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.
Some 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.
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!
Hello! I’m Darian Jacobs and a new Research Assistant for AbTeC and IIF.
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.
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.
She:kon! Day two of the residency was exciting as Postcommodity and the IIF team brainstormed and explored possibilities for the Virtual Reality project.
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!
Check back for more updates on this exciting week.
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.
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!
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.
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
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!
She:kon tanon wa’tkwanohnwerá:ton! Greetings and welcome to the brand new website for the Initiative for Indigenous Futures, the latest effort by Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace. IIF, as we have nicknamed it, is just getting started on a seven-year trajectory that will include a variety of exciting projects –explore the website to get an idea of what they’ll be. This blog is where we’ll keep you up to date with some of the partnership and related activities.
For instance, this week, Jason Lewis, Co-director, Initiative for Indigenous Futures SSHRC Partnership, myself and a representative from Concordia’s Office of Research will be meeting with the funders of this partnership to learn about the bureaucratic side of things: how to properly report our projects and spending.
Jason will be co-leading a workshop with Grace Dillon, a well respected Indigenous Science Fiction scholar, while I will be showing selections from TimeTraveller™. Did I mention that the conference is in Hawai’i? The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!
Initiative for Indigenous Futures Partnership Coordinator