This project is currently in development
Ne:Kahwistará:ken Kanónhsa’kówa í:se Onkwehonwe is a multifaceted research project, a series of site-specific artworks developed in-community, and a large-scale, immersive-360°, interactive installation created in the spirit and image of our Haudenosaunee longhouses. A core aspect of this project is the development of a new multimedia A/V interface (Video Drum) for use in this unique and specialized context. This project is conceived as a community-invested endeavor involving customary and contemporary creative and cultural practices. Central to the project is extensive research and creative activity to be conducted on-location in Haudenosaunee territory under the supervision of knowledge-keepers from our home community.
Our collaborative team consists of: Jackson 2bears, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) media artist; Janet Rogers, Kanien’kehá:ka poet and multimedia artist; Skawennati, Kanien’kehá:ka media artist; and Jason Lewis, Cherokee/Samoan media artist and software programmer. Ryan Rice, Kanien’kehá:ka—curator and Delaney Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture at OCADU—will serve as a consultant throughout planning stages of research, production and exhibition/touring of the project.
As Haudenosaunee people, the longhouse is an enduring symbol of the strength of our Rotinonshonni (Iroquois Confederacy), as it signifies a way of living together as a League of Nations under the Great Law of Peace—the Kayanereh:kowa. Our enduring sense of community is mirrored in the longhouse structure; it is emblematic of our diverse creative and cultural practices, which are connected back our traditional teachings as much as they are today animated by contemporary technologies and production techniques. With this in mind we propose to create an installation inspired by the longhouse structure and what it represents to our people. It is our intention that this installation function as an environment for the transmission and transformation of creative and cultural practices, and act as a site for critical discourse and sharing.
We envision creating a large-scale, immersive, (near) 360° projection dome (cylinder), fashioned in the image of our traditional longhouses. This structure will be life-size, similar in scale—22’ (w) x 22’ (h) x 48’ (l)—to those found at the Kanáta Village in our home territory, where we propose to build the initial installation. We imagine the exterior will be made of polished aluminum panels (with a silver, mirror-like appearance) embossed with the texture of pine-bark, like those we use as shingles on our traditional structures. The interior is conceived as a multi-projection (18 channel with 360-degree projection mapping), multichannel sound (28.4 channel) immersive environment, within which we can exhibit and perform our media artwork, the work of our collaborators, and host/curate creatively oriented community gatherings. This structure will be designed to be modular such that its size could be altered somewhat to fit a desired exhibition space, making it adaptable to suit different locations.
To achieve this goal, we propose to work with knowledge keepers from our community—namely Dallas and Warren Sayers, the caretakers of the Kanáta Village—to learn about the construction of our traditional longhouses, and ensure we follow proper Kanieke’haka community/ cultural protocol. We further propose to work with A/V professionals—like those at Igloo Vision and Thru the Red Door on Six Nations—to help us design our final installation, specifically with regard to mounting projectors, speakers, electronics, and the creation of specialized hardware/ software.
Janet Rogers and I are both Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawks) of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and have been collaborating on projects as 2Ro Media since 2014. Our current creative efforts focus on exploring our relationship(s) to our home territory as part of a series we have called For this Land. As 2Ro Media we have been interested in the spatiality of storytelling—how stories can be dimensional as well as durational; how narratives are intricately interconnected with ‘place’ and the landscape. As Onkwehonwe we think of the landscape as a living, animate, and embodied archive; with this new project, we want to explore the idea of embodied storytelling and the ways in which we can participate with, as well as be immersed in, story.
Creative Content/ Context:
Ne:Kahwistará:ken Kanónhsa’kówa is about performative storytelling and creating interconnected relationships with the living archive of ‘place,’ which has to do with traversing and crossing cultural and territorial narratives. It is about engaging in a series of conversations with the land with the intent of creating new site-specific performances and, ultimately, a large-scale immersive multimedia installation using new digital languages.
Along with our collaborators, Skawennati Tricia Fragnito and Jason Lewis, we are also interested in creating ‘aboriginally-determined’ territories in 360°/ Virtual Reality environments, within which we might preserve, interpret, and communicate our creative cultural practices as Onkwehonwe. For this project we envision creating new Machinima artworks in VR, for instance, which imagine Onkwehonwe in a future (digital) world revisiting our Creation Stories, and other key historical events from a distinctly Indigenous perspective—as with, for example, Skawennati’s Time Traveler TM. piece (see documentation).
At the core, this artwork is an exploration of the internalization of one’s traditional territory, how our environments (physical and virtual) are deeply intertwined with our identities as Indigenous people, and the interiority of personal and collective experience—this is what Leroy Little Bear has referred to as “natural laws of Interdependance” when referring to the living archive of land-based narratives. The result we envision will be a collection of artworks about our imaginative and aesthetic interpretations of the dialogues we have had with ‘place’ (defined broadly here as physical, spiritual, and virtual). In essence, this project is about exploring the ‘Indigenous Future Imaginary’, while remaining dedicated to conscious recognition of traditional Kanien’kehaka creative and cultural practices. With this project, we want to support and sustain multi-disciplinary research, and with our artwork endeavor to write our own narratives onto the landscape, and to create a space for Onkwehonwe in the rapidly expanding digital territory of 360°/virtual reality.
Janet Rogers is a Mohawk/Tuscarora writer from the Six Nations band in Ontario. She was born in Vancouver and has been living on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people in Victoria, British Columbia, since 1994. Janet works in the genres of poetry, spoken-word performance poetry, video poetry, recorded poetry with music, and script writing. From 2012 to 2014, Janet was Poet Laureate of the city of Victoria.