Women and Games at Montréal Joue

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Montréal Joue is a festival of game culture produced by Bibliothèques de Montréal (Montreal Libraries) and is currently running for the fourth year. This year, for the first time, they have a theme: “Femmes et jeux”, or women in games. They state on their website that the theme aims to deconstruct the views people may have of women and their roles in the “video game ecosystem”. Women imagine, create, plan and play videogames (where there are occasionally even female leads!).

Along with other groups such as Pixelles and Ludia, Skawennati was invited to take part in the festival by showing work that she and AbTeC/Obx Labs have created. Research Assistants Erica Perreault and myself went with her to run the table and interact with anyone who wanted to know more about the works. TimeTraveller™ was playing on an iPad, while Ienién:te and the Peacemaker’s Wampum, a game created during the Skins 4.0 workshop was featured on the big screen. Postcards featuring commissioned art from IIF were available as cool take-aways.

TimeTraveller™ drew in a couple of fans who recognized the work and were happy to speak with Skawennati. The postcards were popular and the game had some people playing all the way to the end! A cold Montreal evening was made warmer with good company.

 

Artist Talks at Concordia University

Three talented and driven Indigenous artists presented themselves and their work at Concordia University last week, on February 15, 18 and 19, as part of the process to decide on which of them will become Concordia’s Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Art Practice. The position will allow them to work at Concordia as a professor while also giving them more time to focus on research and creative work.

The talks all touched on the same area at their core; the idea of Indigenous storytelling. Each artist approached the subject from their own viewpoints, stemming from their interests and how they work. There seemed to be a core question being explored by each artist throughout their talk.

Maria Hupfield was the first to speak on her work. She is a member of Wasauksing First Nation, Ontario, currently based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a performance artist who also makes objects that can be used to tell stories and create conversations. Often her objects, including a bandolier bag, jingle boots, and a canoe, are made of grey industrial felt. Activating materials and creating a tactile experience where the art is used rather than only looked at seemed to be of strong interest to her.

Next up was Jackson 2Bears who came to present his work. He is a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) from Six Nations, currently based in Lethbridge, Alberta. His presentation seemed to ask the question: how are stories told? How do Indigenous peoples in particular hang on to and share their stories? He explained that there is a linear way of storytelling; from A to Z. Then there are some stories that require the listener and storyteller to be in a certain area in order for it to be told.

The third to present was Nadia Myre, Algonquin member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation and a locally based Montreal artist. The question at the core of her work seemed to be: who can she tell stories with? Her work stood out as being community-based as she mentioned her experiences working with various groups and individuals. Her artistic works are created in relation to each other as her new works tend to be influenced by the previous, like a backstitch where the line moves forward by going back.

All of these artists are exceptional and have a focus on their culture and giving back to communities. They all showed that there is a mental, emotional and physical connection working together in any piece of art. This also ties into the way that Indigenous people embody the stories they tell and in the ways they tell them. Traditionally stories are told through dance, singing and drumming (for example). The artists also work in various mediums in a similar fashion.

It will be a tough decision choosing who will stay at Concordia and one that I’m glad I don’t have to make!

Artist’s Websites:

Activating AbTeC Island

AbTeC Island is AbTeC’s headquarters in cyberspace, situated in the online 3D virtual world, Second Life.

Activating AbTeC Island is an initiative to see what can happen if we open an Aboriginally determined location in cyberspace to the public. Every Thursday from 2:30 PM EST to 4:30 PM EST, members of our team will log in and actively welcome visitors to AbTeC Island. We can show you around, help you to customize your avatar, or even teach you how to build a snowman in our virtual studio/classroom!

Anyone can visit. All you need is a Second Life account and the program installed on a computer that meets Second Life’s System Requirements.

Once you’re logged in, there are several ways to get to AbTeC Island:

Method #1

While logged into Second Life, paste the following link into your web browser bar. It will open a new window with an option to “Visit this Location”. Click to confirm.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/AbTeC/78/172/1011

Method #2

While logged into Second Life, use its Search function, like this:

Select World > World map [CTRL + M] from the drop down menu;

Type “AbTeC ” into the search bar and click Find;

Select AbTeC from the search results and click Teleport.

If neither of these options work, and you are accessing AbTeC Island during our scheduled hours, do a people search for one of the following team members who will be online to rescue you:

  • Abbi Bigboots
  • Abbi MacBeth
  • Abbi Zipper

Note: Anyone with the first name “Abbi” is a member of the AbTeC team.

If you are still having trouble finding us, call us!

1-514-848-2424 x 5935

We look forward to seeing you!

Finishing the Machinima Workshop at Eastern Bloc

The third and last meeting for the Machinima Workshop was met with fluffy snowflakes and smiling faces. The good mood from day two had carried over as the production phase started.

Prepared and ready to go.

The first step of the day was to ownload a program called Snapz Pro X which we use to record the scenes from Second Life. Then the participants impressed Skawennati and Erica with their prep work they had done during the week. They shared their scripts, assets, audio files and put on their director hats as everyone split into teams.

Each project had its own set of challenges. Christelle’s needed careful timing and multiple open windows to reenact a famous performance piece that of four women being tattooed. Eli’s required quiet moments in the room as the avatars spoke using sound coming from laptops. Finally Nicholas and Anna’s project called for multiple moving sets.

Multiple windows of Second Life. Each window represents one avatar.
Teams hard at work through lunch.

It was a long and careful day of shooting and re-shooting as needed, until the participants were happy with the footage they had. People wandered around and peeked in on what was happening with other groups and shared information and offers for help. The environment was friendly and creative through the whole process of running the workshop.

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The entire team of teachers and students.

We are pleased to say that two of the three machinima short films were completed on the final day, with the third being very close to the end. The videos will be posted to our Vimeo account and we’ll let you know when they’re ready to be seen!

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

Intro to Second Life Workshop at Eastern Bloc

She:kon everyone! A warmer week greets us here in Montreal as this is written.

Skawennati and IIF Research Assistant Erica Perreault gave the first of a series of three workshops on creative uses of Second Life at Eastern Bloc in Montreal this past weekend. It was an intimate environment as the group set up their laptops around a wooden table in a room lit with sunshine.

The day took off with introductions from participants and the IIF team. A look back on TimeTravellertm gave everyone a view on what Second Life looks like and is capable of. The word “machinima” is the combination of “machine” and “cinema”. Skawennati defines it as “making movies in a virtual environment”. She has also started to use the term “machinimagraph” to describe a photograph taken in a virtual environment, as we learned when she showed some stunning images from TimeTravellertm. The participants would later learn to take their own “machinimagraphs” and document their adventure.

Once the Second Life viewer was downloaded and accounts were made, people started taking their first steps in this popular on-line world. Starting to play in Second Life is much like being a newborn baby. Participants had to learn how to walk, run, fly and talk to each other. Appearances were customized for better or worse as people played with the controls.

EB-workshop-Snapshot5_001Some confusion and fun as the group first meet in Second Life.

 
Skawennati and Erica made a great team as the group had to navigate the sprawling preference pages and set it up so that their experience was at the highest quality they wanted or were able to handle with their laptops.

A group outing for lunch to a nearby restaurant helped make the afternoon session more relaxed as people were more comfortable with each other. Browsing the Second Life marketplace to find user-created content was covered, along with searching through the available library for textures and items.

This led into the building process of Second Life. The participants had a lot of fun creating chaos in the private sandbox as avatars ran around with rocks for heads and random items populated the area. They were presented a mission to build a snowman that taught them the basic building tools and kept Erica on her feet as she troubleshooted for people.

EB-Workshop-Snowmen2-A row of snowmen lined up with their creators for a group photo.

 
The day wound down with a viewing of some examples of machinima in other games and a showing of the first three TimeTravellertm episodes. This sparked some further inspiration in the participants as they went home to prepare for day two.

Creativity, determination and teamwork will be the keys to the creation of successful machinima shorts as we move forward with the workshop!

Introducing: A New Face at IIF

Hello! I’m Darian Jacobs and a new Research Assistant for AbTeC and IIF.

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I’m from Kahnawake and doing my first year as an undergraduate in Concordia’s Journalism program. My love of writing and my desire to explore and learn are the driving forces behind that decision. Reporting allows me to meet different people and experience new events to keep some variety in my life.

I worked for The Eastern Door Newspaper during the summer in 2014 and still do some freelance every now and again. I have a comic strip running in The Eastern Door called Darnomia. I will be uploading strips to my personal blog weekly if you’re interested.

I first found AbTec and Obx when a friend of a friend recommended the Skins 4.0 Workshop to me in 2013. At the time I was a student in Dawson’s 3D Animation and CGI program, so it seemed like a great project to work on. The experience ended up being fantastic and has influenced me to always consider how I can include my culture in my artistic works.

Some flattering sketches of myself

I’ll be doing most of the posting on the IIF blog and social media accounts, to keep our followers up to date on what we’re doing. I’ll also be helping out in ways that I can utilize some of my skills, like writing or art, along with the bonus of learning as much as possible.

Looking forward to writing for you,

Darian

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

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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)