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2021-2022 Fellow: Suzanne Kite

Suzanne Kite is an Oglala Lakota performance artist, visual artist, and composer, a PhD candidate at Concordia University, Research Assistant for the Initiative for Indigenous Futures, a 2019 Trudeau Scholar, a 2020 Tulsa Artist Fellow, and a 2020 Women at Sundance x Adobe Fellow. Her research is concerned with contemporary Lakota ontologies through research-creation, computational media, and performance practice.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Using Lakota geometries in a design methodology developed by Sadie Red Wing, Kite will be collaborating with Third Coast Percussion to create a new composition premiering in June 2022. This will be in collaboration with singer Santee Witt to celebrate his album release. This performance explores Native American Church music, Lakota ways of creating new knowledge, and experimental composition practices.

PROJECT COLLABORATOR

Santee Luke Witt is a singer, song-writer, and Lakota Cultural Teacher at the Lakota Waldorf School. Witt is from Allen, SD.

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ARTIST INTERVIEW

Common Field (CF): Between then – when we were originally talking about your Fellowship project during the Convening – and now, how has your project changed or evolved? How did the Convening and relationships with Common Field’s Network impact the project?

Suzanne Kite (SK): Thanks to the support of the Convening, my engagement with Santee Witt’s work has deepened, as I have been in conversation with him for a whole year now. Furthermore, having support from the Convening Partner Racing Magpie allowed for the gathering of more singers and the opportunity to interview them about their creative composition processes. This project has become far more about the human act of creation and the necessity of creative methodologies to be in relation to nonhumans in the physical and non-physical world. I am so excited to connect Santee Witt and the Third Coast Percussion ensemble in this experimental composition.

CF: This project has a broad range of touch points, from Native American Church music and conventions in experimental music composition, to relationships with collaborators and mentors like Sadie Red Wing and Santee Witt. Can you share more about your inspiration for this project, and the process you’ve undertaken to develop it?

SK: This project was inspired by my conversations with artists and elders who have taught me so much over the past few years about their pathways to creating new knowledge. Sadie’s work especially opened my eyes to the limitless possibilities of Lakota design and how her methodologies could help create music. I am not especially interested in any one medium, genre, or composition technique, but more trying to keep my eyes open to frameworks that already exist in our communities for creating new knowledge.

CF: Collaboration seems central to both this project and your overall practice. Why is collaboration important to you? What makes a collaborative relationship successful?

SK: Frameworks for collaboration between humans and nonhumans (and sometimes humans and humans) are the core of the act of creating anything, especially sound. My approach to composition is to understand the skills and comfort levels of the performers and not compose notes, but compose systems that challenge and collaborate with them. I trust musicians and collaborators to make their own decisions.

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For more on Kite's work, visit kitekitekitekite.com, and read her collaborative essay, Making Kin with the Machines, via MIT Media Lab's Journal of Design and Science. Learn more about the rest of our 2021-2022 Fellows here.