Brian Jungen (born April 29, 1970 in Fort St. John, British Columbia) is a Canadian artist from British Columbia with Swiss and Dunne-za First Nations ancestry. He graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1992 and is based in Vancouver.
Jungen's art draws upon the tradition of "found art", espoused by such twentieth-century artists as Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp. Instead of presenting objects "as-is," however, Jungen often reworks them without fully concealing their original meaning or purpose. For instance, Jungen's series Prototypes of New Understanding consists of aboriginal masks assembled and hand-sewn from parts of Nike Air Jordan shoes. Jungen writes: "It was interesting to see how by simply manipulating the Air Jordan shoes you could evoke specific cultural traditions whilst simultaneously amplifying the process of cultural corruption and assimilation. The Nike mask sculptures seemed to articulate a paradoxical relationship between a consumerist artifact and an 'authentic' native artifact."
The Nike footwear that Jungen had employed incorporates in their unmodified forms similar colours to traditional First Nations artwork and wood carvings: red and black. However, other projects, such as a series of wooden pallets, painstakingly crafted out of red cedar, a First Nations tent made out of "11 leather couches" and Jungen's large "whale-bone" sculptures made out of plastic chairs (some still with Canadian Tire price stickers on them) seek to defamiliarize even members of Western society that are unfamiliar with First Nation themes by placing familiar objects in unfamiliar positions or situations and vice versa.
Yet other projects, such as Jungen's "Isolated Depiction of the Passage of Time," are more political. In this specific example, the plastic food trays are colour-coded to match the statistics of jail sentences given to First Nations individuals, while (inspired by a prison-break exhibit Jungen once saw), the inner part of the sculpture conceals a television and a DVD player, quietly playing the film The Great Escape from the inside.
In 2004, he participated in A Grain of Dust A Drop of Water: The 5th Gwangju Biennale in Gwangju, Korea. An exhibition of Jungen's work was held at the Vancouver Art Gallery (Canada) from January 28 to April 30, 2006. Later that year he also held an exhibition at the Tate Modern from May 20 to July 9, 2006. Jungen is the first living Native American artist to exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., with Strange Comfort, on view from October 16, 2009 to August 8, 2010. Jungen won the 2010 Iskowitz Prize for visual arts.
In 2011, Jungen unveiled three public sculptures at the Banff Centre entitled The ghosts on top of my head, consisting of white powder-coated steel benches, each in the shape of an antler from an elk, moose, and caribou.
References and sources
Online exhibits and media
- Fetishism, Curiosity, and the Work of Brian Jungen by Kimberly Phillips in Fillip
- Brian Jungen at Kadist Art Foundation