#1063: Indigenous Poet’s Journey from Doc Subject to Co-Writer on Award-Winning VR Story “On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World)”

On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World) won the best XR Experience at SXSW, and is set to be released this week on March 24th, 2022. (UPDATE 3/24: It’s now been released and can be found here.) It’s an amazingly well-told story about how the false ballistic missile alarm in Hawaii on January 13, 2018 catalyzed a larger discussion about nuclear disarmament within Hawaii and around the world.

Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio is a Native Hawaiian who lived through the events, and she was originally going to be featured an interview subject, but her role expanded into becoming a co-writer of the piece with her experience as a poet and storyteller. Osorio is also an activist, artist, and Professor of Indigenous and Native Hawaiian politics, and she helps to weave in a lot of other indigenous perspectives that are informed by the types of issues around decolonization, capitalism, and the Hawai‘i Sovereignty Movement. None of these influences are directly referenced in the piece as they’re translated into metaphors in her poetry that opens each of the three chapters of the VR piece. This is Osorio’s first experiences in working with the VR medium, and I had a chance to talk with about her journey and reflecting upon the power of immersive storytelling as well the many other discussions that this event has brought up in Hawai‘i.

Be sure to check out my previous conversation about Episode 1 of On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World).


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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So I was invited to go to the South by Southwest as a juror. I was serving on the XR jury, and so that meant that I got to see all the dozen of the XR experiences within the competition. And then on my own time, I was able to see the other 21 other experiences that were there featured at South by Southwest. But the one that ended up winning was called On the Morning You Wake to the End of the World, which actually premiered the first episode at Sundance, but episodes two and three and the whole series was shown at South by Southwest. So this series is releasing on March 24th, 2022, and it's just really amazing. It was a real standout piece that ended up winning the best XR experience at South by Southwest. Just an incredible piece. It's about the false alert that happened in Hawaii, where there was an inbound missile attack, essentially a nuclear weapon threat, that was a text message that 1.4 million people received. It was a false alarm, but it actually brought up a lot of deeper questions around Why do we live in a world where this could even exist? But also, nuclear nonproliferation is a really abstract topic. And so to really take this abstraction of this geopolitical issue and to ground it into these personal stories for what people in Hawaii went through. And Dr. Jamaica Keoli Maliekalani Osorio is a poet and activist and just a really great writer who ended up writing a poem for these experiences. Originally was just being interviewed for this piece, but then ended up being a co-writer that ended up being the backbone to these pieces was starting with this indigenous perspectives coming from a native Hawaiian and sharing what this experience was like and integrating different aspects of the Hawaiian cosmology within the context of these different poems. So, just a really, really strong piece by Archers Mark and Atlas Five, and just a great collaboration with all the other people that were involved with it, including Dr. Jamaica Osorio. So, I had a chance to talk to Dr. Osorio just to get her take on this piece and her involvement with it, and just the larger context of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and decolonization and capitalism, some larger issues that were hard to disentangle with these other issues. This piece is releasing on March 24, 2022. I wanted to put this episode out there. For sure, I think it's probably best to watch the piece and then listen to this interview, but I wanted to, as a part of my coverage, get it out there just so it's on folks' radar. It's an incredible piece and really an achievement in spatial storytelling. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Jamaica happened on Monday, March 14th, 2022. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:48.358] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: My name is Jamaica Heolimali Kalani Osorio. I'm a Native Hawaiian activist, artist, storyteller, and professor of indigenous and Native Hawaiian politics. And my only experience with VR is the project that we currently came to premiere at Sundance on the morning you wake to the end of the world. I traditionally work in my medium is poetry and more real reality storytelling. So yeah, this is a new venture for me.

[00:03:15.636] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into working on this piece.

[00:03:20.941] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Absolutely. So I grew up in an activist family and an artistic family where those two things were always completely interwoven with each other. My father was an active member of, and continues to be an active member of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. And so I grew up telling stories about imperialism and colonialism and militarism in Hawaii. When January 13th, 2018 happened, the false missile alert in Hawaii, when everyone received a message that said, there's a ballistic missile inbound, seek immediate shelter. There were all kinds of opportunities for interview and comment and even creativity following that really traumatic event. Of course, the ballistic missile never arrived. It was a false alarm. But I got hooked up with Archers Mark because they heard me give an interview framing the event as an imperial event, as an event situated in Hawaii's ongoing occupation by the U.S. military. And that aired on NPR probably sometime in 2018 or 2019. And so they reached out to me actually just to interview me for the project. So in the documentary, the narrative is primarily carried by people who witnessed the traumatic event of the false missile alert. And so originally I was one of those participants. And they became familiar with the fact that I was also a poet and a storyteller and asked me to write a poem to include in the piece. I have a bit of experience talking about kind of these big macro ideas around state violence and in telling them in kind of lyrical and poetic ways. And so that's how I got involved and got pulled into the center of the project.

[00:04:53.916] Kent Bye: Yeah, I really, really appreciated both your poetry and perspective throughout this piece, and I really felt that it helped to ground the piece in terms of like really being in relationship to people that are there in Hawaii, indigenous people that are there from Hawaii, but also how this event was really brought about by the presence of the U.S. military there. And I also think that just poetry in general has a metaphoric way that you are able to paint the pictures and then how that was able to be translated spatially into the VR. There's a lot of abstraction that's happening, but also amplifying and modulating your words. Beginning of each chapter, there's a poem that you begin each of those. And so I'd be really curious to hear from your perspective as a poet, what was it like to work in the medium of VR and then see your words be translated in these spatial ways?

[00:05:42.448] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, that's the amazing thing about collaboration, right? Working with people at the forefront of their mediums who can do something that you never would have imagined, right? When I first watched one of the early builds of the project, I was amazed at the way that they made the VR environment really speak back to the poem, like they were in conversation, right? That almost felt like the poem was emerging out of that environment. And that's not something I would have ever been able to even think up or draw up on a storyboard. And so, yeah, I would say that just leads to really good collaborators, right? People who are going to meet each other at the middle of like the thematic issue and be able to connect on what's most important to them about the story, and then allowing people to do what they do best in their own spaces and it's not often actually as the poet in those kinds of collaborations that I feel like I always have all the room I need to move and like tell the story in a way that I want to tell and that's one of the great things about this project is that Archer's Mark was really on board with being reframed because like most venues the conversation on nuclear threat has always been so limiting if it's happening at all it's incredibly limiting and it's told through one or two perspectives, the historical event in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or this strange existential future threat. It is not often where we actually frame this in the ongoing violence and harm that people are experiencing every day because of the presence of nuclear weapons and because of the testing of nuclear weapons. And in particular, that has a long history in the Pacific. And so being able to meet in the middle there and to be trusted in the same way that I trusted them to visually represent the work was really, really empowering.

[00:07:24.568] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'd love to talk a little bit about the specific things that you are mentioning in your poem. And I'm just wondering if you just kind of summarize some of the things that you were trying to communicate.

[00:07:34.201] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, so the poem really uses the framing of, you know, the morning you wake to the end of the world. And that kind of becomes a chorus of almost like talking yourself through the end of days, right, your last few minutes. And it begins about talking specifically about the Hawaiian cosmology. So how the universe, in the belief of my ancestors, how the universe was created from darkness, and then came light, and then came slime, and then came coral. And it's much later that humans come, right? So they're really situating of our humanity in an appreciation for our environment and for our land. And then it moves through the way that I don't necessarily use the words militarism or imperialism or colonialism, but I talk about those concepts and the way that we're sold this idea of safety and security. Like we're going to test nuclear weapons in the Pacific for national security, or we're going to put bulk fuel storage, 100 feet over your aquifer for national security. Well, now that bulk fuel storage is now leaking into the Hawaiian aquifer, right? So the whole narrative of, we need to do this for your safety. But someone in this situation, in the way that we think about national security, someone is always insecure. And someone is always harmed. And so trying to reframe that conversation from a conversation of security to a conversation of who had to bite the bullet, so to speak, for Americans in particular, as someone who's occupied by the United States, to feel safe and secure. And then, you know, it moves into a commentary on the relationship between that and capitalism and the relationship between that and the first kind of invasion by foreigners and reselling our ideals, our land, our values, but also these mass death events that came in the wake of people like Christopher Columbus or, in the case of Hawaii, Captain James Cook. And then it tries to take a turn, right? So we have all this deep and dark and depressing history, but there's a need for the story to be told in a way that people understand that although we are surrounded by this violence, although our lives are mediated by capitalism and militarism and patriarchy and imperialism, We actually do have a responsibility to influence that in some way. And in addition to having a responsibility, we actually have more power than we think we have. I've said this a few times this weekend, but everything meaningful that's ever happened in the world was done by normal people, by everyday people coming together, getting organized from the ground up. And so the poem takes a shift to kind of talk about, well, what happens to you emotionally on the morning you wake to the end of the world? And what are you empowered to do with, in the poem it says, on the morning you wake to the end of the world, your vision will be 2020, so use it, right? It's so, the problems of the world are so clear. In the same way that COVID-19 has really revealed to a lot of us the problems with our governments, the problems with people not having their basic needs met, when you have a ballistic missile coming your way, all the little things seem insignificant and all the big things come into clear focus. And so it really tries to push people in the headset to really think about what are you empowered to do? And how can you think about your connectivity, both to the people around you, but also to the environment that is feeding you? How can you think about your responsibility in those relationships to do something, anything, but to not be frozen in that moment and continue to accept that the world has to just keep ending every day?

[00:11:01.575] Kent Bye: Yeah and there's also another line that you say this idea that we have as an embodied metaphor that the future is in front of us and the past is behind us but almost like we're walking backwards into the future where we can see the past and understanding the past and knowing the history and recognizing the history and telling an authentic story of that history and being in the right relationship and I'm also reminded of this movement of the land acknowledgements to try to like at least have people eventually start to really understand the story of the unceded lands and the occupation and that it's training people to understand these dynamics of colonialism in a way that has this transgression that happens, especially in the context as we see in the world right now with Russia moving into Ukraine. There's sort of like a colonial impulse that happens there that these transgressions that are currently happening right now, but also have happened in the past. And so I just really appreciated that Hawaiian cosmology of Walking backwards into the future looking into the past.

[00:11:58.014] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, and that's one of the things that I think We talked about this on the panel today. I learned this from Public Enemy, right? He says, Armageddon been in effect, right? People of color, indigenous people, we've actually experienced many end of world events, right? The genocide across Native North America, end of world event. The Middle Passage, right, was an end of world event. 90% of my population, my ancestors died within 50 years of the arrival of Captain James Cook. That was an end of world event. And so, along with understanding that we survived those apocalypses, we also have this reframing and perspective, many of us, right, back into the future facing our past. There's a lot of wisdom in Indigenous cultures that are still very much alive around us, right, that we're often sold this lie that all the Native people died. like 50, hundreds of years ago. And it's really sad, but they're all gone. But no, a lot of us are actually still here. And we have a lot of skills and tools to navigate us through the greatest challenges of our time, whether it's climate catastrophe, or nuclear threat, or the military-industrial complex, or state-sanctioned violence. I think we can learn a lot from turning to the wisdom of Native peoples and putting those things into action on the lands on which they were developed, right? So in Hawaii, it makes sense to follow the wisdom of Hawaiians, and in Austin, it makes sense to follow the wisdom of the Tonkava and Kamachi and Apache people. Oftentimes, that gets framed as a moral thing, like we should do this because it's like the nice, good thing to do, but no, it's actually the thing that's going to help us survive. It's the thing that's going to help us create a world that is livable, that we can thrive in again.

[00:13:34.138] Kent Bye: Yeah, and talking to the creators with the premiere of Episode 1 that happened in Sundance, and the Episode 2 and 3 that's premiering here at South by Southwest, and talking to both Archer's Mark and Atlas V and Games for Change from Michaela, that there was this original inquiry that was coming from Princeton trying to collaborate with Games for Change to see how can we take this real big abstract concept of nuclear disarmament and ground it into some sort of interactive game or experience. to focus on this one event that happened in Hawaii with this false ballistic missile event, I feel like it is really able to successfully translate this abstract concept that I had heard about this event, and it was on social media for one day, and then I kind of forgot about it. It wasn't like anything that I was living with day to day, and it was in that abstracted realm, but I feel like there's something about this experience that really grounds it into my own embodied experience, but this is something that you personally and 1.4 million people in Hawaii actually went through and lived through and probably is still with them in a way. And so I'd love to hear some of your reflections of what that event started to catalyze, not only within your own experience, but also this larger discussion that had led to this piece.

[00:14:41.666] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: For sure. And you know, it makes a lot of sense that you bring up, you know, you saw about it on social media and then it kind of disappeared. And a part of that happens because the event was framed as, like, user error, right? Someone made a mistake. They pressed the wrong button and they couldn't figure out how to undo it. When you frame something as user error, It distorts the structural reality that made that event possible. And that's intentional because the powers that be, the people who are maintaining the status quo, don't want people to understand that this could happen at any moment. And it's not about a guy pressing the wrong button. It's about the buildup of militaries and nuclear weapons around the world. When you take that and then you look at the event in a place like Hawaii that is by any standard a military state, which is strange for people to hear, you know, people who experience Hawaii as like this tourism destination, but the military is ever present. You know, we've got Blackhawks circling over my house every day. We hear live fire training just the road, wakes up my daughter almost every day, right? So we live with this military reality almost to the point where it feels natural, that it feels normal. This is a part of our everyday experience. But then to be faced with this nuclear threat, right, to be faced with the ballistic missile coming your way, I think it was the first time for a lot of people in Hawaii to kind of make the connection, the personal and intimate connection between the occupation we're living under in Hawaii and what that means for me and the safety of my family. And I think it has the opportunity if we tell the story in the right way and if we tell the story with the right people, To shift the narrative from national security, which is this phrase that we use in the United States to enable and justify all kinds of harms, to genuine security. What does it mean for you to live in a place to feel genuinely secure, right? What does it mean to have all your needs met from food to housing to education to clean water? And how is it actually that the military industrial state is not only not allowing that to occur, but is actually obstructing that from happening for a lot of people. So I was really pleased with the fact that they decided to tell the story of nuclear threat in a personal way, because it's so easy to abstract. It's so easy to think, well, that's a problem in Russia and in China and North Korea. That's not a problem for me in the middle of the Pacific. That's not a problem for me in Austin, Texas. No, that's a problem for all of us. And the great thing about VR is that you're put in the center. So you experience it as if you got that message. And you hopefully, unfortunately, feel for the first time what it means to really reckon with the fact that you're actually in the center of this military machine that continues to churn so long as we allow it to. And I think there's a lot of power in trying to disrupt that machine through this story.

[00:17:26.240] Kent Bye: I felt like when I first saw this at Sundance this whole current invasion of Ukraine by Russia hadn't even started yet and so seeing it the second time and I watched it from the beginning all the way through it landed with me in a completely different way because again it was almost like well this is an issue that people in Hawaii have to deal with I'm here in a place where I'm safe in Portland Oregon and the United States and that this is not something that We have to worry about but once this larger rhetoric of Putin saying well just start to get ready this nuclear threat I was reminded of that on the morning you wake to the end of world experience because it Was this kind of like why do we live in this world where this is even possible? and it feels like that these stories that are being told in this experience that through the medium of virtual reality to be able to actually take us there has Prepared me in a way to start to reckon with these larger questions, and I'm still kind of left with this you know what would I do if I got that text message and I think I actually met somebody who lived in Hawaii at the time who was there and they didn't really even want to talk about it. It was still traumatizing to them in a way. And I'm curious from the people that you're connected to and related to in Hawaii that a piece like this, would this even be a piece that they would be able to watch or this something that they feel like would be like a catharsis where they're filled with gratitude that maybe finally there's a piece of media that could help explain to the world what everybody had gone through. I'm just curious to hear some reactions to the piece that you've heard so far.

[00:18:47.207] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, I think it really depends on the person. I mean, I have a nephew who we do, in Hawaii, there's a tsunami test siren that happens the first of every month at 11.45 a.m. Every month you hear the sirens go off. The sirens also went off the day of the nuclear threat. And so every month this kid's traumatized. Like he thinks that a bomb is coming to destroy his home. So he's someone, I think, probably not going to want to watch this film, right? Even as he gets older. I think there is a lot of room for catharsis. I think there's, for me as someone who experienced the day, both in an emotional way, but also in a really thinking about the political implications. It was really powerful to see other people who, you know, they live in the same place as me, but I didn't really identify with them. But to have that shared experience and to recognize the shared intimacy of going through that traumatic event was actually pretty cathartic. But I also think that what's really powerful about this project is that people around the world need to be able to see this, right? I think we need to continue to have this conversation in Hawaii in a meaningful and impactful way. But I'm not so sure that everyone in Hawaii needs to be reminded of that day, because we remember. I don't think anyone who was there is going to forget. But like you said, to like have new people step into the center of that and to hopefully reckon with the fact that this could be any of us. And even if it couldn't be any of us, all of us are implicated in it, right? So we could be unintentionally bringing this or allowing this to come upon other people is what I'm really interested in getting people to think about really critically. And I think the invasion of Ukraine It's just another really visible example of how far we've gotten away from our humanity. And so if a project like this can kind of nudge someone back into that human experience and to feel empathy, right, and to feel resonance with the people in the experience, I know it sounds really naive, but I think that actually can have a really tremendous impact on the way that we live in the world.

[00:20:45.376] Kent Bye: Yeah, and another theme that you've talked about and this military occupation, but also everything being cast as if this is a protecting Hawaii, but really it's using as a geopolitical strategic location for the United States more than benefiting the Hawaiians and because there's a lot of situations that they have airplanes that fly over with the Japanese flag symbols calling back from Pearl Harbor and then the follow-up to Hiroshima that's invoked in the second episode, but that there's this casting of protection, but really this event highlighting how it's actually creating more insecurity for the people of Hawaii, but also just in general how the whole entire project of mutually assured destruction is actually making everybody not protected in the same way that through this event people of Hawaii understand that another level and maybe as we go through all this world events right now people might start to understand that but there seems to be these larger powers that are not changing the larger story or dynamic. It's just kind of like this mutually assured destruction as a game theoretic geopolitical game that we're all kind of pawns in in some ways is what I take away but I'd love to hear some of your own reflections of some of those dynamics and discussions of you mentioned the sovereignty movement and if this is something that has started to further those discussions and push this issue forward.

[00:21:58.400] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: For sure. I think there are two recent events that have changed the way the general population talks about the military in Hawaii. And the first is, of course, January 13, 2018, because I think it reframed our insecurity in a really personal way. And people really felt that for the first time, where oftentimes people feel really invincible. I think this, like, illusion of being invincible because of our strange relationship with the United States. So that was a really important reframing. especially because leading up to that point, there are certainly many activists who are interested in deoccupying and demilitarizing Hawaii. I come from a family that's been really invested and believes in that work, but we're certainly not the majority in Hawaii, right? Because the narrative around the military, again, is that it provides protection and it supports our economy. Those are like the two pillars of why we need the U.S. military. But the second event that's continuing to happen is the U.S. Navy is spilling jet fuel into our aquifer every day. They're spilling jet fuel. They spilled tens of thousands of gallons of jet fuel in the water in these like degrading tanks that they've had since World War II. And that demonstration of the insecurity of our water source because of the U.S. military has also shifted people's conversation and people's narrative about whether or not we're secure in this relationship. So I think, I mean, I hope it doesn't take another catastrophic event to get more people on the page of understanding that we actually don't have to live like this. And the problem is, I was raised in a society that really posited these massive structures as natural. Capitalism. Militarism. Patriarchy. I was taught to believe these things had always existed. And if you believe something always existed, if you believe something's natural, it's very hard to imagine a future without them. But if you understand that these systems were created by people to empower themselves at the expense of others, and they're not actually even that old of systems, and you can tell the story of what existed before, so again, hearkening back to the backing into the future facing the past, then you actually have the ability to help people imagine a different way to live, right? And you actually have the ability to empower people to understand that anything that was built by us can be taken down, can be destroyed. And that's actually a position of power, not a position of hopelessness. And that is what I hope, you know, not just our story, but stories like ours are helping people to understand that in the grand scheme of things, in the grand history of this world, my ancestors survived and thrived in a complex society for generations before capitalism was introduced. We don't have to live like this. We don't have to guard ourselves with nuclear weapons to have a safe society. We can build relationships in a different way. But it's going to be up to us to have the courage to imagine that and the tenacity and fortitude to insist that the people who represent us cease harming other people in our name.

[00:24:57.880] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's a philosopher named Timothy Morton who has this concept of a hyper object and how all these things are really integrated in a really complicated way and it feels like this as a story is able to take us a tour through this hyper object of this situation in Hawaii with this false ballistic missile event but that it does have aspects of capitalism and colonialism and I feel like the initial seed of this piece was trying to focus on the nuclear disarmament aspects but in order to really dig into it, it's so interconnected, and so there's aspects of the story that are maybe personally connected to the sovereignty movement that you're interested in, and that I'm just curious how you imagine a piece like this that's talking about these larger issues of the nuclear disarmament, but there's also other ways that you might be able to use to further tell the story of these other issues that are enmeshed into this interconnected hyperobject.

[00:25:45.431] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, you know, there's two things. One is that When you grow up in a movement and in a community that is fighting for sovereignty and fighting for de-occupation, you spend a lot of time actually thinking and talking about what makes a nation worth living in. What makes a society worthwhile? What kind of country do I want to live in? And I'm not sure other people outside of those kinds of movements have a lot of time to talk about that, to think about that, to push those ideas forward. And so in that way, I think being involved in a sovereignty movement offers a lot of opportunity, not just for our own movement for deoccupying and demilitarizing Hawaii, but to be really great collaborators with our kin across Turtle Island, you know, now known as the United States, to help to support in the work and reimagining this like failed experiment called the United States of America. The other thing that I learned really powerfully about the relationship between sovereignty and nuclear disarmament or nuclear threat is, you know, in the 1970s, there was an organization essentially that was formed called the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific. And originally, it was a movement towards denuclearizing the Pacific and ending the testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific. But kind of in the middle of that strategy, these Pacific Island nations recognized that there was no way to denuclearize the Pacific without Pacific independence, that it is in fact the ongoing colonialism in our territory and the ongoing occupation of many of our island nations that is an impediment. to this nuclear problem and our nuclear insecurity. And so those folks are heroes in Hawaii in terms of organizers and demilitary activists. Looking back to that, it reminds us we have to center imperialism in our analysis. We have to center colonialism in our analysis. We have to center the way that agency has been taken away from Native people, from our Black ohana, from our Filipino ohana, from the Pacific All of that is actually completely relevant to denuclearization. And if we're not able to really face that head on, we have a really low ceiling, I guess, of what can be achieved. And so there's one other Native Hawaiian who worked on the project, Illinois Patton. But it's not often that people are open to those ideas about like, no, the real issue is that we need to deoccupy and demilitarize these territories. I can't talk about this story without talking about the way that we're continually violated by the U.S. military. And so to have a venue where we can talk about that, honestly, is really powerful. And I hope, I hope that it's inspiring to other folks, both in the VR space, but in any storytelling realm, that we can tell the whole truth, that audiences are ready for the whole truth, and they're not just ready for it, they're hungry for it.

[00:28:22.425] Kent Bye: You mentioned that you are also a professor. What are the topics that you teach? It sounds like a lot of what you're talking about is relevant, but what are the things that you're focusing on in your scholarship?

[00:28:31.500] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, so I am a professor of Native Hawaiian and Indigenous politics. So I talk about all these kinds of issues, but primarily my previous research so far has been interested in this word called pilina. It's a Hawaiian word that articulates intimacy and relationships. And I look at the way that vast articulations of Hawaiian relationships were transformed via colonialism. And that there's a lot of research in Hawaii about how the land was stolen and how the water was stolen. And I look at the way that colonial interests in Hawaiʻi transformed what was appropriate ways to relate to each other and how that worked in tandem with removing us from the land and understanding that our relationship to the land and our relationship to other people are actually completely intertwined. So I'm really interested in those intersections between, you know, the intimate experience we have with each other and our land. And then I also, I'm just beginning into this kind of research, but I also do research in police and prison abolition. And so I'm interested in how police states are created and the relationship between the police and in the United States, the relationship between the police and slavery has been really clearly articulated by black radical feminists. But in Hawaii, there's a really strong relationship between the creation of policing institutions and the overthrow of our kingdom and the maintenance of the occupying state. And so I'm interested in the relationship between on-the-ground police state violence and then top-down nation-state violence.

[00:29:58.072] Kent Bye: I felt like there's aspects of On the Morning You Wake to the End of the World that starts to tell the story of colonialism in a way that I've never seen told in quite the same way. I'm just curious to hear some of your reflections of some of these topics that you've thought long about and how you think of the virtual reality medium as starting to explain some of these deeper relational dynamics.

[00:30:17.356] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, you know, it's strange to grow up, you know, in a place occupied by the United States where so much There's so many people invested in erasing so many parts of the history of this country. So it's almost like a revolutionary act, again, to tell the truth and to just spell out some of the violence that has occurred. To me, something that I'm really proud about, there's a small moment in the poem, but something I'm really proud about in the poem is the line that says, the coming of ships, the spreading of death, the taming of industry, the carving of land, crosses, and cultures until all that was left was what could be packaged and sold back at a premium. And that phrase to me, what I really wanted to do with the poem is I didn't want to give like definitions of colonialism. I didn't want to give definitions of empire or of capitalism, but to craft phrases that could speak to such a variety of experiences, right? Like the coming of ships, we could be talking about stealing African slaves and bringing them across the Middle Passage, right? The spreading of death. This is the story of Turtle Island, also known as the United States of America. It's the story of Hawaii, the taming of industry, the transforming the way that we relate to land, the carving of that land, the role that the Christian church in particular has played in this violence. And then of course, the way that capitalism has both facilitated this violence, but then jumped on the opportunity to expand itself in that violence, I think, is actually a more expansive and human experience than most people recognize, right? Oftentimes we think of that as something that, you know, maybe only our Black comrades have experienced, or maybe only the Native people across North America have experienced. But in fact, like, this is the fabric of the country that we live in. And so to be able to tell that story, almost like in a general sense, but speaking from like a really intimate place, I think, I don't know, it's actually one of my favorite parts of the piece.

[00:32:08.653] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality and immersive storytelling might be, and what it might be able to enable?

[00:32:17.612] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, I think on the front end, virtual reality allows you to create resonance with new people, right? You can create connection where there might be vast disconnection. And that's really important in the era that we live in, right? COVID-19, climate catastrophe, the fact that our migration and movement is kind of strapped by the immediate challenges that we're facing. But I also look forward to see how VR and XR and these emerging industries find ways to grant greater access. Because someone like me is, you know, working class, Native Hawaiian person. I don't actually- no one I know owns one of these headsets. In working in this project, before working in this project, I was like, I don't really see the use. Like, I don't need that. And then in working in this project, I saw so much potential in how we could change the way we tell our stories and how we could really reach out to new people. But we can only actually do that if new people have access. So this is something I'm really interested into the future seeing. In such a creative industry, how is that industry going to be creative about access, about opportunity, when, I mean, what's the value of a story that's never heard? And what's the value of a story that's not heard by the right people? So I look forward to seeing how that shifts.

[00:33:30.082] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the Immersive community?

[00:33:34.899] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Yeah, I guess I'll say the other really exciting thing about this project is that it allows the voice of a Native Hawaiian woman to kind of be centered in this space. And we live in a society, again, that's been told time and time again that Native people don't exist anymore. They existed in the past. They barely exist in the present. And so the assumption is we're not going to exist in the future. But there are indigenous futurists who are bringing these stories into the future. And so I hope and I've seen actually a few projects. I saw a project that Sundance that was told by native storytellers. But I would love to see VR and this world really not exploit the stories of native people, because that's been done before and it's easy to do. But to think about how to reimagine futures with the people who are most equipped to help do that. And I think native storytelling could really take this industry by storm.

[00:34:23.395] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Jamaica, thank you so much for all the work that you did on this project. I really appreciated all your thoughts that you just shared with me right now, but also your vision and poetry that you're included within this piece. I think it really helps ground the piece in a way that, I don't know, it kind of flipped me into an altered state of consciousness in a way. There's something about the poetry that speaks on another level. And I thought it just really beautiful to hear a lot of those, like you said, centering the indigenous perspectives in a story like this. And so, yeah, thanks again for helping work on this project and sitting down to help unpack it a little bit here on the podcast. So thank you.

[00:34:53.185] Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

[00:34:54.986] Kent Bye: So that was Dr. Jamaica Haoli Mili Kalani Osorio. She's a Native Hawaiian activist, artist, storyteller and professor of indigenous and Native Hawaiian politics. So, again, the piece of On the Morning Wake to the End of the World is releasing on March 24th, 2022. Definitely go check it out. I think it's a standout piece that is certainly one of the examples of what the power of immersive storytelling can be. You could have told the story in 2D, but there's something quite viscerally different by taking you into this experience and to put you grounded into these worlds and the writing and everything else as it comes together, all the different spatial techniques, just really expertly done. really a standout piece in immersive storytelling. Definitely check it out. It also happens to be very timely with everything that's happening in the world right now. This is an experience that 1.4 million Hawaiians went through, but also everybody in the world is starting to go through with these threats of nuclear annihilation that are coming from Putin and his illegal invasion of Ukraine. I actually have another interview that's coming up that will dig a little bit more into the other aspects of the nuclear geopolitics from Princeton University, as well as Susanna Pollack from Games4Change. So that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue bringing this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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