John Lukavic is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator in the department of Native arts. John has been with DAM since 2012.
Histories of place and colonial impacts are central to the Sweet Land Opera (2020), which Cannupa Hanska Luger codirected (he was also one of two costume designers). In this opera, narratives of violence and erasure replace the popular tales of early colonization, the rise of the United States, and its expansion into the West.
The Industry, an independent, artist-driven opera company in Los Angeles, describes the plot and structure of Sweet Land: “The Arrivals wash up on the shore. They make contact with another civilization they call ‘the Hosts.’ And from there, the story splinters, following diverging perspectives. Starting as a procession through the Los Angeles State Historic Park, Sweet Land becomes an opera that erases itself.”
Of his role in sharing these often silenced histories, Luger acknowledges, “I didn’t do this alone, I did it on the shoulders of giants with a pile of bones under each foot.” His collaborators included other producers, directors, designers, composers, and performers who brought this opera to life, making it, at once, a collaboration with others but also a collaboration with the land, exposing the incomplete narratives too often told of colonial experiences.
Join us for an online talk at 6 pm on August 3 about the creative process and larger themes of the opera with Yuval Sharon, founder and artistic director of The Industry, and Cannupa Hanska Luger, artist and co-director of Sweet Land. Tickets for the first 200 participants include access to stream the opera for free.
"A head-spinning abstraction of colonialism and whitewashed mythology, Sweet Land has been described by its creators as “an opera that erases itself.” It achieves an effect not unlike that of traveling back in time to witness the first Thanksgiving, then returning to the present to hear its story warped through the traditional, wholesome retelling." - The New York Times (read the full article)