The Alaska Sense solo exhibition featured a site-related installation at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Alaska in 1987. “Alaska Sense is an artist’s homage to the vastness of Alaska, to the solitude of Alaska, to the quiet of Alaska only slightly interrupted by the cries of birds and mammals and in many places the wash of the seas.” wrote art critic Ted Castle.
Eklutna, an Athabascan cemetery completely surrounds a small Russian Orthodox Church near Fairbanks, Alaska, the cemetery is filled with burial spirit houses. These spirit houses were constructed due to the inability to bury the deceased parishioners because of the impenetrability of the permafrost in the ground. Physically, Alaska Sense consisted of a hallway entrance that drew you to an inner chamber. The sculpture contained spirit houses that “floated” through this meditative space. Inside of the installation a series of speakers emanated a collage of native Alaskan sounds:
The sound installation starts with the ocean; the surf and seagulls, this is a calm space. Then whales, these intelligent beings talk and sing to each other under the sea. The soundscape continues onto land, with conversations between the wolf and the loon and then transitions to Sylvester Ayak. Sylvester, a native of King Island, chants and speaks to the wolves and loons. Edited and mixed with these whale songs, Sylvester’s chanting and trance-like singing continues the conversation with these ancient animals. At the end of the tape Sylvester mimics the whale’s breathes reproducing the sounds generated by their blow-hole as if it were a valediction.
Dimensions: Hallway is 3’ x 19’ long. Main Chamber is 11’ x 25’.