Haida artist Christopher Auchter will be featured in the finale episode of a new, international podcast that hopes to break down certain connotations of the words “native art.”
The “Native Artist” podcast premiered on May 18, diving into conversation with “the next generation of native artists” from across the U.S. and Canada who have disciplines ranging from directors and writers to carvers and fashion designers, and a story to tell about navigating these fields while reclaiming native identity.
Speaking by phone from his home in Burnaby, Auchter told the Observer his episode, which is expected to air on June 22, was produced by Andi Murphy. Murphy hails from Crownpoint, New Mexico, a small town on the Navajo Nation reservation, and in addition to co-producing the “Native Artist” podcast, she is an associate producer for the Native America Calling live call-in program.
She flew up from the U.S. in March to spend a day with Auchter, meeting him at the National Film Board (NFB) office in Vancouver where he worked on his shorts “The Mountain of SGaana” and “Now Is the Time,” one of five Indigenous-made films screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
After recording Auchter doing some illustrations — capturing the sound of pencil on paper — they had a sit-down interview in the NFB theatre room and discussed what it was like growing up on Haida Gwaii.
Auchter said he reminisced about nature on the island, big storms and watching trees blow in the wind. He also talked about the very first moments he toyed with filmmaking.
“As a little kid, I started to play with my mom’s video camera and make little movies,” he said.
One time he and his brother Dean, along with a few friends, recreated the Trojan horse scene from “Troy,” using a toy horse with wheels, his father’s garage as the gates and “getting out the ketchup” for the combat reenactment that followed.
Another time he remembers learning an important lesson while making a film on the War of 1812 for a Grade 8 project.
While Auchter does not remember who was filming at the time, he said his friend, the late Jesse Jones, had a paintball gun.
“He was like six feet away and he started shooting me in the back, and it hurt so much that it looked so real,” Auchter remembers.
“We had this beautiful shot and I was trying to edit the film together that night, still very much learning, and I ended up recording over everything we had shot that day. That was some of the first heartache of trying to be a storyteller with film. Losing everything and all the pain and agony to get the shot.”
To cap off production for the podcast episode, Auchter and Murphy attended the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, which screened “Now Is the Time” on March 5, followed by a Q&A.
“COVID-19 was starting to be in the air, so it was a different feeling,” Auchter said, adding there were already rules in place at the festival, such as no hugging.
It was one of the last film festivals to take place before the lockdown, he added.
“That’s how close this was to not happening, so it’s kind of nostalgic that we were able to somewhat move around in a pre-COVID era,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing how she puts it all together.”
In the meantime, he said he is working on “lots of Haida content,” including a short on the fabled Gaagiixid or “wild man” for a larger documentary that is in the works.
He is working on a graphic novel focused on “the noble one … the one who holds up Haida Gwaii and when he moves there’s an earthquake.”
He is also still working on the Haida version of “Now Is the Time,” with recording of both Haida dialects postponed due to COVID-19.
“It’s tough not being able to go to Haida Gwaii, but it’s important,” he said.
“It won’t be forever. This storm will pass.”
According to a release, the main host of the “Native Artist” podcast is Alexis Sallee, who also hosts the weekly radio program INDIGEFI, featuring modern Indigenous music and culture.
“For years we’ve been highlighting artists who are shaping the future of native music with our weekly radio show,” Sallee said in the release. “I’m excited to bring the focus to a new group of native artists whose media include painting, carving, film and even a denim fashion line. I want to expand what people think of when they hear the words ‘native art.'”
Other artists featured on the podcast include director, writer and photographer Tomas Karmelo Amaya, painter Tristan Morgan, carver Drew Michael, Erik and Amanda of denim fashion line Ginew, composer, musician and installation artist Laura Ortman, and photographer Kiliii Yuyan.
The podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and on nativeartistpodcast.com.
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