Eleanor LeBeau

Eleanor talking with photographer Lee Marmon on the occasion of his retrospective at the C.N. Gorman Museum in Davis, California. Photo Credit: Susanne Krug

Eleanor LeBeau is an independent visual arts writer, editor and occasional performance artist. Her feature articles, exhibition reviews and profiles have appeared in a range of print and online publications, including Art Papers, Contemporary, Cleveland Scene, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Northern Ohio Live, OhioAuthority.com, Sacramento News & Review, and Sactown Magazine. Along with fellow CCA alum Stephen Smyth, Eleanor is also the co-founder and editor of Naked Circus, an online journal of Visual Culture that premiers February 14, 2012. Eleanor and Stephen’s collaboration springs from a shared social imperative to liberate the discourse on Visual Culture from the exclusive purview of the Academy in order to engage multiple publics.

Eleanor’s scholarly preoccupations include performance studies and the intersection of cultures expressed in American art, with a special interest in the work of indigenous North American artists. Her CCA master’s thesis, Trickster Plays: James Luna Performs Postindian Survivance, explores how James Luna (Luiseño) uses performance and installation to define contemporary Native American identity. While Eleanor’s current home is Cleveland, Ohio, she’s also lived in California and Arizona. She holds an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from CCA, and undergraduate degrees in Art History and Magazine Journalism from Kent State University.

Naked Circus @ www.nakedcircus.us

Arzu Okzal performing in “Love at First Site” at SPACES. Note that Arzu designated Eleanor as the work’s “playwright.”

Eleanor and artist Arzu Ozkal in “Love at First Site,” a performance/installation that was part of the group exhibition Detour at SPACES, one of the nation’s first artist-run exhibition spaces. Arzu was given seven days to create a work of art; Eleanor was charged with documenting its creation. Eleanor inevitably became part of the work.

 

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About Eleanor LeBeau’s Thesis Project

Eleanor LeBeau

Trickster Plays: James Luna Performs (Post)Indian Survivance

For the past 25 years James Luna’s provocative performances and multimedia installations have revealed the daunting challenges of contemporary Native American life. He once played a dead American Indian in a museum display case. Audiences watch him guzzle Budweiser and inject insulin. He belches and begs for money and offers wise medicine to white people. Using the shape-shifting strategy of the decentered postmodern subject—or perhaps the Trickster, a central figure of Native American legend—Luna performs multiple identities to interrogate the ways in which cultural misperceptions, and five centuries of genocidal colonialism, affect the bodies and minds of living Native peoples. His characters are also double mirrors: While non-Natives discover the alternately sacred and profane stereotypes they project onto American Indians, Natives may see in Luna’s reenactments the unattainable or pejorative stereotypes of Indians they internalize as parts of their identity.Luna’s latest work does more than deconstruct a violent colonial history. Emendatio (“Emendation”), his performance and installation at the 2005 Venice Biennale, explores how Native Americans have adapted and survived despite governmental policies of assimilation and extermination. In Renewal Ceremony, a four-day endurance performance, Luna created a sacred space in a courtyard garden where he danced in the guise of numerous characters to ensure the health and survival of indigenous peoples. While Emendatio’s story of 21st-century post-Indian survivance is poignant and much needed, it reimagines only male Native American identity. Unlike the gender-bending trickster of legend and some non-Anglo postmodern performers (such as Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Arigon Starr), Luna does not explore opposite-sex identity. Instead, Native American females make cameo appearances in Emendatio as childbearers and food providers. While essential to the survival of any culture, these traditional roles limit the potential of female identity. This study examines the dominant place of Luna’s oeuvre in the Native American performance scene while at the same time imagining how Native women’s new stories and new identities also need to be recognized as necessary to post-Indian survivance. That said, the critical discourse on Luna’s practice is stuck, like a broken record, in the groove of “Indianness”; I also offer a new reading of Luna’s work that explores its ongoing dialogue with American and European performance art, thus framing it in multiple and sometimes colliding points of view.

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