At MacDowell – Allison Akootchook Warden kicks off MacDowell Downtown season

Allison Akootchook Warden drumming and singing during 2022's First Nations Performing Arts celebration at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.

Allison Akootchook Warden drumming and singing during 2022's First Nations Performing Arts celebration at Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. PHOTO BY TOJO ANDRIANARIVO

By JONATHAN GOURLAY

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-28-2024 9:01 AM

MacDowell Downtown’s 21st season opener will be Friday, March 1, at The Monadnock Center for History and Culture with performance artist Allison Akootchook Warden.

An Inuit tribal member of the Native village of Kaktovik off Alaska’s north slope, Warden will share images and perform music to shed light on her current project of capturing on video her attempts to re-enact the Indigenous practice of transformation. The performance is at 7:30 p.m.

“My great-grandfather could turn himself into a red fox; my great-grandmother could turn herself into a brown bear, so I am going to do my best to figure out (on camera) how they achieved these feats,” said Warden.

The piece will be titled “Iluqaisa,” an Iñupiaq term that can be translated as “All of you.”

Immediately following graduation from high school, Warden joined the Naa Kaahidi Theatre’s European tour performing traditional Alaskan Native plays. Then she moved to Santa Fe, N.M., and began experimenting with performance art at the age of 28 to engage more directly with the audience, something she felt was lacking given the distance between stage and seated audience.

“I enjoy the dynamic of almost interacting with an audience that’s much closer physically,” she says. “I find that I need that proximity to learn about myself.”

She also writes poetry, complementing her advocacy for preservation of the Iñupiaq language, which is spoken by the Indigenous people of northern Alaska.

At MacDowell, Warden will take a break after a busy period of creating site-specific works and performances, and will develop a new series of installations to be experienced in a museum setting. She’ll shoot using a stationary video camera as she moves within the frame recreating the choreography of transformation to becoming a polar bear, attempting to go to the moon and viewing the other side of the world through water.  

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“I’m hoping to have finished works at the end of my residency ready to be shared with the public,” she said, adding that she’ll also be writing poetry when she’s not working on the video series. “I’m really excited to be at MacDowell. I’m honored to be with such creative people and having the chance to be in spaces that have been occupied by so many phenomenal artists.”  

Join us when Allison Akootchook Warden will weave traditional Indigenous practice and language into an unforgettable performance experience. It all takes place at Bass Hall at The Monadnock Center for History and Culture on Friday, March 1, at 7 p.m. with light refreshments served. The presentation starts at 7:30 p.m. 

More MacDowell Saturday at the Toadstool 

Join us downtown on Saturday morning, March 2, at 11 a.m. at the Toadstool Bookshop for a reading of eight-time MacDowell fellow Katherine Min’s novel “The Fetishist,” which was completed by her daughter Kayla Min Andrews after Katherine died in 2019. Kayla, who will be joined by her brother Clay, will read from the book and then will be joined by poet and MacDowell fellow Rebecca Kaiser Gibson for a brief question-and-answer session. Rebecca met Katherine during her first MacDowell residency in 1996. Katherine’s family worked to permanently endow a fellowship at MacDowell, and this marks the first time they’ve visited Peterborough since their mother’s last residency in 2013. 

Jonathan Gourlay is senior manager for external communications at MacDowell.