Ukjese is considering sending a photo series from the Yukon for the crawl. An outspoken and provocative artist, his work is finding an audience internationally. An explanation of his work follows:
This series is performance art, it is the demonstration and/or the execution of an idea using one’s own body or bodies. The body in space or it incursion into space and the act is the medium of transmitting the message. This is what my work started as, the idea is to investigate and then demonstrates the present condition of people’s desire to not to get involved. For the general public, unless somebody is getting hurt (and then sometimes not), people will prefer to pretend that what ever is happening-is not. I demonstrate this by placing a nude body in a space that is not deemed an appropriate place for a nude body-a public place. People who have a choice will ignore a nude body in a public place even if it goes against their morals.
The performance is the act of placing a nude body in a public place and recording it. The message is transmitted through the exhibition of resulting photographs. The photographs themselves are also an investigation of the nude in a public place but the difference is the nude photograph is not an incursion to public space because art galleries are an appropriate location for nudes. People will not say anything, or little, when confronted with real nude in a public place but will feel free to speak in an art gallery. The actual nude is removed because of the barrier, the photograph and is now safe to observe, examine and critic. The act of being nude in public is the message and the message is then muted by it’s medium, the photograph.
This series mirrors the artist’s experience when they have an art exhibition. Through their art they are exposing themselves to peoples examination and criticism. When an artist show their artwork in an exhibition they are thus exposing themselves. My series has taken this exposure a step further by exposing in public and now exposing in photographs. What I do will be open to people criticisms but having the results hanging on a gallery wall makes it safe for people to say what they want...while the photograph was being created people said nothing.
This idea started when I was staying in Amsterdam in the fall of 1989 when one afternoon I was walking down a pedestrian-only street. I saw on one of the small side streets a stoned man squatting and shitting. I stopped and watched peoples reactions. People just walked by as if nothing was out of the ordinary, the worst reaction was a sneer. I realized that people would not do anything because the would not want to get involved and the only people that would get involved would be those people whose job was to get involved, such as the police. I decided to investigate this social condition. About the same time I was thinking about doing a self-portrait series but was not sure in what form this series would take. I decided to combine the two and started this self-portrait series of myself being nude in public places in Europe and Canada, including Winnipeg. Since then I discovered that when the photograph was taken at night, people react quite different that then do in the day. They are often going out for a good time and want to meet people and have fun. When they see these photographs being taken they will laugh, ask questions and talk to me during the photo taking. I am sure that during the day these same people would walk by and ignore the happening. Since I started this series another aspect has evolved and that has to do with my self identify as a First Nations person. I love going to Europe and when I ask myself why I realized that it was because the Europeans love their culture. They live it, breath it, are surrounded by it. And then I realized that the culture of my people in the Yukon is almost erased. There are very few of us that speak our language and our languages is dying. We have lost much of our spirituality, almost all our art, our connection with the land and many of our customs. We are not living in our culture but some strange hybrid that is mostly the dominate culture, western culture. So when I travel to these cities that are filled with their own culture I feel culturally naked and this is an aspect I am expressing in my situation. We Yukon First Nations are a people with almost none of our culture, but because we have adopted the western approach, we deny the truth. In showing this truth about being culturally naked by being naked, thus I am being psychically as truthful as possible.
I have included non-nude photographs in this series to demonstrate I have a life beyond art, as we all do. These additional photographs are societies accepted exhibitions, when people are in the act of being recorded, recognized or acknowledged. The additional non-nude photographs is to illustrate that an artist such as myself is made up of more than the exhibited art.
In the advertising for this exhibition it will be apparent that there is nudity and the people who come to see the works are voyeurs. They want to see because that is the relationship between the artist and the viewer. The artist exposes, the viewer voyeurs. Of course they are all also a mixture, as I am, beyond being voyeurs, they are critics, art lovers and maybe just curious. This is the ingredients of an art exhibition and this exhibition has all these factors.