addition to this work, each year Chacon teaches students in the Navajo, Hopi, and Salt River Pima communities to write string quartets with the Native American Composer Apprentice Project (NACAP).

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