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Walker Reader

Jimmie Durham

Jimmie Durham was born in Washington, Arkansas, in 1940. In 1968 he enrolled at L’École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, where he worked primarily in performance and sculpture. With three other artists, he formed the Draga group, which explored ways to integrate art into public life. He also formed an organization with indigenous friends from South American called Incomindios, which attempted to coordinate and encourage support for the struggle of Indians of the Americas. A lifelong activist, in 1973 he returned to the United States to participate in the occupation at Wounded Knee, in South Dakota, and became a full-time organizer for the American Indian Movement (AIM); he would become a member of their Central Council in 1975. That same year he became the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) in New York City and was made the representative of American Indians to the United Nations, the first minority group to have official representation within the organization. From 1975 to 1980, he was the coeditor of the IIT's Treaty Council News and edited the second edition of the Chronicles of American Indian Protest in 1976, published by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. In 1980 he quit AIM and returned to a focus on art making. Jimmie Durham was born in Washington, Arkansas, in 1940. In 1968 he enrolled at L’École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, where he worked primarily in performance and sculpture. With three other artists, he formed the Draga group, which explored ways to integrate art into public life. He also formed an organization with indigenous friends from South American called Incomindios, which attempted to coordinate and encourage support for the struggle of Indians of the Americas. A lifelong activist, in 1973 he returned to the United States to participate in the occupation at Wounded Knee, in South Dakota, and became a full-time organizer for the American Indian Movement (AIM); he would become a member of their Central Council in 1975. That same year he became the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) in New York City and was made the representative of American Indians to the United Nations, the first minority group to have official representation within the organization. From 1975 to 1980, he was the coeditor of the IIT's Treaty Council News and edited the second edition of the Chronicles of American Indian Protest in 1976, published by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. In 1980 he quit AIM and returned to a focus on art making. An essayist and poet, Durham has published many texts in magazines such as Artforum, Art Journal, and Third Text. His book of poems, Columbus Day, was published in 1983 by West End Press, Minneapolis. His collected essays, A Certain Lack of Coherence, was published in 1993 by Kala Press. In 2013 Jimmie Durham: Waiting to be Interrupted, Selected Writings 1993–2012 was published by Mousse Publishing and MuHKA, and his book of poetry Poems That Do Not Go Together was published by Edition Hansjörg Maye.

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