‘AbTeC Electronica’

 

AbTeC invades the continent with a strong showing at the Ars Electronica Festival!

You’ll have a number of opportunities to see the work of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) affiliates and to learn more about the community we are proud to foster.

First, we are delighted to have received an Honourable Mention in the Digital Communities category of the Prix Ars Electronica 2018! By creating links between Indigenous people, communities and organizations; bringing together Indigenous storytelling and cultural knowledge with new media; and supporting dialogues on Indigeneity, technology, and the future, we will help to build creative and caring communities. We thank the Prix Ars Electronica for this recognition.

On this note, we give our happiest congratulations to Undergraduate Research Assistant Lucas LaRochelle, whose community-generated counter-mapping project, Queering the Map, also received an Honourable Mention in the Digital Communities category. Queering The Map creates a map-based archive in which users can bear witness to “queer moments, memories and histories in relation to physical space”.

KITE (aka Suzanne Kite) is a Graduate Research Assistant, who is pursuing an Individualized PhD at Concordia. As part of the Hexagram Network’s Campus Ars Electronica group show, “Taking Care”, Suzanne will give three performances of her iterative, multimedia art work, Listener.  Developed from our Skins Seventh Generation Character Design Workshops, KITE thinks through embodied connection to technology and the land and Lakota ways of knowing.

Finally, Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Bourgault collaborated with artist and Design and Computation Arts Masters student Augustina Isidori to create SOLA, which explores the tensions in walking at night in the context gender-based violence.  Sam collaborated as the project’s Unity Developer.

 

 

 

 

Click on the above links to find our more about AbTeC’s presence
at Ars Electronica 2018!

Post-production: playtesting and iteration

Here are some pictures from the post-production phase of He Au Hou 2 / Skins 6.0.

Right now, workshop participants and our team of Research Assistants are playtesting and iterating ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’, the game made by Ka Lei Milikaʻa, during our workshop at Hālau ‘Īnana in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

This means we are looking for and correcting glitches and bugs; fine-tuning animations and transitions; putting the final touches on visual and written content; and ensuring that the final game meets up with the vision of Ka Lei Milikaʻa, this year’s He Au Hou 2 cohort.

Check back for more news on the final version of the game in a few weeks!

Much love!

The Skins Crew

The menu page of ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’. The game’s audio is in ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi, but you can choose to view the subtitles in English as well!
‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’ teaches players about the land, the future, and culture.
Your Tūtū (grandmother) explains the stakes.
The game is centred on moʻolelo, or chanting, and pays respect to Kānaka maoli writing and literature.
Through three levels and mini-games, the player uses cultural knowledge to heal the land.
We’ll be back soon with a completed version of ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā mamua, i ka wā mahope’!

 

 

AbTeC/IIF Check In

Things are back in full swing at AbTeC! After a bustling fall semester, we wanted to take a moment to tell you about our plans for the next few months.

We have a new lab coordinator! Sara England, who managed AbTeC’s recent retrospective, Owerà:ke Non Aié:nahne / Filling in the Blank Spaces, is now our Lab Coordinator! She replaces Lianne Maritzer, who has left Montreal to pursue further studies in animation and 3D modelling. In addition to arranging travel, scanning documents, and making sure the lab runs smoothly, Sara will also work with Jason, Skawennati, and Graduate Research Assistant Mikhel Proulx to develop an archive of AbTeC’s outputs.

Graduate Research Assistants Suzanne Kite and Maize Longboat are busy bees! They recently spoke at Travelling Against the Current: Reflections on Indigenous Experiences in Academia. The second panel in a series of three, the January 18th event focused on graduate students at Concordia University. Suzanne’s latest project, Listener, “is a modular performance artwork … [that] engages with Lakota epistemologies through computational media, Machine Learning algorithms, and narrative.” You can see it in Ottawa in March and at Concordia University in April. As for Maize, he is helping to plan and co-facilitate two Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design with Skawennati and Nancy.

The first workshop, which will take place in Maple Ridge in Stó:lō territory, is an “Intro to Second Life” workshop that will be given to a group of Indigenous youth during the Good Heart, Good Mind Conference. The second, which takes place in Regina on Treaty 4 territory, is a five-day machinima workshop in which Indigenous high school students will create their own “machine cinema” project from start to finish. Skawennati, Maize, and Nancy will deliver this version.

Skawennati, AbTeC Co-Director and IIF Partnership Coordinator, is leading the preparation and delivery of the two Skins workshops. In early February, she will visit Tiger Strikes Asteroid, an artist-run space in New York City to talk about her machinima series, TimeTraveller™. Come May, she will give a keynote speech at the 2018 Association of Art Museum Curators Annual Conference and Meeting!

Jason Edward Lewis, AbTeC Co-Director and Concordia University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary, will speak as part of First Voices Week on Monday, January 29; he will describe IIF’s recent projects and take questions from attendees. He’s also teaching a new graduate-level course; entitled The Future Imaginary, it fosters the creation of shared language to theorize about Indigenous futures. Students contribute to advanced discussions and will create projects that reflect their personal definitions and understandings of the future.

Stay tuned for Jason’s appearance at the Travelling Against the Current panel series in late March; and the 2018 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where he will be joined by Drs. Noelani Arista, Rilla Khaled, Pippin Barr, and AbTeC Producer Nancy Townsend.

Through the Initiative for Indigenous Futures, we were very fortunate to have hosted so many outstanding thinkers and artists last semester, including Dr. June Scudeler (Métis) of Simon Fraser University; Kanaka Maoli scholars Dr. Noelani Arista and Kauwila Mahi from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; Cherokee sound artist Elisa Harkins and a performance of Graduate Research Assistant Suzanne Kite’s Everything I Say Is True. We’re pleased to announce that Kristina Baudemann, who also visited us last November, will return as an IIF Visiting Scholar. Additionally, we are preparing to welcome several more residents this year. More on this soon…

In February, we’re excited to host students from the OCAD University Indigenous Visual Culture program who are doing a field trip to Montreal during their reading week. Fifteen students will visit our studio, where we will tell them about AbTeC/IIF and show them some of the projects that we’ve produced, including a machinima demo! We look forward to the connections that will be created between these individuals as well as the programmes of these two institutions.

Later on that month, to coincide with the Concordia Faculty of Fine Arts Portfolio Review Day, AbTeC will host an open studio for potential students. Participating in this way allows to possibly reach a wide audience of students with information about AbTeC and to identify students who may wish to work with AbTeC in some capacity.

Finally, AbTeC projects continue to be exhibited. Two games from AbTeC’s Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design are part of INTERPLAY: The History of Electronic Entertainment. Presented at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener, Ontario and including the Milieux Institute’s Technoculture, Art and Games Research Centre (TAG), this second wave of the exhibition investigates how video games are used by researchers and universities. Be sure to check out AbTeC’s games, Ienién:te and the Peacemaker’s Wampum (Skins 4.0) and He Au Hou (Skins 5.0)!

2167 will continue to tour in 2018! The project brings together five artists: IIF Artist-in-residence Scott Benesiinaabandan, the Postcommodity collective, who collaborated with AbTeC/IIF to create their work, as well as Kent Monkman and Danis Goulet.

Thanks for catching up with us. We hope the rest of the winter treats you well!

Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary: Heather Igloliorte and Mandee McDonald

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.   

3rd Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary: Jolene Rickard and Scott Benesiinaabandan!

Hello everyone! As you may know, the Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary is taking place in Winnipeg from November 29 to December 2. We’re so excited for the connections, sharing, and learning that we will share with the artists, scholars, technologists and community in attendance. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing our speakers.

This week, we’re introducing Jolene Rickard and Scott Benesiinaabandan.

Jolene Rickard, Ph.D. is a visual historian, artist and curator interested in Indigeneity within a global context. Her projects include IIF, Initiative for Indigenous Futures (Concordia University) 2016, The Creative Time Summit: The Curriculum, in August 2015 in conjunction with the 56th International la Biennale di Venezia; the Te Tihi Gathering in New Zealand in 2010 and co-curating the inaugural exhibition of Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in 2004. She is a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation, director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program and Associate Professor in the History of Art and Art Departments at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

 

 

Scott Benesiinaabandan is an Anishinabe intermedia artist that works primarily in photography, video, audio and printmaking. Scott has completed an international residencies at Parramatta Artist Studios in Australia, Context Gallery in Derry, North of Ireland, and University Lethbridge/Royal Institute of Technology iAIR residency, along with international collaborative projects in both the U.K and Ireland. Scott is currently based in Montreal, where he completing a year-long Canada Council New Media Production grant through Obx Labs/AbTeC and Initiative for Indigenous Futures. Scott is currently investigating Virtual Reality as a medium and has recently completed an NFB-Ford Foundation intensive residency around VR.

In the past years, Benesiinaabandan has been awarded multiple grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Manitoba Arts Council, Winnipeg Arts Council and Conseil des arts des lettres du Québec. His work can be found in a number of provincial and national collections.

You can find more information on the Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary here.

WB2AbTeC (Welcome Back to AbTeC!)

The lab is back in full swing! After an extreme summer preparing for and delivering the Skins 5.0 workshop in Honolulu, Hawai’i (check out the blog posts here) we’re excited for an equally jam-packed school year.

Skawennati is busy working on two solo exhibitions as well as a project with Jason Edward Lewis! Skawennati: for the ages, a survey of her work from the year 2000 until present day, opens on Septmeber 21 at Vtape in Toronto. Teiakwanahstahsontéhrha | We Extend the Rafters, opens at VOX on October 28 in Montreal. The show includes her brand-new machinima, The Peacemaker Returns, a sci-fi retelling of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederation story as well as a “museum of the future.” Additionally, Skawennati’s “The Celestial Tree,” is still on view as part of The Path of Resilience. You can find it at the corner of Avenue des Pins and Rue McTavish until December.

On November 4, Filling in the Blank Spaces opens at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery. This show brings together over twenty years of programming and production by Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and affiliated artists and creators! The month-long show will feature screenings of TimeTraveller™, a CyberPowWow reboot, weekly workshops, and much more! More on this in the coming weeks.

We’re also excited for the Third Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary! From November 30 to December 2 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, we will be welcoming artists, scholars, technologists, and community members to explore themes and topics in Indigenous futurisms with us. Want to attend? You can register for the 3rd Annual Symposium on the Future Imaginary on our Eventbrite page. If you have questions, send an email to tmkprojectcoordinator@gmail.com.

Finally, we’ve also welcomed two new graduate research assistants. We’re always excited to welcome new members to our community, please stay tuned for their introductory blog posts!

Much love,
AbTeC ♥

Skawennati : Machinimagraphique!

Currently showing at Ellephant is Skawennati’s show, Machinimagraphique!, as part of Montreal’s Printemps numérique. Printemps numérique brings together creators of digital and new media work in order to foster this community within Montreal.

Skawennati poses with “Birth of an Avatar: Homage to Mariko Mori”.

The show features fourteen machinimagraphs, one big piece that is in conversation with the work of Mariko Mori and a real-life re-creation of a prop seen in She Falls For Ages. Using Second Life, an online, virtual reality, Skawennati creates different characters, scenes, events and worlds, which then become the stage for her machinimagraphs and machinima. “Machinima” is a portmanteau of the words “machine” and cinema,” and refers to a movie made in a virtual environment. It is logical, therefore, to call a still image taken there a “machinimagraph”. Many of the machinimagraphs come from three of Skawennati’s machinimas.

TimeTraveller™, Skawennati’s first machinima, was produced between 2008 and 2013. The nine-episode series centres on Hunter, a young Mohawk man living in the 23rd century. Hunter has TimeTraveller™ glasses, which allow him to revisit and participate in scenes from history, such as the Oka Crisis of the 1990s, the passing of Kateri Tekakwitha, and the Manito Ahbee Powwow 2112. At the forefront is the theme of time. Technologically-enhanced sight awakens the main characters to their multiple, reticulate embodiments; these (blood) memories, inheritances, and belongings coalesce into a manifesto. The glasses bring into view the link between Indigenous survival and thrivance, love, and technology. Through them, we glimpse a territory that is an extension of our world while also a world that creates itself. Seen through the lens of Indigenous ways of knowing, the glasses, as a metaphor, promise radical new manifestations of Indigenous humanity.

She Falls For Ages re/presents the story of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) creation story. In it, Sky Woman jumps from Sky World through a hole created by uprooting the Celestial Tree. She jumps so that she can both save her unborn child  and be “the seed of a new world.” A flock of geese catch her after she fell for what seemed like an eternity and set her on the back of a turtle. An otter brings her a handful of dirt, which she places under her feet. She then dances on the turtle’s back, spreading out the earth and forming Turtle Island.

“Celestial Tree”. Machinimagraph by Skawennati. 2017.

In her childhood, both Sky Woman and her brother are known to have gifts – telepathy and telekinesis, respectively. Sky Woman sees her future in her partner’s clairvoyant dream. Being gifted, she must take on the responsibility of saving Sky World and makes the choice to sacrifice herself so that others can be safe. The message I took from She Falls For Ages was this, that we must use our gifts to sustain and create our community and world. Thinking of this in terms of how time is used in the piece, it is clear that Indigenous worlds have a place in both the past and the future.

In Words Before All Else Part 1, Skawennati’s own avatar, xox, recites the first verse of the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen – the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address – in Kanien’kéha, English, and French. The piece creates a narrative about Indigenous virtuosity and decolonial, reconciliatory digital spaces.

Skawennati recently exhibited She Falls for Ages and Words Before All Else Part 1 at OBORO in Montreal, and also the Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival.  TimeTraveller™ is currently being exhibited a part of LaboNT2’s contribution to the Venice Biennale’s HyperPavillion. The Ellephant show acts as a reflection on her work over the past decade, while placing her current projects into context both aesthetically and processually.

Attendees watch the display.

In addition to the printed, framed machinimagraphs, the show includes a monitor with the range of Skawennati’s  machinimagraphs flickering across the screen. The monitor reintroduces an element of Skawennati’s creative process–the computer and its screen–into the show. Many visitors at the vernissage spent time sitting in front of it, illuminating the appropriateness of this reference.

Skawennati : Machinimagraphique! is on at Ellephant (1201 Rue Saint-Dominique) until June 24, 2017.

 

Tehatikonhsatatie : For the Faces That Are Yet to Come

I recently attended Tehatikonhsatatie : For the Faces That Are Yet to Come, at the Maison de la Culture Frontenac in Montreal, Quebec. The Kahnawá:ke-based artists, Carla and Babe Hemlock, have exhibited extensively in the United States, notably at the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian as part of Native Fashion Now, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum. The show also features two collaborations with their son, Raohserahawi Hemlock, a filmmaker.

Hannah Claus, the exhibition’s curator, gave a guided tour in the presence of the two artists. Claus is a multidisciplinary artist and member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. The exhibition features numerous diverse works, demonstrating the artists’ interdisciplinary and collaborative practice. Upon entering, I saw the gallery text was written in French, English, and Kanien’ké:ha (Mohawk). This was the first time I had seen the language written in a public space in Montreal (then again, I’ve only been here 9 months…) though it nonetheless set the tone for the evening.

Claus introduced the show by way of discussing Carla Hemlock’s textile works. We started with Skywoman’s Descent (2009), whose centre is a turtle with a multi-coloured, spiral shell. Claus shared the story of Skywoman, who fell from Sky World through a hole made from roots that had fallen away from the ground as she gathered plants. A passing flock of geese broke her fall and she eventually landed on the back of a large turtle. She was given some dirt by a muskrat or otter (a point debated at the show), which she then placed under her feet and danced on the turtle’s back, spreading out the earth and thus forming Turtle Island. Looking closer at the quilts, one can see that Hemlock’s beadwork is impeccable; many quilts feature perfectly executed ropework, a technique of Iroquois beadwork that creates long spirals of beadwork.

The turtle motif returns throughout the show, in other quilts, paintings, and a digital video-montage by Raohserahawi Hemlock, in collaboration with Babe Hemlock. The piece features multiple video loops of humans, animals, and the environment shaped so as to resemble a turtle’s shell; the abundance of visual material is meant to reference the many forms of life from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) creation story. Raohserahawi Hemlock’s collaborative piece with Carla Hemlock sits on the opposite side of the room. A large tableau stands in front of a projected video. There is a female mannequin wearing a long jacket handmade by Hemlock as well as a old-fashioned hat. Hemlock created these garments to reference Cornelius Krieghoff paintings of women from Kahnawake at the turn of the last century as a way to witness the resilience of the women of her community. Flowing from the bottom of the jacket is a holographic material, referencing water, that trickles into a bed of roses. At the feet of the figure lies a gas mask. Projected behind the tableau is video of footage from the Rise With Standing Rock Native Nations March in Washington, D.C. this past March. This footage blends with video of children from the Kahnawake kindergarten doing the Stomp Dance.

Babe Hemlock’s interest in human intervention and manipulation of the environment is present throughout his works. The subject matter progresses from earlier paintings in the 1990s depicting Mohawk ironworkers, or Skywalkers, to recent works that engage in – might I be so bold as to say – Indigenous futurist environmental commentary. Images of gas masks, ruined and industrial landscapes, children holding their elders’ hands are present throughout the paintings. The exhibition presents four cradleboards for consideration as well. Traditionally, various Indigenous peoples used cradleboards as a way to carry children while ensuring their safety, comfort, and connection to a community. Animals like turtles and bears are present on the cradleboards as well; two of the cradleboards were produced in a traditional style and the other two in a contemporary mode. By using his paintings at different places in the exhibition, the curator creates a physical metaphor that illuminates connections between environmental health, the health of the environment, children as a reality and trope, and the future.

The show continues further on into explicitly political territory. For example, one piece features a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) passport, a document that is not recognized by Canada. Another piece brings the viewer into an interaction with the Treaty of Canandaigua, signed November 11, 1794, allowing for the continuation of early-colonial American expansion. The piece memorializes the histories held in common by the community. Second, it highlights the political nature of being Indigenous. One could read into the exhibition a call to action, the presentation of current material conditions and histories.

One Dish, One Spoon features a beaded vase resting on a large, wooden spoon. According to Skawennati, beaded vases like this one were once commonly produced in Kahnawake for sale to tourists. What she noted with the Hemlocks’ piece, however, was the formal experimentation in the work. From one angle, the piece resembled a vase; from another, it resembled the female form; and from again another angle, it took on abstract qualities. The piece is wonderfully strange in the context of its history and stood out for this reason.

Tehatokonhsatatie: For the Faces That Are Yet to Come documents underscores humanity’s basis in environment. This was the artists’ first show in Montreal, which brings to view changes around Indigenous art and artists in the Montreal art scene and the larger issue of Montreal’s neo-colonial, liberal cosmopolitanism. The exhibition’s title comes from one of the quilts. In the work, multiple waveforms emanate from its centre. Interspersed in the waves are embroidered faces, representing future generations. Starting as small pearls and gradually growing, the faces move outwards in the wave structure. Surrounding this element are six birds, representing humanity. The viewer is reminded of their responsibility to contribute to an ethical, healthy world, in that the reverberations of one’s actions go far beyond oneself. In this way, Tehatokonhsatatie… brings forward larger discussions around environmentalism, sovereignty and stewardship, futurity, and the possibilities manifest in future generations.

Tehatokonhsatatie: For the Faces That Are Yet to Come, by Carla and Babe Hemlock, with Raohserahawi Hemlock, is currently showing at the Maison de la Culture Frontenac in Montreal (Studio 1, 2550 Ontario Street, Montreal). The nearest metro station is Frontenac. The show goes until June 16, 2017.

Initiative for Indigenous Futures partners with Hawaii’s Kanaeokana Network for Skins 5.0

Skins 5.0Montreal, Quebec – The Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) have partnered with Hawaii’s Kanaeokana Network to produce the fifth iteration of our acclaimed Skins Workshops on Aboriginal Storytelling and Video Game Design  [Source]. Skins 5.0 will be delivered as a free, three-week workshop for native Hawaiian participants held in Honolulu from July 17, 2017 until August 4, 2017.

IIF is a partnership of universities and community organizations dedicated to developing multiple visions of Indigenous peoples tomorrow by enabling artists, academics, youth and elders to imagine how we and our communities will look in the future. IIF was co-founded by AbTeC, a network of academics, artists, and technologists who create Aboriginally-determined territories within the webpages, online games, and virtual environments known as cyberspace. Both organizations are based at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

Skins is a digital media workshop for Indigenous youth offered by IIF. Participants learn different ways of using digital media and create things such as machinima – computer-generated films – and also video games.

Skins is uniquely positioned to provide a culturally relevant, technology-based experience to Indigenous youth,” notes Jason Edward Lewis, Director of IIF and? co-director of AbTeC. “Students are guided to hold, adapt, and engage with their cultural knowledges as both recipients and creators. Our goal with the Skins workshops is to empower Indigenous youth both as individuals navigating a technology-saturated world and as members of contemporary Indigenous nations and societies.”

Skins’ curriculum first asks students to reflect on their relationship with traditional storytelling. With this knowledge, students can then imagine new ways to tell these stories, such as virtual environments and video games. Moving forward, the workshop focuses on skills that are necessary for videogame and virtual environment creation, such as game design, art direction, 3D modeling and animation, sound, and computer programming.

AbTeC has facilitated four other Skins workshops, beginning in September 2008. An interdisciplinary team including game-industry professionals, artists, support staff and Aboriginal mentors guide students through the intensive curriculum. The result of everyone’s hard work is a playable videogame, representing knowledge transmission, translation, and immersion.

Skawennati, artist and co-director of AbTeC, further notes, “we want youth to come away from this experience with a deepened understanding of themselves as co-creators of their shared identity and culture. Another aim of Skins is teaching skills such as game design and programming, which are in turn used as ways to Indigenize media that are relevant to youth. In this way, our youth are well positioned to direct their futures.”

IIF and AbTeC personnel will work with members of the Kanaeokana Network to deliver the workshop. Students will draw on a shared mo’olelo, or story, that they have chosen together. The partners intend to “facilitate workshops and similar projects in the future, with the goal of creating generational abundance,” writes Kanaeokana co-founder Kamehameha Schools [Source]. This intention will ensure that Skins 5.0 cultivates intergenerational, intracultural exchange. IIF and AbTeC are thrilled by our current collaboration and look forward to spending time with the participating youth.

For more information on Skins 5.0, visit the workshop’s blog at http://skins.abtec.org/skins5.0/. The team will be providing updates on the workshop’s progress,  course materials, and reflections on the experience.

For more information about the Initiative for Indigenous Futures and Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, visit http://abtec.org/iif/ and http://abtec.org/.

Concordia Film Festival: Getting there: parity & diversity in the film industry

As part of my work I was able to attend a panel discussion at the Concordia Film Festival called “Getting there: parity & diversity in the film industry.” The event featured four panelists, Henri Pardo, actor and creator of Black Wealth Matters; Li Li, actress and council member of Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA); Karina Aktouf, actress with 15 years experience in the field; and Tracey Deer, writer, director and creator of the series Mohawk Girls.

The four panelists touched on myriad topics that affected them. All stressed that there are multiple conversations taking place in front of and behind the camera; Deer discussed the importance of producers, who often gate keep the path to shows being made. Many current gatekeepers operate along a different set of values than many young, racialized creators, in that they value content that does not challenge the viewer or expose them to authentically sovereign self-expression, instead upholding a number of expectations (misogyny, racism, colonialism) that in turn create caricatures of real people. Underlying this point is the responsiveness of studios to financial considerations and further to this, a reason why diversity is at times seen as a threat to profit, even though, as Li Li noted, franchises like Fast and the Furious prove otherwise.

All of the panelists spoke to the weight of limited representation, and ways in which the systems that enable the production of film, television, and related media limit representational diversity in their design. Aktouf discussed her rising demand in front of the camera due to the changing political climate of Quebec; though this is exciting in terms of growing representation and deeper dialogue, she also discussed her experience of having been asked to play characters of different communities. Specifically, Aktouf referenced her lived experience as a woman with a specific and personal context and history, which informs the language she speaks, her accent, her body language; in this way, she discussed the political implications of lived experience, performance, and performativity while playing characters and people whose context is different from one’s own. Furthermore, Aktouf has found that, though there are more parts for her over the past few years, many of these parts have little or no dialogue, leaving her silent, silenced, or muted.

There is a parallel relationship to Li Li’s discussion of accent neutralization in acting and the double-bind that allophone, racialized actors are placed in, whereby there is a requirement to speak English/French without an accent and also the requirement whereby actors must be able to emulate other people’s’ accents. She identified this as a tool through which racial exclusion occurs. Similarly, Li notes that in her experience, racialized actors often play roles that, though said to be representative of their own community, are in reality the fantasies of a show maker. This process through which actors are made to play out the projections of others reveals the power that media productions have to affect the way people are viewed by others and even by themselves. More deeply, it represents a dynamic of control insofar as behaviour and reality of others are altered to match the projections of those who create representations.

What happens behind the camera affects the material that it produces and with these realities in mind, Pardo, Li and Deer all note the importance of owning the content and means of production. Bodies like the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) were identified as ideal models, as they require Indigenous participation in all aspects of production and subject matter and thus ensure diversity in production and representation. Through this process, these organizations contribute to another important factor identified by the panelists, the need to create a new generation of show makers whose education and motivations are humanitarian and open to questions of sovereignty in self-representation. The panel identified the need for diverse writers as well, which would, in general, add to the authenticity and three-dimensionality of scripts.

Discussing his series, Black Wealth Matters, Pardo brought up the possibility of self-publishing, using platforms such as YouTube, as an option for moving forward and working around the structural inequalities present in mainstream media. Obviously, this point parallels the work of AbTeC in many ways. Similar to Pardo, who seeks to create dialogue between creators, facilitators, and consumers, AbTeC works to empower Indigenous peoples on online platforms and create Indigenously-determined online Indigenous spaces. Though the comparison may seem cumbersome given the differences in media and interaction with technology, I feel it’s important to consider if only to demonstrate the ways in which different people from diverse communities can resist power inequities together, which, in the end, represents co-implicated communities. Pardo reminded actors and showmakers of their responsibility to care for and cultivate their audience. In this way, actors and creators have a responsibility to empower their audiences through the creation of media that works against dehumanizing projections and caricaturization.

In closing, there was much material for consideration at the panel. The four panelists brought a surfeit of experience and analysis to a network of topics having to do with media, structural oppression, representation, and sovereignty.