Controlled Burn artist Juleana Enright on
Tell us about the work you’re performing at Controlled Burn. What’s it about?
For my piece, “To Wash the Native Out of Us,” I wanted to create an audio and visual experience based on stories recanted from my family about being put into Indian boarding schools at a really young, impressionable age. I always grew up hearing these stories, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized the history of Native culture being stripped away and the abuse that happened at these “schools” wasn’t a history that many non-Native individuals knew of. We often don’t find ourselves in history books, depicted as we are, as we were; we’re given a historical context that isn’t our own. I wanted to create something that allowed the audience to be immersed in an oral storytelling that was real and raw and, specifically, ours. For me, although these stories aren’t my own personal trauma, they are an intergenerational trauma, a shared blood trauma. The importance of keeping them alive, in their authentic form, establishing identity and talking about the separation of identity, was crucial to my process.
What motivates your work as an artist?
Uniting community; exploring identity; personal evolution; storytelling; the act of authentic self
Talk about your background. What sort of experiences are you bringing to this production?
My background has predominantly been focused on arts writing and the role of curator. I had a solo curatorial debut at Gamut Gallery in 2018 for an exhibit titled “Soft Boundaries,” which explored the vulnerable narrative as an act of healing and liberation. Since then, I was fortunate enough to be involved in 2019’s Lightning Rod production, which gave me the opportunity to perform in, write and direct a theater performance, something I hadn’t done since I was in high school. For this project, I wanted to push myself to explore retrieving, editing and mixing audio, and also to create a storyline that was incredibly vulnerable and difficult to share. I cried a lot through the editing process, hearing the pain and emotions that still defined my auntie and mom’s current sense of self. As a writer, I’m familiar with how the process of telling the story defines how universally palatable and impactful it can be, so I’m bringing that to the table. For this project, I wanted to translate how I do that with written word to a spoken word format of storytelling.
Have you been involved with 20% Theatre in the past?
I haven’t! I’m more than thrilled to be part of 20% Theatre’s programming and excited to see more works from them this year and beyond.
Which artists and/or performances have inspired you?
I’m the co-curator of a monthly performance and dance night, Feelsworldwide, and literally every show that my fellow curator, Dom Laba, and I have been part of has been overwhelmingly inspiring. Every artist we’ve worked with to make those events happen, has brought forth an experience that was raw, experimental, radical, thoughtful, original and, above all, hugely impactful on my existence as a queer artist in Minneapolis.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment that you’d like to share?
Feels is an on-going project for Dom and I and we hope to expand our vision, so that’s forever on my horizon. I also have a feature coming out for Make MN Magazine on the illustration and fashion design duo, MegoLisaLand, which I can’t wait to have premiered in print.
Aside from your artistic work, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I’ve been kind of a recluse this winter, but DJing is my passion and I’m constantly on the prowl for new music to play out. I spend a lot of time making playlists and mixing beats.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Twin Cities?
I think we have an incredible art and theater scene here, so, when I can, going to art exhibitions and independent queer productions, being absorbed in that atmosphere and interacting with queer creatives is a highlight for me.
Who are your favorite artists right now and why?
Honestly, so many artists who I’m sharing the bill with for Controlled Burn are among my favorites – Baki, Keila Anali Saucedo, Johanna Keller Flores, snem DeSellier, Maitreyi Rey (all of whom I was fortunate to work with on Lightning Rod). Sarah White, who I’m forever in awe of in terms of reparations and activism. Mixie, Puffy, Janet Regina Kolterman, booboo, Teighlor McGee, Godzilita, Kamilla Love, Ness Nite, Ashley Mari, Jenna Cis, Queenduin, Yasmeenah, Maiya Lea – like, literally all the artists who have been involved in Feelsworldwide. Dom Laba, who’s just my complete rock in my creative and personal existence, and who won the trust to take beautiful photos of the Native women in my family who hate to be photographed. Marcela, whose work and dynamic presence is inspiring in so many ways and who has been a ‘tour de force’ in helping me find motivation and explore different mediums of my work, and also in just helping me realize that my vision – no matter what abstract form it’s in – is important.
Why do you think artmaking is important work?
Expression is just essential to existence. And everyone does it in different ways. If you can be vulnerable and explore your existence through your emotions, your being, through art, then you should. And I hope we can create more spaces to make that accessible, inclusive, and a place to share regardless of how “polished” or “refined” we think our work is. The more experimental, the better. It’s political because it’s personal. And to me, the more artistic expression made by queer POC, trans and non-binary artists we get to experience furthers in creating a presence that says “we exist, we matter, and being made to feel silenced is unacceptable.”
Juleana will be performing on Saturday, February 15 @ 7:30pm at Controlled Burn: Queer Performance for a World on Fire.