History of indigenous American people takes centre stage at Site Santa Fe Biennial

New York-based artist Pablo Helguera has created a work based on the Pueblo Revolt of 1680


The Pueblo Revolt of 1680, in which the Pueblo people of present-day New Mexico drove out Spanish colonisers, is the subject of a project by the artist Pablo Helguera at this year's edition of the Site Santa Fe Biennial, which opened last week. The work is among several that examine the history and legacy of indigenous American people.

Helguera's work, which is an extension of his 2014 Site Santa Fe work, fictionalises the revolt and the revenge of the Spanish in 1692, who returned to reclaim the territory. "The project is a pop-up shop with objects taken from local vintage stores, each of which tells a story, like a fictional play, that points to actual events that took place," he says, adding: "I'm interested in people having conventional experiences, like entering a store, and then having an unconventional experience there."

The project also deals with how the events are remembered today. Since the early 18th century, the return of the Spanish has been celebrated "as a harmonious reuniting," Helguera says, when in fact there was much bloodshed.

Other commissioned projects also look at the history and culture of indigenous people. For her work, Sonya Kelliher-Combs has designed an installation that draws on Inupaiq culture and the duo Rometti Costales are showing work that refers to Navajo weaving. Another work, by Conrad Skinner, is an homage to the architect Paolo Soleri's Ampitheatre, which was built in 1970 in Santa Fe and took inspiration from Pueblo dwellings.

The biennial is organised by a team of five curators (Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Kathleen Ash-Milby, Pip Day, Pablo León de la Barra, Kiki Mazzucchelli) along with Site Santa Fe director and chief curator Irene Hofmann.

Site Santa Fe: Sitelines 2016: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas, until 8 January 2017