15 sleeps until the Symposium 🙂 We’re getting very excited to see all 300 of you in Winnipeg! This week, we’re introducing three more of our Symposium guests, Asinnajaq, Jamie Isaac, and Heather Campbell.
Asinnajaq, also known as Isabella Weetaluktuk, is a filmmaker and artist whose work is fuelled by respect for human rights, a desire to explore her Inuit heritage, and a sense of wonder at what she calls “the abundant beauty of the world.” The daughter of filmmaker Jobie Weetaluktuk and university professor Carol Rowan, she was a teenager when she assisted her father on the set of Timuti (2012), a film he made in Inukjuak, the home of their extended family. She later studied cinema at NSCAD University in Halifax, and her short film Upinnaqusittik (Lucky) (2016) premiered at iNuit blanche in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the first ever circumpolar arts festival. Three Thousand (2017), her first film with the National Film Board embeds historic footage of Inuit selected from the NFB’s archive into a 14-minute original animation.
Jaimie Isaac is a Winnipeg-based interdisciplinary curator and artist, member of Sagkeeng in Treaty 1 territory. Isaac holds a degree in Art History and a Masters of Arts from the University of British Columbia. Some recent exhibitions include Vernon Ah Kee: cantchant, Boarder X, We Are On Treaty Land, and Quiyuktchigaewin; Making Good for the Winnipeg Art Gallery, she co-founded of The Ephemerals Collective, collaborated on official denial (trade value in progress), contributed to The Land We Are Now: Writers and Artists Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation book and the Public 54: Indigenous Art: New Media and the Digital magazine and was co-faculty for the Wood Land School at Plug In Institute.
Heather Campbell is originally from Rigolet, Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador) and has a B.F.A from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College School of Fine Art, Memorial University of Newfoundland. She was Curatorial Assistant at the Inuit Art Centre of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for a number of years, and was on the board of directors of Gallery 101 artist run centre. Heather’s artwork was most recently shown in the group exhibition SakKijâjuk at The Rooms in St. John’s, NL and can be found in the collections of the Department of Indigenous Affairs, Carleton University, City of Ottawa, Algonquin College, and various private collections.
19 sleeps until the symposium!! This week we’re introducing three cool humans, Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D., Owisokon Lahache, and Dr. Rilla Khaled. See you soon!
Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. expresses herself through writing, design, and art in games, comics, transmedia, and animation. She is Anishinaabe, Métis, and Irish, living near the Great Lakes as an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University. She designed and created art for Thunderbird Strike (2017), a side-scrolling lightning-searing, talon-tearing attack on oil operations, as well as Honour Water (2016), an Anishinaabe singing game for healing the water.
Owisokon Lahache from the Kahnawake Mohawk First Nations reserve outside of Montreal Quebec. She is grateful to have been honored and entrusted with teaching her community’s teenage children for more than 31 years. She is an artist, a teacher, an Elder, a Grandmother and knowledgeable about Iroquoian history, ceremony, and community life. She has been creating art since she was a child and at 11 years old, she participated in a two-day live drawing event at the Indian Pavilion at Expo ’67 – this event was the beginning of her love of creating art and today she is exploring new pathways dreaming about the future and exploring new medias.
Dr. Rilla Khaled is an Associate Professor at the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Canada. Her research and practice has centered on the design of learning and persuasive games, interactions between games and culture, and practices involved in emerging forms of game design. Two of her current projects include the FRQSC-funded Speculative Play and Reflective Game Design, both of which concern design perspectives that embrace ambiguous subjects, foreground play, empower the perspectives of players and participants, and draw on experimental games and new media art.
Only four weeks until Winnipeg! ~Oh my Creator~ We’re so excited to see you all!
This week we’re introducing Professor Jason Edward Lewis and Karaema Taepa!
Jason Edward Lewis is a digital media poet, artist, and software designer developing research/creation projects that explore computation as a creative and cultural material. Lewis’ work has been featured at Ars Electronica, Elektra, and Urban Screens, among other venues, and has been recognized with the inaugural Robert Coover Award for Best Work of Electronic Literature, a Prix Ars Electronica Honorable Mention, several imagineNATIVE New Media awards and five solo exhibitions. He writes about mobile media, video game design, machinima and experimental pedagogy with Indigenous communities. Lewis is a Trudeau Fellow, and Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary as well as Professor of Computation Arts at Concordia University, Montreal. Born and raised in northern California, he is Cherokee, Hawaiian and Samoan.
Kereama Taepa studied for his Bachelor of Maori Visual Arts at Massey University in Palmerston North, and continued on to gain his Masters degree. Taepa’s involvement in the arts have been broad and varied including bronze technician at the Dibble Arts Foundry and participating in various national Maori arts symposiums, workshops and hui.
Taepa taught art within the Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi Art and Visual Culture Degree for four years until 2008 and has been teaching within Toi Oho Mai’s Bachelor of Creative Technologies since 2009.
He has exhibited his art nationally and internationally, and has works in collections across New Zealand and abroad. He was recently contracted to create sculptures for the Four Plinths Sculpture Project in Wellington, 2016 and a public sculpture in New Plymouth, 2015. His first major commissions saw him design the screens for the new toilets on the Waipa side of the Whakarewarewa forest in 2014 and the shrouds surrounding the Redwoods toilets in Rotorua 2013. He is a Supreme Award winner of the Molly Morpeth 2D Art Award in 2008, and picked up the Manawatu Potter’s Society Award’s open award in 2002.
This week, we introduce Heather Igloliorte and Mandee McDonald!
(Only five weeks until the Symposium by the way!)
Heather Igloliorte (Inuit) is an Assistant Professor of Aboriginal Art History at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, where she holds a University Research Chair in Indigenous Art History and Community Engagement. Igloliorte’s teaching and research interests center on Inuit and other Native North American visual and material culture, circumpolar art studies, performance and media art, the global exhibition of Indigenous arts and culture, and issues of colonization and self-determination. Some of her recent publications related to this work include chapters and catalogue essays in Negotiations in a Vacant Lot: Studying the Visual in Canada; Manifestations: New Native Art Criticism; Curating Difficult Knowledge; and Inuit Modern. Igloliorte has also been an independent curator for twelve years. In 2016 she co-curated the world’s first all circumpolar night festival, iNuit blanche; curated the reinstallation of the permanent collection of Inuit art at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec; and launched the nationally touring exhibition SakKijajuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut.
Mandee McDonald is a founding member of Dene Nahjo, and the former Program Director at Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. She was Camp Director at Dene Nahjo’s 2nd Annual Urban Hide Tanning Camp in Somba K’e in August 2017, and is currently working with Dene Nahjo to develop a series of Indigenous leadership workshops for delivery across the north. She has a B.A. in Political Science (Hon.) with a Minor in Indigenous Studies, and a M.A. in Indigenous Governance from the University of Victoria.
She is Maskîkow (Swampy Cree), originally from from Mántéwisipihk (Churchill, MB), and has resided in Somba K’e (Yellowknife) for the past twenty years.
Hello again! Only six weeks until the Symposium. We hope you’ve started to pack 🙂 This week we’re introducing two guest speakers, Dr. Noelani Arista and Kauwila Mahi! Both also took part in He Au Hou, the fifth Skins Workshop in Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design which took place in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi last summer. One of the outcomes of the workshop was that the participants formed the Nā ʻAnae Mahiki Collective. They will creating more games, hosting game jams, and contributing to intergenerational Indigenous digital media projects.
Dr. Noelani Arista is assistant professor of Hawaiian and U.S. History at University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa. Her research and writing centers on translation and research in Hawaiian language archives focusing on governance, the practice of history and a more recent focus on mele (songs). Above all she finds peace in practice, using the search engines of online digital archives to refine methods of approach to bringing order and organization to Hawaiian systems of knowledge. She is the founder of the Facebook group 365 Days of Aloha which seeks to reconfigure our approaches to a subject that is overused yet little understood and foster healing and a sense of completion back to community.
Her dissertation, “Histories of Unequal Measure: Euro-American Encounters With Hawaiian Governance and Law, 1793-1827,” won the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians for the best dissertation written on an American subject in 2010, and will be published by Penn Press. In 2013-14, Professor Arista was a postdoctoral fellow in English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College.
Kauwila Mahi is a graduate student in Hawaiian Studies at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He is from Kamiloiki, Waimānalo, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu. He attended Pūnana Leo o Kawaiahaʻo and Ke Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Ānuenue, both Hawaiian Language Immersion programs here on Oʻahu. However, he graduated from Lincoln High School in San Jose, California. He has worked for two local brands as a cultural consultant, FITTED HAWAIʻI, and Paradise Soccer Club. Currently, he is focused on finishing his thesis which uses ludology, the experience of a gamer, as it pertains to video games that depict Hawaiʻi.
Only 7 weeks remain until the 3rd Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary! We’re happy to introduce two more of our speakers, Tasha Spillett and Joi T. Arcand.
Tasha Spillett is a Cree and Trinidadian woman, a celebrated educator and an active member of Manitoba’s Indigenous community. She is a ceremony woman and a traditional singer, often offering her voice at community gatherings. In her work as an educator, Tasha makes every effort to infuse her cultural knowledge into her teaching philosophy and practice to support the positive cultural identities of Indigenous students and to strengthen relationships between all communities. Tasha acknowledges her unique opportunity and responsibility to create learning environments that are culturally responsive, and foster belonging for Indigenous students and families.
Tasha has recently completed her Masters degree in Land-Based Indigenous Education through the University of Saskatchewan with stellar academic standing. Presently, Tasha is a PhD candidate; her research seeks to examine the role of land-based education in supporting the wellbeings of Indigenous girls living in urban areas. One of Tasha’s most recent accomplishments was being awarded the title of Miss Congeniality and Best Essay award at the 2014 Miss Indian World in Albuquerque, NM, where she represented the Indigenous peoples of Manitoba, sharing cultural knowledge and raising awareness on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Although Tasha is just at the beginning of her bright career, she looks forward to continuing to grow as an educator and to sharing her knowledge with the intent of building learning environments that nurture and celebrate cultural diversity. Guiding Tasha’s professional and community work are the words of Tatanka Yotanka (Sitting Bull)- “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”
Joi T. Arcand is a photo-based artist from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation currently based in Ottawa, Ontario. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 2005. Along with Felicia Gay, she co-founded the Red Shift Gallery, a contemporary Aboriginal art gallery in Saskatoon in 2006. And in 2012, she founded kimiwan ‘zine, a quarterly Indigenous arts publication. Her work has been exhibited at Gallery 101 in Ottawa, York Quay Gallery in Toronto, PAVED Arts in Saskatoon, grunt gallery in Vancouver, and published in Black Flash Magazine.
Work at the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) falls into four main categories: workshops, residencies, archive, and symposia. Zoning in on the last item on that list, IIF has held two annual symposia on the Future Imaginary to date. The first symposium was held in 2015 during the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Festival in Toronto. The second symposium was held during the O’k’inadas // complicated reconciliations_ artists residency at UBC-Okanagan. This year, the symposium will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. The three-day event has the subtitle “Radically Shifting Our Indigenous Futures Through Art, Scholarship, and Technology.”
The third iteration of the symposium will be the largest yet, with the most expansive range of speakers and the first to be fully open to the public! These events create a platform for multidisciplinary conversations about where Indigenous communities see themselves generations from now – and how to develop strategies to get them there. Artists, community activists, curators, and academics will be coming together from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Norway during November 30 to December 2 for an engaging weekend of Indigenous art and media, scholarship, and cultural innovation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and University of Winnipeg.
Themes for panel discussions include: “Dreaming of Our Future Seven Generations Ahead,” “IndigeFem and the Future,” “Games as Resurgence and Presence,” “Land-based Knowledge and Creative Intervention,” “Technology as (De)Colonial Tools,” and “Arctic Futurisms.” If those topics weren’t exciting enough, the last day of the symposium will also feature a makerspace activity and an Indigenous-developed video game and VR arcade, showcasing the IIF Skins workshops, games from Elizabeth LaPensée, Never Alone, the 2167 VR projects, the Art Alive VR experience from Pinnguaq, and more!
Want to attend? You can register for the 3rd Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary on our Eventbrite page. Questions and concerns can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s a rhetorical question. Of course you have, it’s a given. Perhaps you’ve even googled it, and come across the wikiHow page. Disappointed by the fact that travelling at the speed of light or getting ahold of a wormhole seem just out of reach, maybe you’ve settled for, say, watching a movie about time travel, or reading a book… Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve checked out a blog post like this one, which discusses a workshop aptly titled “On Time Travel” that took place in Toronto this past weekend.
Let this post take you back to two weeks ago, when Skawennati was invited to speak at a participatory workshop as part of “A New Hope” project by the Shattered Moon Alliance. To the dismay of all involved, she was already scheduled to go to Vancouver that weekend for another talk (to everyone’s further dismay, she also contracted laryngitis and wasn’t able to speak for a month!). When Skawennati asked (well, typed out) if I wanted to go present on behalf of her and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF), I could not say yes fast enough.
*Cue wheezing, whirring TARDIS time travel sound effect*
The morning of Saturday, May 27th, I woke up at 6:00 AM to jet off to Toronto from Montreal. I landed safely, got on the subway, and promptly got off the subway when it shut down two stops later (thanks, TTC). I eventually made it to the YYZ Artists’ Outlet, and formally met Christina Battle and Serena Lee, the creators of the Shattered Moon Alliance and “A New Hope” project, a series of workshops born from the impetus of wanting to explore science fiction worldbuilding as women of colour.
The structure of “On Time Travel” was part presentation, part discussion, and part workshop. We were joined by about ten other participants. The group began the day by conceptualizing time travel within popular culture, ranging from Back to the Future, Star Trek: TNG, Doctor Who and Groundhog Day to Arrival and Rick and Morty. We immediately started to identify some of the pervasive patterns underlying these stories. We noted in particular how time travel was almost always modelled as a physical experience facilitated by technology and mechanical engineering, and how it was often supported by a “frontier” logic of access to unexplored places and a linear understanding of time that tended to dichotomize the past and the future in a way that suggests a linear progression of modernity. The tone of this introduction was clear: we were there to dig deeper into these tropes, and to shed light on more nuanced and marginalized perspectives in order to think beyond these constructions.
I was joined by Rayna Slobodian from York University for the presentation segment. She has been published for her research on the ethics of space colonization, specifically on Mars, as well as her ethnographic work on “star parties” and gatherings of amateur astronomers. Her presentation helped us unpack the loaded discourse embedded in the legacy of the Space Race, and recognize exactly whose values and desires are determining these visions of future space travel.
Rayna’s presentation was a tough act to follow, but showcasing Skawennati’s machinimas contributed significantly to the discussion by grounding the theoretical questions that had been brought up. I presented clips from Words Before All Else Part 1, which features Skawennati’s avatar, xox, reciting the first verse of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address; TimeTraveller™, the nine episode journey of Hunter, a Mohawk man from the 22nd century who engages in different points of Indigenous resistance using special virtual reality glasses; and She Falls for Ages, which revisits the Haudenosaunee creation story and re-imagines Sky World.
Skawennati’s engaging storytelling became a catalyst for discussions about the lack of representation when it comes to Indigenous worldviews about time, space, and worldbuilding, driving home the importance of facilitating platforms for Indigenous peoples to respond to the perpetuation of colonial and assimilatory ideals within popular sci-fi. We started by unpacking linear assumptions about time by drawing from Loretta Todd’s citation of Leroy Little Bear, who offers an image of time as a river that does not flow, but one in which we can travel freely up and downstream. We also thought about why the Western worldview of time is so linear when the clocks that are predominately used are round… Even digital clocks represent a relatively cyclical pattern of time, as they run through the same numbers each day.
We then discussed literature like Jason Lewis’ “Terra Nullius, Terra Incognito” to think about the proposal of indiscriminate access to cyberspace, and touched on Gerald Vizenor’s ideas about Indigenous survivance, or “thrivance” as Skawennati had suggested, as pathways to recognizing Indigenous resilience. We acknowledged the irony in the fact that Settlers would have never survived in the first place – would never have had a future – without Indigenous knowledge. With everything that has happened since, there was a collective agreement in the group that there needs to be more support for work like that coming out of IIF and AbTeC, work that makes space for Indigenous “wants” instead of solely focusing on “needs” when it comes to ideals for the future. It is safe to say that Skawennati, IIF and AbTeC amassed a roomful of new fans that day.
In the workshop portion of the event, the group continued into a deeper “model making” discussion about time travel as informed by the presentations. The conversation, as you can imagine, ranged from the practical to the speculative, with participants bringing in anecdotes and plenty of other obscure references to various fandoms. We talked at length about understanding time travel beyond simple physical displacement, and into mental, and even spiritual forms of travel. We talked about the ability of one’s senses to allow us to travel back in time, through distinct sights, smells, sounds, tastes, or touches. We discussed sleep as time travel, music as time travel, and time travel in the form of any tool we use to escape “reality,” including emerging virtual reality technology. We talked about memory and time travel, both at an individual level, and at the collective level through things like intergenerational storytelling or institutions like religion. We talked, too, about what our attempts to separate religion and science mean when so many of the dominant depictions of time travel draw from or are influenced by classic religious themes and assumptions about time and space. We talked about anti-aging creams and immortality, and the possibility of uploading our consciousness into computers. We talked about how there can still be so much disconnection in an increasingly technologically connected world, and what it means for us to envision the future and the logistics of time travel as so technologically charged when the majority of the human population consumes technology instead of understanding and creating it. We considered what this means for access, equity, and justice for different subsets of our society.
As you can see, the workshop truly succeeded in gathering a group of predominantly non-male, non-white sci-fi enthusiasts who were eager to discuss the philosophical underpinnings of time travel. The workshop was a mental workout, but an exercise with very real ethical and political significance. It is vitally important to diversify the perspectives and encourage interdisciplinary approaches when it comes to time travel. Science-fiction, while technically stories that we tell about our future, also discloses a lot about our past and present. Recognizing the interconnectedness of time – and challenging its linear conceptualizations – will be key to creating a future that draws from the wisdom of the past in order to create adaptive cycles instead of the repetition of mistakes. Skawennati’s work, and the work of IIF and AbTeC, was incredibly relevant and important for “On Time Travel,” and I am so honoured to have been given the opportunity to ensure that they were heard.
AbTeC/Obx Labs is the proud owner of an HTC VIVE Virtual Reality system! We are currently diving in and researching what type of original environments can be created and experienced within this innovative, new technology. AbTeC co-director Jason Edward Lewis, whose practice incorporates poetry and writing, has put together a small research group of six undergraduate students to imagine text in an immersive environment and produce a few experimental prototypes. Lab Coordinator Lianne Maritzer has been working closely with our lead programmer Julian Glass-Pilon to implement her conceptual ideas for texts in virtual reality and test the VIVE’s limits. Lianne’s piece will be an immersive experience in a world constructed by a poem.
When players enter the game, they are standing in an all black room. The only items visible are the two VIVE controllers which are each holding a white paintball. Players can throw these paintballs to illuminate the world by holding the trigger, moving their arm in a throwing motion, and releasing the trigger to release the paintball. When the paintball hits an object or text, it splatters and the splatter reveals the object’s colour. For example, if the paint splatters on a tree trunk, the player now see brown; if it splatters on the leaves, she sees green. If it hits multiple objects, each object touching the splatter will illuminate. If it hits text, the words start to become revealed. As players walk through the environment, short segments of the poem appear, which not only combine to make up a full poem but describe the changing environment around them.
At the moment, the game is just a prototype. There are only two segments of the poem (highlighted below) included and the game is static, meaning that the player cannot move beyond the box space. When the players throw the paintball, it colors the entire object rather than a paint splatter. This was the simplest way to get the player to understand what they are doing right away and how the paintballs work.
Poem: Walk through the Forest
A bird’s flight
The air so fresh and sweet
Tree after tree you’re passing
Stones crunch beneath your feet
Bushes wherever you go
Above you the leaves rustle sublime
Your gaze is jumping to and fro
Longing to see ev’rything at the same time
In the trees the bird’s song sounds
What a melody so nice!
The lynx stalks its prey in silence
The shy deer is watching you
Squirrels chatter, jumping around
on paths impossible to get through
in the trees, not on the ground
Needles cover the forest’s floor
Out oft he green maze with its magic smell
step back through the door
to where the humans dwell
This piece was inspired by coloring books and digital paint-by-numbers sets as well as the famous Tilt Brush VR game by Google and the video game The Unfinished Swan.
AbTeC is excited to continue this line of text-based, VR research and exploring new dimensions of artistic possibility.
On February 10th, 2017, Jolene Rickard, P.h.D. came to Concordia University to speak as part of the Future Imaginary Lectures.
Jolene is a visual historian, artist and curator interested in the issues of Indigeneity within a global context. She is from the Tuscarora Nation (Haudenosaunee), is the director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program and Associate Professor in the History of Art and Art Departments at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. She and Skawennati have known each other since 1999, when Jolene contributed an essay for CyberPowWow 2.
The evening started off with warm welcomes from Skawennati, Martha Langford representing the Speaking of Photography series, Heather Igloliorte and an introduction from Jason Edward Lewis who agreed with Jolene’s self-identification as someone who is “always looking for the window left unlatched.”
The lecture touched on various connected topics, such as the relationship between memory and photography, beadwork, cosmology, the concepts of resurgence and sovereignty and the creation story.
Photographs can share information and keep history. The importance of beadwork and its economic, political and cultural significance to the Haudenosaunee people could be seen in the images Jolene showed. The photo of Seneca woman Caroline Parker in her intricately beaded outfit and Jolene’s own works in exhibitions like Across Borders: Beadwork in Iroquois Life were excellent examples. Photographs are also important because communities can collect them if they cannot get access to the physical items they represent.
Jolene noted that she is very interested in when specific articles appear in Indigenous expression. Why do certain artists focus on certain objects and topics at certain times? For example she spoke about the need to create work about the recovery peace after a violent period in time. She considered the concept of resurgence emerging in Indigenous intellectual landscape as a strategy for empowerment and action. The desire to represent ceremony in space and in a future context was also explored.
She mentioned that at one point she was discouraged from going back and forth between making, critiquing, writing, thinking and doing but now more people understand that “we’re idea makers and we find the best way to locate the idea.” Originally, knowledge and stories were shared orally until new tools were discovered. Over time, various alternative forms of expression have been used; such as, carving, beadwork, photography and more.
This transformation continues happening as projects like Skawennati’s machinimas showcase stories in a form that could not have been imagined generations ago. Jolene spoke about Skawennati’s new machinima She Falls for Ages, saying that it generates a new way to understand the Haudenosaunee creation story in current times. In her opinion, it also celebrates women’s bodies and claims the arrival of Indigenous people to Turtle Island as an act of empowerment.
The Q&A session after her lecture brought up some interesting discussion. She clarified that she isn’t suggesting that the present be ignored, but wondered instead how much information can be shared and how the creative process can help to open new possibilities.
There was a lot of great imagery and topics explored in-depth during this talk. Jolene is a charismatic speaker and best explains her work and the pieces she has chosen to present.
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