Tomorrow People by Skawennati

Kwe kwe sewakwekon!

On Saturday, February 6th, I was thrilled to open a solo exhibition of my recent work, called Tomorrow People. After about a year of research and production, it was wonderful to see all the pieces installed in one of the most beloved artist-run centres in Montreal, Galerie OBORO. It was also very fun to get all dolled up for the vernissage, which was very well attended. There was even a reporter from APTN who followed me around with his camera half the evening! I felt like a star.

The evening was special also because it launched one year of all-Indigenous programming at OBORO. The decision to do this was the gallery’s response to the celebrations of 375 years of Montreal and 150 of Canada. It is a gesture of peace, recognizing that these numbers also represent colonization, something not so celebration-worthy for Indigenous people.

Esteemed activist and artist, Ellen Gabriel, graciously agreed to say a few words about the history of Indigenous-colonist relationships in Montreal, or Tiohtiake, as it is known in Kanienke’ha, the Mohawk language. She is a born orator and an indefatigable fighter. I am proud to call her my friend and colleague.

The exhibition was generously sponsored by the society for the celebrations of the 375th anniversary of Montreal, and its General Manager, Alain Gignac also said a few words. We shared a really nice moment during the evening when he described to me how he saw the work; he really got it!

The exhibition includes a brand new machimima, entitled She Falls For Ages, a sci-fi retelling of the Haudenosaunee creation story. 20 minutes long, it is playing on a loop in the video viewing room entered through a black curtain.

A set of production stills, taken while we rehearsed or filmed the machinima, accompany the movie. I call them “machinimagraphs”; this is a new word I believe I made up to describe a picture taken in a virtual environment. They’re different from screen shots because they are taken by an in-world camera that offers a very high resolution.

Also in the exhibition are several works featuring my Second Life avatar, xox. She Is Dancing With Herself and Dancing With Myself were made in 2015. These two works led me to create Generations of Play, a triptych that features a photograph of a corn husk doll, a photograph of a Barbie doll, and a machinimagraph of my avatar, all wearing my avatar’s costume. Birth of An Avatar (Homage to Mariko Mori) also features xox, in a pose and environment similar to Mariko Mori’s awesome image, Birth of a Star.

Finally, I have to give a shout out to the AbTeC team. Many thanks to Nancy Elizabeth Townsend, our multi-talented Associate Producer, for her wonderful dedication, amazing efficiency, and brilliant insights; and none of it would be possible without the good mind of Jason Edward Lewis. Nia:wen!

Mini-Update: Future Imaginary Lecture Series

She:kon! The weather has taken a dive into chilling temperatures here in Montreal as November approaches.

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The Future Imaginary Lecture Series is a set of public talks sharing views on the future of Indigenous people and worldwide communities from Indigenous artists, activists, scholars and technologists.

The series began recently on October 14th with Kim Tallbear’s lecture: Disrupting Settlement, Sex, and Nature an Indigenous Logic of Rationality.

One of Concordia University’s newspapers, The Link, covered the event and the article can be seen HERE.

Allen Turner is coming up next in the series on November 11, 2016 with his lecture Designing Alternative Indigenous Timelines Using Role-Playing Games.

Allen teaches game design at the Center for Digital Media at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. He is currently focusing on game-like learning, designing for the tabletop, and exploring interactive fiction. He will be bringing his recently published Ehdrigohr: The Roleplaying Game for those interested in trying it out.

 

 

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Skins Machinima Workshop – Native Youth Program (NYP)

  • Location: Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver BC
  • Date: August 8th – 12th, 2016
  • Duration: 4.5 days
  • Instructors: Skawennati, Darian Jacobs, Erica Perreault

Overview: The Initiative for Indigenous Futures, in partnership with the Contemporary Art Gallery, held a Skins Machinima Workshop for the 2016 Native Youth Program in August. Skawennati and Research Assistants Erica Perreault and Darian Jacobs traveled to Vancouver to teach and aide six Native youth to create their own machinima depicting stories from their cultures.

Tho’wxeya. 2016.

by Dusty Carpenter, Calvin Charlie-Dawson, Jennifer Pahl

The Madam. 2016.

by Latisha Wadhams, Karoleena Medina, Calvin Charlie-Dawson


She:kon! It has been a warm week here in Montreal as the leaves change for fall.

The Native Youth Program (NYP) is a work-study program run in the summer to provide cultural knowledge and work experience for six urban Aboriginal youth (ages 15-16) enrolled in secondary school.

Vancouver machinima workshop group 2016

Everyone met for the first time at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology on Monday August 8, 2016. After a shared lunch the youth gave a tour of the museum, showing art pieces that they had chosen and held meaning to each of them. The tour offered a good look into the interests and personalities of each person.

Skawennati introduced IIF and Skins and explained the main goals for the week. The day ended with some homework as the youth were asked to bring in stories to get started with on day 1 of the workshop.

The rest of the week was a flurry of activity at Emily Carr University of Art + Design as the machinima were created. The youth decided to split into two teams to work, each focusing on a traditional story that had been brought in. One, called Th’owxeya, is a story about a monster who steals children; the other, called The Madam (pronounced “moddem”), told how a boy named Kumalagalis gained super powers. Often, a highlight of the learning phase is when people are shown how to customize their avatars and this workshop was no exception as beauties and monsters alike were created.

Participants were taught the basics of using Second Life, then made storyboards, jumped into pre-production, production and finally one team even made it to editing their machinima. The Native Youth Program inserted a pleasant addition to our usual daily agenda with a morning circle before the start of each day. The purpose of the circle was to share how the previous evening went, how each person was feeling and their hopes and expectations for the day.

The youth showed their enthusiasm and dedication as they chose to stay past the end time to try and wrap filming and editing for their machinima. The Kumalagalis machinima was completed and shown and the Th’owxeya team finished their filming.

It was a non-stop week and everyone’s hard work paid off. You can watch the finished machinima above!

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“Disrupting Settlement, Sex, and Nature,” Kim Tallbear for the Future Imaginary Lecture Series

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Kim Tallbear’s rigorous and meticulous approach defies research trends and epistemological categorization. She may not identify with the language of the Indigenous future, but her work greatly lends to the analysis of one. Tallbear’s experience in the field of genomics has been the foundation of her feminist and Indigenous interventions into the sciences in order to resist objectifying colonial logics within its disciplines. Tallbear calls for an integration of Indigenous peoples within the sciences, and science within Indigenous communities, to produce self-determined subjects and collaborators, rather than objects. Tallbear often speaks to histories of colonial exploitation within the sciences, the treatment of Indigenous bodies as biological resources, raw materials, and locations of experiment. Science has been, and continues to be, central to the colonial project. As such, Indigenous researchers and communities must endeavour to influence science. Hearing Tallbear speak to these harrowing realities is almost always a reminder that history repeats itself; that empowering Indigenous communities within the sciences is essential to our resistance as peoples.  

While not explicitly within the field of genetic science, some of her most engaging theory has been done in this space, wherein she imagines ways of defining cellular life, animacy, and relationality outside the constructs of Western thought. Kim Tallbear’s is a theory that has thought through queer inhumanisms, imaging ourselves away from the bounds of human and non-human binaries, pointing to relationship-based futures. She has questioned the limits of settler love, asserting, “I live and work in pursuit of new ways of loving, lusting, and losing amidst the ruins and survivals together of my ancestors’ ways of relating (The Critical Polyamorist),” borrowing from Eben S. Kirksey to describe our relationships, our bodies, and our resurgence as sites of biocultural hope. Tallbear’s work articulates both new and remembered ways of relating meant to emancipate us into this future imaginary of care, a future that centres Indigenous ways of relating, kinship, and love ways as embodied peoplehood. Kim Tallbear’s upcoming lecture for the Future Imaginary Lecture Series at Concordia University will speak to the current academic buzzword “anthropocene,” an era marked by the human consumption of human and non-human kin. Tallbear will apply these new ways of relating she speaks so eloquently of throughout her work to this space, warning us that the alternative is the demise of all our relations. 

 

Text by Lindsay Nixon

Machinima Workshop at Eastern Bloc

She:kon! Day two of the Machinima Workshop had everyone diving into pre-production.

Participants showed YouTube clips of scenes they would like to use as reference for their machinimas. Abstract concepts, tattoo art and Star Trek came into the mix as inspiration. Some more tools were given for participants to use. Extra avatars were assigned to projects to use for acting, along with extra team mates. 3D mice were handed out as an option for smoother camera work.

How many actors would be needed? How many outfits and props? What will be needed for the environment and set? Armed with a budget and a plan the shopping in Second Life’s marketplace began. The delicate art of shopping user-created content was explored as people wondered what assets could be shared and changed. Even animations were bought from the marketplace.

Walking through the sandbox on AbTeC island shows the three very different sets coming together. A bright and fantastic nature scene grows as a small robot and floating jellyfish build the scene. A few steps away will bring you to the tattoo artist’s wall with four chairs lined up in a row. The final stop is a glowing door leading into a Star Trek inspired sci-fi set.

 

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One of the bright, fantastic sets by annajeyler and GOATSMOKEPIPE.
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A recreation of performance art by ChristelleProulx.
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Seven-of-Nine and Janeway on Voyager by lilimiknius.

Large portions of the day were spent working, French and English voices mixed with the gentle tapping and clicking of keyboard and mice. Sitting together and working towards the same goal in a creative environment kept everyone focused and having fun.

Everyone is excited to see what will be done as the third day comes, check back to see the final results!

Mediating Infrastructure by Kade Twist of Postcommodity, IIF Artists-in-Residence

MONTREAL, QUE.: JULY 3, 2015-- Two cars jump lanes as they line up to board the south bound Mercier Bridge in Montreal on Friday July 3, 2015. Construction has reduced the bridge to one lane in each direction causing long delays. (Allen McInnis / MONTREAL GAZETTE)

The bridge between Kahnawake and Montreal looks like it’s on the verge of collapsing. And from what I’ve heard, this has been the case for years. Unfortunately, the bridge is one of thousands of pieces of Canada’s infrastructure in desperate need of comprehensive repair. And it appears that this will remain the case until a crisis point is reached, which is entirely consistent with the traditions of Western history.

At first glance, you can’t help but view the bridge as a metaphor for the status of Aboriginal and settler relationships, or Aboriginal and federal government relationships. But there’s obviously way more to this bridge than that.

The physical act of driving back and forth across the bridge inspires an inevitable meditation on complexity. And if you think about all the Mohawk leaders, builders, thinkers, artists and writers who have emerged from Kahnawake over the past 100 years — and continue to emerge — you begin to wonder if there is something more powerful to that bridge than metaphor. There’s something to this idea of complexity. Maybe it’s some sort of metaphysical portal between past, present and future that enables the people to remain self-determined Kahnawake, while accessing the tools, infrastructure and critical mass of Montreal?

Maybe there is something happening here very powerful that is beyond the historical narrative of the colonial feedback loop? Maybe the state of this bridge’s disrepair is part of a system of smoke and mirrors to distract the Francophones and Anglophones from the power it contains. From a Cherokee perspective, that of a distant relative, the more I think about it, the more I see the story of Hunter and Buzzard finally being hacked. Who knows?

But if I had to design a “reserve” for the future, I would include a metaphysical bridge just like this one. And maybe it would always be on the verge of collapsing, but it would continue to empower self-determination in ways that future transportation and communications technology will likely never have the capacity to facilitate.

 

Text by Postcommodity

Postcommodity Residency: Day 2

She:kon! Day two of the residency was exciting as Postcommodity and the IIF team brainstormed and explored possibilities for the Virtual Reality project.

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Travis Mercredi and Julian Glass-Pilon (standing) set up Cristobal, Ravel and Kade with Virtual Reality gear.

After the first day’s work the IIF team brought forward some ideas and suggestions. One suggestion was to consider how to make the entire experience work, for the people with the headset on and those around them. Postcommodity came with some important questions, wondering what were good examples of VR experiences and what some of the clichés are to avoid. They were shown more VR games and films to get a better feel on the technology, then the group discussed the pros and cons of the various headsets. Postcommodity had both fantastic and bland experiences with the VR headsets that jumpstarted even more ideas!

Postcommodity wrapped up the day by sharing that they had a much better idea of the technology and had fresh ideas bouncing around their heads. It was a productive day of learning for everyone. Day three is the halfway point already and will have forward movement as prototypes start being created!

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Jason Lewis and Darian Jacobs smile for the camera as the production crew get ready to start our day.
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Kade, Cristobal and Raven listen to Étienne Legault describing his sketch. Christina Biron listens.
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Cristobal and Kade, geared up and ready for anything.

Check back for more updates on this exciting week.

IFF’s First Residency: Postcommodity Artist Collective

Screen Shot-postcommodity

She:kon and Happy New Year! We are hitting the ground running after the holiday break with a week-long artist residency.

On January 7 we will begin our first Artist Residency. We are very excited to welcome internationally respected artist collective Postcommodity. With our partner, the imagineNative Film and Media Festival, we have invited Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist to create a Virtual Reality artwork that imagines our world 150 years in the future. At Obx Labs—also known as AbTeC headquarters—our team of Computation Arts students have been sharpening their skills to take on this exciting new challenge. We have also been gearing up! We’ve ordered, received and tested several VR headsets, including the Oculus Rift and the Google cardboard. And the necessary software is downloaded.

As part of their visit, Postcommodity will give a free public talk on Friday, January 8 at 7 pm. Please join us. There will be light refreshments.

ARTIST TALK

Friday, January 8

7:00 PM

EV11.705 – Resource Room (11th floor)

1515 St-Catherine Street West (corner Guy)

Realizing “Realizing the Virtual: A TimeTraveller™ Experience” at the Dunlop in Regina

She:kon Sewakwekon, Greetings All,

On November 27, IIF’s Partnership Coordinator, Skawennati, attended the opening of a solo exhibition of her work at the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, called “Realizing the Virtual: A TimeTraveller™ Experience.” The gallery is presenting the machinima in a unique way: they have built recreations of three of the movie’s virtual sets in which people can sit and watch the episodes: Hunter’s storage locker apartment, Karahkwenhawi’s bedroom, and their shared penthouse living room!

k-bedroomVirtual  Karahkwenhawi's Bedroom-Real

The idea came about when Dunlop curator Jennifer Matotek told Skawennati that she would love to find a more interesting way to show the episode than in a black box or a white cube, and asked if Skawennati had any ideas for Indigenizing the space. Skawennati was hesitant at first. “I like the black box and the white cube!” she said. And she wasn’t sure what Matotek really meant by “Indigenizing the space”. After some thought however, Skawennati realized that “Indigenizing the space” is exactly what she’s been doing throughout her practice. Starting with her CyberPowWow project in 1997, she has been creating virtual places that are Aboriginally determined, and recognizable by Indigenous people as safe spaces to think, dream, create, interrogate and to be who we are and whoever we want to be.

Skawennati had also been dreaming of showing the nine episodes of TimeTraveller™ within Second Life, the virtual world in which she shot them, by inviting people (via their avatars) to enter the sets, many of which include screens, like the three sets featured in the exhibition.

From there it was a short leap to the idea of recreating the sets in real life. Next began the work of figuring out just how to do that. Skawennati chose the three sets she thought would be the most reproducible in real life. Her Research/Production Assistant, Erica Perrault, then took pictures of each of them and made a list of every item in each set. Some items, such as Hunter’s jetpack, were clearly going to be a challenge. Others, like the Blade Runner movie poster, seemed easy. (There were in for a few surprises on that front!) The list also had 3 columns: items to borrow, items to buy, and items to make. Matotek foresaw early on that they would need someone in Regina to help, and promptly created an internship for a student from the University of Regina. Danielle Corson was soon hired as Studio Assistant. Her job was to source items around Regina –to basically check as many things off the list as possible. She ended up doing so much more than sourcing, including making the curtains for Karahkwenhawi’s bedroom, a pair of tomahawks, and a fantastic replica of an ancient Aztec weapon! We were also lucky to have a great team at the Dunlop which included the preparator, Glenn Hubich, who helped enormously by making several large items that we thought we’d easily find but that were, in fact, unfindable. These included Karahkwenhawi’s desk, headboard, and dresser (which was made by attaching six pieces of wood to a large plinth and painting it brown –looked terrific!). Danielle was able to find excellent toy replicas of most of the items on the two weapons walls, but a couple were so expensive we looked into alternatives. One of these was the Hans Solo gun, for which we found 3D files that Eric Hill, also part of the Dunlop staff, was able to have printed with the Regina Public Libraries’ 3D printer!

While all this was going on in Regina, here in Montreal, Skawennati and (mostly) Erica were making the jetpack. It took several prototypes and a couple of missed deadlines, but the final product glowed with soft blue LED lights, just like the virtual one. They also searched the entire Internet for Hunter’s chair, a modern take on the classic design known as the egg chair. Finally, Skawennati realized she’d have to find someone who could make it, and through coincidence and serendipity, she found Oliver Philbin-Briscoe, a student at Concordia. Skawennati had to bring all her sewing skills to bear to design and construct the curvy upholstery. Also created on the Montreal side were the giant dreamcatcher that hangs above Karahkwenhawi’s bed, and the traditional Iroquois headdress, called a kustowah, that sits on her wardrobe. These were both made by Skawennati’s cousin, artist Kathleen Dearhouse.

  Jetpack in Second Life  Real Jetpack

Quite a few other people helped along the way, including Blair Fornwald, Margaret Bessai, and Jason Hipfner from the Dunlop –thank you for your care and good minds. A special nia:wen to Scott Benesiinaabandan for the use of his image, blood memory no.2. My biggest thanks goes to Jennifer for having the vision to make this virtuality a reality! Nia:wen’kow:a!

The final outcome is a success. The rooms, even with their slight accommodations for real life, are perfectly recognizable as the TimeTraveller™ sets. An unexpected bonus is an uncanny feeling when one is in each room. It feels like the characters were just recently there. Where did they go? Into the cyberspace? There is a feeling of fiction coming to life, or vice versa; a sense of the back-and-forth of the real becoming virtual and then back again. A simulacra of the simulacra! If you are in Regina, go and experience it for yourself.

 

Installation component commissioned by Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina Public Library, 2015

 

First Partnership Meeting & Symposium on the Future Imaginary

Time is flying by too fast to report all that is happening! It’s already been close to two months since the imagineNative Film and Media Festival, where we had our first Partnership meeting and, right afterwards, our first Symposium on the Future Imaginary.

On the morning of Friday October 16th, eighteen people attended the Partnership meeting, where we talked about the nuts and bolts of being partners: how we will make decisions, how we will spread resources, how milestones need to be reported. Partner representatives signed up for four sub-committees, one each for Workshops, Residencies, Symposium and the Indigenous New Media Archive.

We invited about 30 guests to the Symposium on the Future Imaginary, but actually a few extra attendees showed up and the room was full. Elisabeth LaPensée, Julie Nagam, Stephen Foster eloquently explained their research.  It ended with a riveting presentation by Jolene Rickard.  These presentations were video recorded and may be consulted by interested researchers.

Many thanks to Mikhel Proulx, Erica Perreault and Kaia’tanoron Bush for their support in making these events happen!