Ryan Feddersen’s Kill the Indian, Save the Man is a wall-sized map of the United States rendered in black. Around the edges, black rectangles are linked with red lines to locations scattered around the country. Some are in the Southwest, some in the Midwest. A whole bunch are concentrated in Oklahoma. Some are here in Washington State.
“This artwork can be touched,” the statement text prompts. The black bars, it turns out, are coated in an ink that turns translucent with body heat, revealing the names of U.S. Indian Boarding Schools that have been all but lost to history through a deliberate program of erasure and silence.
The artwork’s title is a quote from Richard Henry Pratt, a superintendent of one such boarding school, who believed that the way to “save” Native children was by forcibly relocating them into facilities where they could be systematically stripped of their language, religion, and culture.
Feddersen’s piece makes it possible for us to read fragments of this history through the censorship, but to do so requires our active participation. The information is invisible until we reach for it.
Kill the Indian, Save the Man is part of BorderLands, the inaugural exhibition hosted by the Seattle Office of Arts of Culture’s ARTS program in the third-floor space of King Street Station (which used to house Out of Sight).
With an opening reception that corresponds to the Seattle Art Fair and other satellite events, BorderLands presents nine installations by artists examining themes of identity, nationalism, allegiance, and resistance: including Inye Wokoma, Satpreet Kahlon, and Pedro Lasch. A second exhibition also mounted in the space, And She Persisted: Voices of Women Artists, presents the work of 38 women artists working in a vast range of media, curated by Deborah Paine.
BorderLands opens with a reception tonight and unlike the Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight, it’s free. If you’re coming to the fair, put it on your “don’t miss” list.