In The Fourth World

Sharon Daniel

Surface Tensions 2020
Part 1: Alt-Truths, More Than Fiction

January – February 2020, Folkestone

#surfacetensions2020 #movingimage #artunderlockdown #ST20 #documentary

Artist residency using interactive documentary techniques charting the socio-cultural and economic injustices faced by the indigenous people living in the isolated Inupiaq village of Kivalina in rural Alaska, in particular the environmental degradation caused by climate change, resource extraction and local pollutants; the loss of sovereignty, land and tradition due to colonization.
‘In The Fourth World’ documents the social, economic and environmental challenges faced by the isolated Inupiaq village of Kivalina, and 200 similar native villages in rural Alaska, where indigenous people live below the poverty line – without running water, toilets, waste disposal systems, adequate health care, quality education or access to employment.

Kivalina is in crisis – a crisis produced by multiple forces, histories and circumstances spanning many years. Its causal factors cut across many fields of discourse – scientific, legal, cultural, racial, religious, political, geographical. It is not one story, but a complex of many narratives, with many arcs, scenes and actors. ‘In The Fourth World’ weaves these stories together to document the environmental degradation caused by climate change, resource extraction and local pollutants; the loss of sovereignty, land and tradition due to colonization; and the socio-cultural and economic inequalities that Kivalina residents face first-hand.

During January and February 2020, Daniel took up an artist residency at CT20 and created a work-in-progress installation that enabled audiences in Folkestone to better understand the interrelated forces in Kivalina and the determination of its residents to advocate for their own future. The installation provides an interface to a digital archive of original interviews, observational footage, and historical community-generated media, revealing the social and environmental injustice suffered in the village of Kivalina. As such, the installation constitutes a ‘counter-map,’ not of conquest, but of protest – recording the historical trespasses and brutalities of the colonial project in Alaska, and charting the real topographies of precarity and state violence Kivalina encounters today.

Gallery Image Credits: from Sharon Daniel’s archive

Sharon Daniel is a media artist and Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California who produces interactive and participatory documentaries focused on issues of social, economic, environmental and criminal justice. Daniel builds online archives and interfaces that make the stories of marginalised and disenfranchised communities available across social, cultural and economic boundaries.

Surface Tensions 2020 presents art that is deeply immersed in the traumas, struggles and violence of our time, from the perspectives of those on the margins. It subverts established powers and narratives through collective acts of creative resistance, and questions our relationships to Western identity and nationalism. 

ST20 Part I: ‘Alt-Truths, More than Fiction’ – Female-led Expanded Cinema is a site for experimentation & activism. Running from April – June 2020, the programme brings together five artists working in the expanded field of moving image: Hio Lam Lei, Sharon Daniel, Hijack, Jing Xie and Renèe Helèna Brown. Using the format of ‘documentaries’ and through a feminist epistemological lens, they freely and playfully juxtapose narratives, myths, archival materials and personal testimonies, using devices such as satire & fictive constructions to explore the unstable nature of perceived realities, cultural identities, structural racism, consumption, romance, and our relationships to Western nationalism.

Surface Tensions 2020 is curated by Nina Shen-Poblete and Tomas Poblete, produced by CT20.

The project is kindly supported by Arts Council England, Roger De Haan Charitable Trust and Creative Folkestone.