Virtual Paint-By-Numbers

AbTeC/Obx Labs is the proud owner of an HTC VIVE Virtual Reality system! We are currently diving in and researching what type of original environments can be created and experienced within this innovative, new technology. AbTeC co-director Jason Edward Lewis, whose practice incorporates poetry and writing, has put together a small research group of six undergraduate students to imagine text in an immersive environment and produce a few experimental prototypes. Lab Coordinator Lianne Maritzer has been working closely with our lead programmer Julian Glass-Pilon to implement her conceptual ideas for texts in virtual reality and test the VIVE’s limits. Lianne’s piece will be an immersive experience in a world constructed by a poem.

When players enter the game, they are standing in an all black room. The only items visible are the two VIVE controllers which are each holding a white paintball. Players can throw these paintballs to illuminate the world by holding the trigger, moving their arm in a throwing motion, and releasing the trigger to release the paintball. When the paintball hits an object or text, it splatters and the splatter reveals the object’s colour.  For example, if the paint splatters on a tree trunk, the player now see brown; if it splatters on the leaves, she sees green. If it hits multiple objects, each object touching the splatter will illuminate. If it hits text, the words start to become revealed. As players walk through the environment, short segments of the poem appear, which not only combine to make up a full poem but describe the changing environment around them.

At the moment, the game is just a prototype. There are only two segments of the poem (highlighted below) included and the game is static, meaning that the player cannot move beyond the box space. When the players throw the paintball, it colors the entire object rather than a paint splatter. This was the simplest way to get the player to understand what they are doing right away and how the paintballs work.

Poem: Walk through the Forest

by JupiterGodess

Green moss

Green light

Green grass

A bird’s flight

Shadows lurking

The air so fresh and sweet

Tree after tree you’re passing

Stones crunch beneath your feet

Bushes wherever you go

Above you the leaves rustle sublime

Your gaze is jumping to and fro

Longing to see ev’rything at the same time

In the trees the bird’s song sounds

What a melody so nice!

The lynx stalks its prey in silence

The shy deer is watching you

Squirrels chatter, jumping around

on paths impossible to get through

in the trees, not on the ground

Needles cover the forest’s floor

Out oft he green maze with its magic smell

step back through the door

to where the humans dwell

This piece was inspired by coloring books and digital paint-by-numbers sets as well as the famous Tilt Brush VR game by Google and the video game The Unfinished Swan.

AbTeC is excited to continue this line of text-based, VR research and exploring new dimensions of artistic possibility.

Jolene Rickard | The Photograph as Resurgence

On February 10th, 2017, Jolene Rickard, P.h.D. came to Concordia University to speak as part of the Future Imaginary Lectures

Jolene is a visual historian, artist and curator interested in the issues of Indigeneity within a global context. She is from the Tuscarora Nation (Haudenosaunee), is the director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program and Associate Professor in the History of Art and Art Departments at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. She and Skawennati have known each other since 1999, when Jolene contributed an essay for CyberPowWow 2

The evening started off with warm welcomes from Skawennati, Martha Langford representing the Speaking of Photography series, Heather Igloliorte and an introduction from Jason Edward Lewis who agreed with Jolene’s self-identification as someone who is “always looking for the window left unlatched.”

The lecture touched on various connected topics, such as the relationship between memory and photography, beadwork, cosmology, the concepts of resurgence and sovereignty and the creation story.

Photographs can share information and keep history. The importance of beadwork and its economic, political and cultural significance to the Haudenosaunee people could be seen in the images Jolene showed. The photo of Seneca woman Caroline Parker in her intricately beaded outfit and Jolene’s own works in exhibitions like Across Borders: Beadwork in Iroquois Life were excellent examples. Photographs are also important because communities can collect them if they cannot get access to the physical items they represent.

Jolene noted that she is very interested in when specific articles appear in Indigenous expression. Why do certain artists focus on certain objects and topics at certain times? For example she spoke about the need to create work about the recovery peace after a violent period in time. She considered the concept of resurgence emerging in Indigenous intellectual landscape as a strategy for empowerment and action. The desire to represent ceremony in space and in a future context was also explored.

She mentioned that at one point she was discouraged from going back and forth between making, critiquing, writing, thinking and doing but now more people understand that “we’re idea makers and we find the best way to locate the idea.” Originally, knowledge and stories were shared orally until new tools were discovered. Over time, various alternative forms of expression have been used; such as, carving, beadwork, photography and more.  

This transformation continues happening as projects like Skawennati’s machinimas showcase stories in a form that could not have been imagined generations ago. Jolene spoke about Skawennati’s new machinima She Falls for Ages, saying that it generates a new way to understand the Haudenosaunee creation story in current times. In her opinion, it also celebrates women’s bodies and claims the arrival of Indigenous people to Turtle Island as an act of empowerment.

The Q&A session after her lecture brought up some interesting discussion. She clarified that she isn’t suggesting that the present be ignored, but wondered instead how much information can be shared and how the creative process can help to open new possibilities.

There was a lot of great imagery and topics explored in-depth during this talk. Jolene is a charismatic speaker and best explains her work and the pieces she has chosen to present.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear about all our upcoming Future Imaginary Lectures.

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!

Indigenous Comic Con 2016


Hello everyone! I’m back from Indigenous Comic Con 2016 and ready to share my little adventure.

The weekend is prime convention time as kids are out of school and many adults have had the chance to clear their schedule. ICC was no exception as the halls filled with excited “Indiginerds”. ICC took place at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico and welcomed around 1,000 people over the 3 days it ran.

I was most excited for the panels and talks that were scheduled. Sadly I can’t time travel or split into multiple people or else I would have gone to them all. Panels varied from actors talking about their experiences, to cosplay tips and tricks all the way to serious conversations on Indigenous representation in media and pop culture.

Guests I had the pleasure of hearing from included Suzan Harjo, Jonathan Joss, Jeffrey Veregge, Elizabeth LaPensée and Allen Turner to name a few. The panel and talks rooms were a little small as rooms could quickly fill for a popular panel like “Back to the (Indigenous) Future(isms)!”.

Artist Alley was split into two areas and featured the creations of Indigenous artists. An artist alley at a convention is generally where artists sell art, take commissions, and sell homemade products and other things at a smaller scale than a vendor booth would (like a bookstore or publisher for example). There were pieces supporting the Standing Rock and Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors, where the money made from selling them was being donated to their efforts.


The merchandise hall was a fair size with around 20 tables. Comics were on sale and featured stories with characters like Arigon Starr’s Super Indian Comics and more subdued stories like Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story written by David Alexander Robertson and illustrated by Scott Henderson. Issues, interests, history and stories were being sold to an audience thirsty for Native pop culture.

I was able to find the time to see a screening of the film Waabooz. Waabooz is the story of a young artist and his fear of dancing at the upcoming pow wow. His grandfather helps him find a way to handle his nerves and be brave. By the end of the film I was wiping away tears along with some other audience members who had connected with the story.

I saw a short snippet of Star Wars voiced over in Navajo and it was certainly a unique experience. There seemed to be a great love of Star Wars throughout the convention that showed in the merch, art and cosplay. The cosplay contest winners were Boba Fett and a stormtrooper with some Native flair in the art on their armor.

I left with some inspiration and extra motivation to get working on my own art and comic projects. I saw a lot and walked away with a backpack full of books but I still wish I could have seen and done more. The light at the end of the post-con blues is that there’s always Indigenous Comic Con 2017 to look forward to!







Indigenous Comic Con Day 1

Good evening! It’s pretty late here so I’m sure most people are asleep back in Montreal right now.

Today was my first day exploring the ‘first ever’ Indigenous Comic Con here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As is the case with most conventions the first day started fairly late at 4pm for regular ticket holders (3:30 for VIP). I wanted to laugh, out of fondness, when I showed up at 4 and a lot of the preparations were not complete. Typical that a convention like this would start on Indian time.

With a first year convention things are bound to be a bit bumpy. The wifi didn’t work, and so my tweets didn’t happen, until around an hour after the start. Many vendors and artists set up late or simply didn’t show. But with day 1 I can forgive these things.

My habit is to pace the artist alley and vendor halls on day 1 of any convention, to scope out the merch and start adding up how much I’ll have to spend. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I would have scouring the tables of a convention where the sellers are all Indigenous. I had a smile on my face as I saw characters that looked like me and my family, stories I had heard from a friend and so on. I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing my own people represented in the culture I adore until I actually saw them in that space. It was very, very cool.

I lost my shyness fairly fast as I realized how friendly and relaxed everyone was. I had a fun conversation with an artist who lamented her flimsy sticker badge and shared her experience going to standing rock. Although it wasn’t a complete and polished con, the warm and inviting people made up for it.

With day 1 set up complete I’m looking forward to what busy Saturday has in store for me!


Introducing our Twitter and Periscope

She:kon! The days have been a bit gray here in Montreal the last few days.

We are happy to announce that we are entering the Twittersphere at last! If you’ve been waiting now’s your chance to follow us there. Short and sweet updates, reminders and content that we like will now be shared there, too.

With Twitter we also hope to bring alerts and notices of when we will be using Periscope. Periscope is a live video streaming app for iOS and Android. The goal is to stream events, like the upcoming lecture by Allen Turner from The Future Imaginary Series, to those in our audience that can’t be there in person. The streams can be watched live in real time, joined in late or viewed at a totally later date as the videos are saved.

The account is still fresh and we hope you will follow us as we venture into a new social space!

Mini-Update: Future Imaginary Lecture Series

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


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.










IIF Summer Recap

She:kon! Fall has arrived here in Montreal and the view of Mount Royal’s trees from the lab is bright and colorful.

The Initiative for Indigenous Futures had a busy summer and so we will share what we were up to in the warm months.

On June 1, 2016 we welcomed another addition to the Illustrating the Future Imaginary series. Mi’kmaq artist Ray Caplin created the piece Hunter of Altered Game.

Hunter of Altered Game

Postcommodity returned to Montreal July 22 to 29 for their second residency. They worked intensely with the IIF team and were able to complete a working version of their virtual reality experience Global Center for Self-Realization and Liberation.

The 2nd Annual IIF Partnership Meeting took place August 4, 2016 in the University of British Columbia-Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia.

The 2nd Symposium on the Future Imaginary was held the following day on August 5, 2016 also at UBCO. The Symposium was an interdisciplinary conversation about where Indigenous communities see ourselves in seven, twelve, even twenty generations, and about how to develop strategies to get there. The full-day event was held during the O k’inadas // complicated reconciliations​ artists residency. It featured preeminent artists, academics, activists and technologists envisioning their own particular Indigenous Future Imaginary.

There were also demonstrations of the Virtual Reality projects from our residencies. Scott Benesiinaabandan showed his project Blueberry Pie Under the Martian Sky and Cristóbal Martínez represented Postcommodity as he showed their project Global Center for Self-Realization and Liberation.

Skawennati and research assistants Erica Perreault and Darian Jacobs went Vancouver to run a Machinima Workshop in August with the Contemporary Art Gallery and the Museum of Anthropology’s Native Youth Program in Vancouver.

Six urban Aboriginal youth formed teams to create two machinimas, each recounting a legend that the participants were given permission to tell. The workshop was held at Emily Carr University and ran over 4 days. Pre-production skills, production and editing skills were taught in this time. By the final day both teams had finished filming and one had even done an initial edit of their machinima!

Click here to watch The Madam

Click here to watch Tho’wxeya

A new addition to the IIF website is an interactive partnership timeline which was made over the summer. It’s a helpful tool for getting an overview of everything that IIF has been up to since the start of February 2015 and even a little into the future.

That was our summer in a nutshell!












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!












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


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