REVIEW: New Red Order – Crimes Against Reality

What does it mean to commit a crime against reality? How is this realness defined through actions to capture and liberate it through additive transformations? What can experimental approaches to using technology do to construct alternative realities advocating for Indigenous futures? New Red Order (NRO) explores these issues in their first solo exhibition, Crimes Against Reality, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), which runs from October 1, 2020 until January 10, 2021. Amidst increasingly publicized conversations about race, nationhood, and equity worldwide, and particularly in the United States, New Red Order’s exhibition is showcased to the public during a time of long overdue reflection and gradual unlearning among the most privileged.

Crimes Against Reality exhibition view at MOCAD

The “public secret society,” a spinoff of the Improved Order of Red Men, an all white fraternal organization established in 1834 in response to desires to “play native,” was created in 2016 by core members Zach and Adam Khalil, of the Ojibwe tribe in Sault Ste. Marie, and Jackson Polys, of the Tlingit tribe in Alaska. By identifying as such, it classification exists in relation to anthropologist Michael Taussig’s concept of a “public secret,” developed in his book Defacement (1999), and described in depth in Kenneth Surin’s article, “The Sovereign Individual and Michael Taussig’s Politics of Defacement” as “among other things the creation of social subjects who ‘know what not to know,’ thereby instituting a pervasive ‘epistemic murk’ whose core is an ‘uncanny’ dialectic of concealment and revelation, though the secret revealed in this case is, qua public secret, not really a secret (49)” (206, 2001). NRO works to “confront” and “rechannel,” two words used by Jackson Polys, long standing and overlooked desires for indigeneity that lie at the core of our national identity as a way of clearing the murk.


New Red Order is future oriented and committed to expanding Indigenous agency, as stated within their “who are we” portion of their website,  Approaching the 3 Cs – contract, concealment, and capture – as a methodology to create successful informants, another reference to anthropology, among non-Indigenous allies, this society fosters growth of decolonial perspectives, in physical and virtual realities. The films, Culture Capture: Terminal Addition (2019) and Never Settle (2020), their dark humor filled recruitment video, illuminate the process of building a virtual repository of monuments and museum artifacts, or the stolen collectibles framed as such. These rendered models, generated from differently angled captured photographs, are then mutated via a glitch, or series of phase changes, that transforms them. This glitch, or interruption of normalcy, calls for a reevaluation of hegemonic relations that we refer to as reality. Applying computer technology in investigational ways,  New Red Order succeeds in conducting “a small speculative step toward rectifying the violence committed by museum archives and the settler colonial icons that guard them.” (Never Settle, 2020) “The society of statues is mortal. One day their faces of stone crumble and fall to earth. This botany of death is what we call culture. And this is how we capture it.” (Culture Capture: Terminal Addition, 2019) 


New Red Order, Culture Capture: Terminal Addition, HD video, 2019, Photo: Courtesy of the artists

This day is among us. Now how do we, as settler colonial Americans, foster important discussions about overshadowed cultural issues, or culture as it was defined above, to devise a better and ultimately decolonial society? New Red Order: Crimes Against Reality is on display alongside two additional Detroit-based artists’ solo exhibitions, Conrad Egyir: Terra Nullius and Peter Williams: Black Universe. All three exhibitions close on January 10, 2021 so make sure you visit MOCAD, now open Thursday through Sunday, this weekend or late next week! 


You can find more information about the exhibition here:


Supplemental work of New Red Order can be found here:


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