Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
“I have been a Blackface dancer eighteen years now, a masked dancer, a Sxquxwey dancer since I was fourteen. I have been able to draw from these native experiences, combining them with western world experiences and technology to make my work. Employing technology that has in past been used against native people. I create art to show people what is happening to me spiritually. Always, I create art to communicate with others, to let other cultures see things for themselves. To show my world, Indian World, to show that we do have a spirit, a place to go, so people will understand who I am as a west coast native person. “Virtual Reality” is very primitive at this point of evolution- it has its limits in visual resolution and the capabilities of the technology will change in years to come. At the moment, the piece consists of a white man’s mask, the “helmet,” as it is called by the computer program. A screen goes over your eyes covering part of your face, an electronic mask with an electronic-motion hand. You start to experience a new art form. As you look into the mask, the screen shows you a piece of artwork, computer-electronically stimulated into color. Sound can be brought in at the same time. I think this first mask will end up in museums just like other masks! Very primitive, with numbers on them, and the date they were made. I have been able to draw from these native experiences, combining them with western world experiences and technology to make my work. You cannot hide the real history or even the censorship of native history, a colonial syndrome. You can hide the Department of Indian Affairs documents from the time of Confederation, but you cannot hide my paintings. They are are for all people to see.”
I wrote these words when talking about Inherent Rights, Vision Rights a virtual reality experience that invited audiences into the longhouse and to witness the spirit world. It was 1992. That was 27 years ago. The Indian Act is still in place and we have not made strides to improve climate change. Computers are now fast and can now hold more memories for others to experience. Paisley Smith and I have made Unceded Territories to force audiences to recognize their role in the destruction of the environment by having them embody the greedy, Super Predator. Are we that different than the pipeline executives sacrificing mother earth for their own wealth? We want you to think about these things, to feel our anger, and to fight for change.
Unceded Territories is a provocative interactive experience that harnesses virtual reality and the power of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s artistic practice. What emerges is a world that is both entertaining and political, made entirely out of Yuxweluptun’s bold, surrealist style, dominated by the ovoid form. Yuxweluptun uses ovoids as an expression of his freedom as an artist, and “Ovoidism” is his own theory of conceptual art. Yuxweluptun’s art activism makes the toxic realities of forest fires, poisoned waters, dead fish, spilled oil - palatable. The VR participant is forced to question their own role in the real world, and recognize the need for change.
I have been working in VR’s recent ‘renaissance’ creating immersive journalism and documentary works. While researching the history of VR art, I was astonished to discover that Yuxweluptun had created a pioneering work “Inherent Rights, Vision Rights” at the Banff Centre in 1992. My worlds -VR innovation, art activism - were uniting. My personal connection with Yuxweluptun and a deep fascination with the power of recent virtual reality innovations inspired me to create Unceded Territories. Where his pioneering ‘92 VR experience created a space “...where digital code becomes the medium through which Yuxweluptun’s spirit-simulations begin to speak,” Unceded Territories moves beyond the spiritual, into a not so subtle political and environmental confrontation. The powerful beats of A Tribe Called Red pulse through the experience and create an anthem for change. Together, we are invading your virtual worlds to assert indigenous aesthetics and rights - a rebellious, full-colour, fight against colonialism, environmental destruction and systematic racism.