Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is an indigenous artist and painter who created his first VR experience called Inherent Rights, Vision Rights back in 1992. He collaborated with VR artist Paisley Smith in a piece called Unceded Territories that premiered at Tribeca Film Festival 2019, which revisits many of the similar themes Yuxweluptun explored 27 years earlier.
Smith translated Yuxweluptun’s painterly “ovid” style into VR in a story that explores what it’s like to embody the super predator colonial power within a surrealistic virtual world. You put on the mask of a super predator bird of prey and enter into a virtual world that explores the at unintended consequences of a colonial mindset that has devastated the earth’s ecology and indigenous culture. It’s a deep metaphoric exploration of what’s it like to touch things that don’t belong to you that’s paired with confronting commentary from Yuxweluptun.
Yuxweluptun wasn’t able to attend the Tribeca Film Festival, but he was able to join Smith and me via a phone conversation that was recorded on site at the festival. We explored how he uses virtual reality to explore his indigenous philosophy, and the deeper messages that he was trying to get across in Unceded Territories. Smith filled in some of the technical details of the production of the piece, as well as how she navigates being an ally and ambassador for these indigenous perspectives. Yuxweluptun also shares his experiences of Chernobyl, and this conversation pairs well with the deeper messages that HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries explores in terms of the ecological impact of our technologies today.
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Here is a brief trailer for Unceded Territories that features some of the interactions, art aesthetic, and music from A Tribe Called Red
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