Meneath: The Mirrors of Ethics uses the Pepper’s Ghost Technique from theme parks and theatre to represent hidden indigenous ancestors within her animation film. This technique uses two perpendicular monitors with a piece of glass at a 45-degree angle between them that reflects the image from the monitor facing up, giving it a ghostly apparition appearance.
Terril Calder is an Métis from Fort Frances, Ontario, and she said that her piece is “presented as a political puppet theater experience that uses this old school technology to expose hidden truths.” She is using the Pepper’s ghost technique to represent her indigenous grandmother, and she says, “there’s a hidden character when you’re an outsider to the prominent culture, which is Christianity and colonialism. You always have another person whispering in your ear, so it was a way to show or to expose that other character.”
Calder wanted to ground this clash of cultures by looking at different ethical systems. She uses her stop-motion animation to compare and contrast the Seven Deadly Sins with the Seven Sacred Teachings from Indigenous culture. In her piece, the deadly sin of Wrath is paired with the sacred teaching of Courage, Envy is paired with Wisdom, Pride is paired with Humility, Greed is paired with Honesty, Gluttony is paired with Respect, Sloth is paired with Truth, and Lust is paired with Love. She’s presented with the mainstream culture’s ethics, and then you hear her indigenous grandmother whispering the countervailing sacred teachings while there is some ghostly visual representation that uses the Pepper’s ghost technique.
Calder’s piece won the Tribeca New Voices Award, and the jury statement reads: “Both a dream and a nightmare, the work incites a necessary conversation with exceptional use of craft, storytelling and unexpected use of technology with the potential to iterate in a way that undoubtedly will empower future work.”
I had a chance to catch up with Calder at Tribeca to talk about her process of creating this piece, the inspiration behind using the Pepper’s ghost, the clash of cultures, ethics, and how art can be used to reflect upon and heal from trauma.
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[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. It's a podcast that looks at the potentials of immersive storytelling and the future of special computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So continuing on in my series of looking at the different immersive stories at Tribeca Immersive, Today's episode is with a piece called Meneeth, the Mirror of Ethics. So this ended up winning the New Voices Award. At Tribeca, there's two main selections. There's New Voices, and then there's the Story Skips Award. So this actually took home the New Voices top prize, and I just wanted to read this jury comment to kick off here. Both a dream and a nightmare, the work incites a necessary conversation with exceptional use of craft, storytelling, and unexpected use of technology with the potential to iterate in a way that undoubtedly will empower future work. So the unexpected use of technology is using a technique called Pepper's Ghost. So this is a 2D film, but it's being displayed in a way where there's two different screens. One is facing straight up, and then the other is facing straight out. And so you have basically a 90 degree angle, and in between them you have a piece of glass that's at like a 45 degree angle. the stuff that's showing on the monitor that's facing straight up you can't actually see it when you're sitting down but you see the reflection of it which gives this kind of ghostly apparition effect. It's been used in theme park rides and theater to create ghosts and this is just another way of representing something that's normally hidden, giving it this ghostly apparition using the Pepper's Ghost technique. So, just wanted to explain that at the top here. The topic that Terrell, who's an indigenous Métis from Fort Francis, Ontario, she's exploring these different themes of ethics. So, looking at the seven deadly sins and contrasting it to the seven sacred teachings from her indigenous culture. So, that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Wists of VR podcast. So, this interview with Terrell happened on Friday, June 9th, 2023 at Tribeca Immersive in New York City, New York. So, with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:02:16.334] Terril Calder: Hi, my name is Terrell Calder. I'm Métis from Fort Francis, Ontario, Canada. I am a visual artist and also a filmmaker. My visual art has always inspired me to explore different media and different way of storytelling. And I have an immersive piece at Tribeca, and I'm excited to explore anything as a vehicle of storytelling.
[00:02:39.208] Kent Bye: Great. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into creating immersive media.
[00:02:44.899] Terril Calder: Sure, I love learning any kind of technology, it's just a tool. So my background is in fine art and performance and visual arts and I usually get a little bit bored. I like trying and getting challenged by new things and this piece in particular really inspired me to try to create a story that conceptually uses the technology. It isn't necessarily an add-on. So the challenge always is not to make something just spectacular, but make it conceptually relevant to the actual intent or story.
[00:03:17.255] Kent Bye: Yeah, so the piece that you have here is called Minith, and it's exploring different issues of ethics. And so I'd love to hear a little bit more context for how this story came about.
[00:03:25.845] Terril Calder: Sure. When I was thinking about using initially AR, but it actually has become an old-school AR through different incarnations of how it was going to be implemented, I thought about the idea if you can uncover something, right? You have the technology to show something that you don't have access to, that you've never seen before. So Moniz was I wrote a script that was about Christianity and the idea of healing and salvation, and I wanted to have the viewer have a lens into a different cultural perspective. So Manith basically follows a very young girl called Baby Girl who is trying to decipher how best to heal herself in a society that doesn't necessarily support her own ethical system.
[00:04:15.289] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I guess the thing that was really striking for me about this piece is just the format in which it was being shown. There was almost like a screen from behind that's projecting onto like a diagonal screen, and then something from below that then is combining it that gives this sort of stereoscopic effect of those two different screens coming together. But that was my sense of what was happening, but maybe you could talk a bit about the display format of this piece, because I feel like that was a big part of my experience of the immersive nature of it.
[00:04:43.510] Terril Calder: Yeah, so initially, like I said, I went through many incarnations and I think I love the idea of not always looking forward with technology, but sometimes looking back and amalgamating or doing a hybrid of experience, like nothing is off the table to tell your story. So the effect is actually called Pepper's Ghost Effect. It was used in theatre and it was this magical way to have ghosts and things kind of like it's a magic show, which conceptually works so well with this piece. It's presented as a political puppet theater experience that uses this old school technology to expose hidden truths.
[00:05:21.621] Kent Bye: Yeah, so as I went in to see the piece, I was instructed, feel free to get up and move around. And so then there was a lot of my experience where I was moving from left to right, but what I noticed was that it was more that you could see what was happening on the screen, on the background, on the screen, in the foreground, and then sometimes that there would be a bit of a compositing between those two. But I didn't necessarily know how moving from left to right I was able to see any difference. But it was more of like moving forward and moving backwards. So I don't know if there was something that was different as moving around, because it was like an instruction that I was given that I kept moving left and right, not seeing any stereoscopic differences, but more of like, OK, the difference here is that there's a back screen and a foreground screen in how they were combining those two. So I'd love to hear if there was any other intent for how to imagine how these different screens and worlds were coming together.
[00:06:11.770] Terril Calder: Sure. Everyone has a different experience with the thing, depending on what angle or what moment that they come in. But the Nokomis, which means grandmother, she is only in AR. She's only presented using that effect. So her teachings go in with that conceptual idea that there's a hidden character when you're an outsider to the prominent culture, which is Christianity and colonialism. you always have another person whispering in your ear, so it was a way to show or to expose that other character, and it's the user's experience too. The problem a lot with using tech is it's also narrative, so it depends on how you want to have your experience, whether you want to explore the technology and see how that's fantastic, but if you actually want to sit and absorb the content, that's okay too.
[00:07:03.218] Kent Bye: Yeah, so as I was watching it I noticed that there was one character that wasn't on the back screen but was only on the foreground screen because it's like this ghostly apparition or I think of it as like this transcendent realm of ideal forms, this ancestor in some ways. I don't know how you conceive of this other dimension that's coming into this story.
[00:07:22.757] Terril Calder: Well to me it was always like a hidden aspect but you know I could also say like it's a very indigenous thing to say that we have like our ancestors in our ear which is true like kind of guiding us when we are making our decisions you know. Especially when you're the only indigenous person in the room you could sometimes be swayed by popular opinion because your way always seems a bit weird. but you do always have that traditional voice, spirit, you know, usually it's your ancestors, people that preceded you, and they guide you, and they say, no, no, no, you're okay, you gotta do it our way. It's like, okay, I'm gonna look like a weirdo, but I'll do, you know, and so I think a lot of people, like I said, that outside of that culture really, like, identify with that, you know, that kind of guidance, you know, knowing your way, but then you're told that's the wrong way. Yeah, so that's that realm.
[00:08:12.986] Kent Bye: And so maybe talk about the structure of the piece because it seemed like there was like the seven deadly sins and then There be a speaking of that and then almost like the antidote of like the more exalted potential of that ethical aspect But I don't know how you describe the structure of this piece. I
[00:08:29.663] Terril Calder: The structure was absolutely difficult to decipher. My intent was always to talk about ethics, and then the core ideas, the one I expressed, that voice in your ear, but not necessarily dealing around spirituality or Christianity. Those were just vehicles to kind of get at those differences, you know? So we have in our culture seven sacred teachings, and that's actually what is compared in contrast to the seven deadly sins. And I know there are ten commandments, And I was like, I could use a 10, but it's 10 and then 7. So thematically, it just worked better with 7 and 7, and have each chapter. And it wasn't easy, because they're not in contradiction. They don't even speak to each other. So it was me really deciding, OK, I'll use this teaching with this teaching, and how they kind of contradict. and put you in that space of childhood innocence when you're told a lot of information and sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all. It was always my hope for the viewer because I think that's a shared experience with everyone's childhood is kind of living in that space and having a bit of confusion trying to figure out the right path because you don't have autonomy at that age. You're very much told what to do by those people around you that are supposed to know better.
[00:09:40.355] Kent Bye: Okay, so there are the seven deadly sins and what were the other seven and what was from your tradition? Maybe you can elaborate on those other seven aspects.
[00:09:47.798] Terril Calder: Sure, they're called the seven sacred teachings, but you don't go to a church and sit and you learn these, you know, it's not necessarily, we have our own spiritual practices which is called like walking the good red road and you have to spend time with an elder to become an elder and learn traditional knowledge. But the seven sacred teachings are basically embedded from birth. Even when I was coming to Tribeca, my mom was like, remember to be humble. So it's always just around you how to navigate in a good way your world or your journey that you don't have to be like somebody else. And a lot of people are like, well, you should definitely have pride or be more professional. But that absolutely contradicts the seven sacred teachings with wisdom, courage, humility is a really big one.
[00:10:32.985] Kent Bye: And so would you be willing to go through those seven sacred teachings or just kind of list them out just because I feel like there was a text that was being said and it wasn't until maybe a few of them in that I realized that there was almost like the antidote to them as it was shown the word of the seven deadly sins but then the seven sacred teachings were paired up and so I'd love if you would be willing to go through what those seven are.
[00:10:54.950] Terril Calder: Well, I can list them off. Let's see if I can, because sometimes I get them mixed out. Truth, honesty, wisdom, humility, courage, love, and respect.
[00:11:08.493] Kent Bye: Great. So the style of this piece, it felt like it was either that you created this and animated it in stop motion, or I couldn't tell if it was like CG or animated. Maybe you could describe your techniques for how you're actually making this piece.
[00:11:22.590] Terril Calder: Sure, I'm known as a bit of an odd duck in the animation world because I love making things independently, because I like the process, I like learning, I like the cross-culture hybrid things that you can do when you actually have your hands in the whole process. So it's stop-motion animation for the most part. I create the dolls and the sets and write the script. I had amazing actors come in and voice the characters. Jeff Barnaby, who is an amazing Indigenous artist, edited the piece and put it together. For the CG part, I did compositing, but for the most part I animated Nokomis in set and then just keyed her out and put her on another channel. Yeah.
[00:12:06.540] Kent Bye: Yeah, and as I was watching the piece, there were certain turning points that start to dive into different aspects of trauma that this character has gone through. And so I'd love to hear maybe an expansion on the ways that you're using this medium to explore either a catharsis or reckoning of some of these different traumas that this character had gone through.
[00:12:29.052] Terril Calder: Sure, I think, for me, I wanted to talk about ethics and I thought that's going to be a snooze fest, to talk about ethics in any kind of a film, in any kind of immersive way that affects the viewer, so I wanted to deal with trauma. And it's only touched upon a couple of times that the baby girl had physical abuse, right? But I wanted to leave a lot of room because as human beings we get a little bit damaged in our own journeys and it's always the question I wanted to pose is where do you find your healing, like where does that come from, right? So I didn't want it to just be my story or the character's story, I wanted it to be a universal story of when it really, really matters where do you go to put yourself back together. And within the baby girl's journey of that very confusing time of childhood, and having that other character who's invisible whispering in her ear, and then the dominant culture telling her, no, that's not right. Navigating that path to embracing, I don't know, spoiler alert. Embracing who she is and her own traditional values and her own systems and realizing that, you know, that she's proud to be Native, she's proud to be Indigenous and her way isn't wrong. And in fact, you know, in a bigger context, you know, it should be recognized. Equity means that everybody should understand that accommodation on both sides that we make to come together, you know, and equity is a little uncomfortable. So my hope for this piece is just to create questions for the viewer, you know, and their own journey, their own experience. But I don't have the answers, and I would never say, well, then clearly you have to follow our teachings or... I'm just saying there are other ways, other ways to heal or to navigate.
[00:14:12.985] Kent Bye: Yeah, and there are some other moments that I remember from the piece where there was this circle with a cross with the four colors that felt like an indigenous medicine wheel of some sort, or some sort of symbol that was almost like coming up and being put as a filter over other things in the foreground. I don't know if you know what I'm referring to, but I'd love to have you maybe expand upon these certain moments where there's almost like pulling in these symbolic references and integrating them into the piece in a way that also had almost a layered effect, or as I saw it in the moment, whatever is behind it was almost being modulated through this indigenous symbol. So that was sort of my read at the moment, but I'd love to hear any expansion on that.
[00:14:54.568] Terril Calder: That's cool. Like, I think that in that one particular scene, because she's painted half black and half white, and I think a lot of things I learned through that kind of other ethical system is always black and white. You know, this is right, this is wrong. And with Indigenous culture, we really refer to the medicine wheel that there are four directions, right? But every direction has a very much a deeper meaning, or like the four grandfather teachings, right? It's just a different way to see the world instead of seeing it just in two parts like there's many parts and has room and the circle is also like a huge symbol like our Decision-making like tribal council all that stuff happens in a circle and the idea that there's equity, but there's not a hierarchical system so it's a reoccurring theme of that triangle of the hierarchy compared to the circle of the indigenous and And it's okay if the viewer doesn't go, oh, I get that, you know, because I mean, I always make the work from a visceral point of view, like you go in there and you maybe find a few things that resonate with you. But I am obsessed with Easter eggs. I'm obsessed with putting in way more layers and way more content, you know, and different things that I think about, because also my viewers, my audience base can also be, you know, native. I'm not going to just always speak to like one kind of audience or one kind of experience. And, you know, if somebody's really curious, I mean, once again, posing questions, I hope that they seek the answers.
[00:16:22.739] Kent Bye: Speaking with the director of This Is Not A Ceremony, Colin, and he was having different symbols that this is a 360 video that showed at Sundance. And there's certain symbols that were embedded into that piece that were like Easter eggs to the indigenous culture that people from the outside may not fully comprehend and understand. From my understanding, also, there's a bit of a process sometimes with communicating with the outside world, where if there is this indigenous knowledge, then there's almost a process that you might have to go through to get consent from elders. Is that something that you had to go through with this piece to show it and get approval or okay? Yeah, I'm just curious to hear if there was any additional processes that you went through with your tribal elders with a piece like this.
[00:17:09.488] Terril Calder: You do have to, and I have had to absolutely in the past, you know, have an elder or somebody come in and everything isn't up for grabs. Like a lot of our traditional stories are things, you know, when you're going into a certain territory, you do need counsel. But our teachings, these are not private teachings, they're very well known. Everything that I use in the film is open access, kind of way to explain it. which I sort of love. You know, I love that there's a bit of confusion because me growing up there was a bit of confusion. Like, so it's the same same kind of a thing. Like, you know, you're confused a little bit by our iconography or we are a little confused by your symbols or iconography and we had to kind of explore and figure it out and stuff like that. But no, he's absolutely right that We can't, and also from nation to nation, like I'm Métis from Fort Francis, Ontario. There's certain stories I can't tell like a Haida story, like I can't go to a different nation and say, okay, well, I'm a native and I can like, so you need permission from that community. If you want to take on anything outside of your own wheelhouse, you know, you have to be accountable because I think a lot of people forget that, first and foremost, my community have to be behind me and like the work that I'm doing. It's a huge ask as a filmmaker, even as an artist. They have to like it, they have to approve. I also went to art school, I want to make it a very cool art piece. I also want it to be political, so it needs to be accessible. And so I've got this weird formula when I'm approaching a piece and trying to check all those boxes, you know. But I think that beneath, like, I feel like it comes close to that intent and I don't think I've nailed it yet, but I think one day I might. I have to have, you know, a goal. No, but it always comes down to, you know, even my family say, it doesn't matter who likes it, we like it, you know. And I think that's a beautiful thing to be emboldened by your community.
[00:19:07.096] Kent Bye: Yeah, as I was watching this piece there was, I feel like a pretty coherent narrative in terms of what was being said from moment to moment, but then there's sometimes that the visuals got really symbolic or abstract or almost felt like a dream logic in some ways of like going through this dream and how the dream logic juxtaposed with reflecting on the ethical dimensions of the seven deadly sins as contrasted to these seven sacred teachings from your indigenous culture. And so there's this contrast that was interesting, but also the visuals just alone felt like being pulled into like this dream logic of deep symbolism and trying to communicate the essence of the story in a way that because you're using the stop-motion animation, you're able to have the freedom to get a little bit more surrealistic in a way. So I'd love to hear some of your process of balancing the visuals and the overall story as these two components are coming together.
[00:20:03.305] Terril Calder: Often my work is described as a fever dream. I love the idea that is now presented in this piece as a puppet theatre because it's a political expression of something I want to get at that is important to me. When you use animation or stop-mo and when you don't necessarily work with live action and are too didactic with what you're trying to get across, I think it's way more accessible to just sit back and experience the piece and just kind of let it sink into you. You know, I do talk to a lot of other Indigenous animators, creators that work with different media, and it's just a way to kind of get around people shutting down the content. and saying, this isn't about me, I'm going to walk away. So I always find Stop Mo, the tactile qualities, the innocence of the baby girl. My hope was always that you'd be curious enough to go through this crazy roller coaster ride at the end. Some people get on that ride again to pick up more Easter eggs if they want to. Some people don't, some people are emotionally affected, some people aren't. To me, everyone has a very individualistic experience with the work, but using the media of art has always been a very successful way to talk about really heavy and difficult stuff.
[00:21:20.823] Kent Bye: And because this does have this ethical architecture and structure to this piece, you'd mentioned the Christianity and other aspects. I'm just wondering, like, if you take me back to that moment where you decided that you were going to undertake this project and what was that you were trying to interrogate when it comes to ethics?
[00:21:37.799] Terril Calder: Sure. His name escapes me, but there's this amazing indigenous professor in Saskatchewan. Can't remember his name right now because I'm very dyslexic. But he is trying to create indigenous ethical spaces within colonial institutions. He's trying to make places where you don't necessarily have to code switch or do things that you can go to school and then you got a little den to hang out with your buddies and just kind of recoup. Because it is difficult to be misunderstood a lot. You do feel like you're the problem, you know. I mean, I was feeling a lot of that myself because I come from a very small community. I went to university. I went to animation school. I've always had a bit of that outsider point of view. So when you hang out with your own people, it's just there's a shorthand. It's just easy. And so I was really inspired, it just occurred to me, I was wondering, does everybody know that? And to me that's an interesting question to explore through any kind of media, as a story, like an immersive story, something that people could feel or experience themselves perhaps. And once again, to cause questions, the question. And there are people that have experienced this that said, I've never thought about that before. And to me, I'll take it. If a couple of people walk away and feel like, oh, I've never thought of that before, I feel like that's a win, you know?
[00:22:54.092] Kent Bye: And I know that the National Film Board has been really at the forefront of pushing forward these new emerging forms of storytelling. So I'd love to hear some of your reflections of what it was like for you to work with NFB on this project.
[00:23:06.629] Terril Calder: Sure, they have so many resources and talented people. Elouard Champagne, we work together, but he's the one that we're brainstorming how to make this come to life. And the piece almost didn't even come here, he drove the piece. here to Tribeca because of FedEx. But, you know, I mean their resources are amazing and they really do take care of their artists. Because I'm an indie, I've been an indie animation artist stop-mo for like 10 years and I usually do a lot of the producing and stuff, which happens in that world as you do a lot of that stuff yourself. So having access to new tools, new technology, new ways of storytelling is powerful and I am absolutely grateful and we're starting up another piece, which I get to go off and do some research in a couple months and figure out a way, you know, because once again it's tools, so what is the best way to tell the story? But having, like I said, a budget and so many possibilities to explore is really exciting as an artist.
[00:24:10.659] Kent Bye: What was the inspiration for you to investigate these other existing media with the Pepper's Ghost technique? What was the catalyst for you to take something like that and to use it in your piece?
[00:24:21.743] Terril Calder: It's because we tried a lot of different ideas, because the concept was always, how do we expose something that's hidden? Period. That was the ask, right? So how do we use technology to do that? So we had floating iPads for a while. We had AR. I wanted to do it in cinema with phones. That wasn't going to work out. So it was kind of just trial and error to kind of figure out the scale, the experience, the media. We talked about this, but I didn't really understand it. Like, I knew the Pepper Ghost effect worked, but I didn't understand the science behind it necessarily. So he had done it and had set up this trial, kind of like the small scale of a puppet theater, but we were going to project it much larger. And I thought, no, this is actually really cool because it's really intimate and you're bigger than it. And it's a tiny little huge thing that you have to like experience on a little stool that sort of reflects the film itself, you know. So it's just a lot of trial and error to try to figure out the best way to manifest the initial concept.
[00:25:22.717] Kent Bye: I'm curious to hear some of the reactions if you've been able to have a chance to show this to anyone in your community and what kind of reactions they had about it.
[00:25:31.305] Terril Calder: They're just incredibly proud of me. There's a lot of barriers to be a filmmaker or to do anything really. They're amazing. I don't know. But like I said, it's a two-way street. They give me power, you know, and some of the youth are like, well, I can do that too, you know. And I'm like, yeah, I'm just making a mess and figuring it out. And, you know, I got myself here and I've been making films, like I said, for 10 years. So if somebody like me can do it, like, you know, and all of our stories are important. I've only got my stories, like different nations need to, you know, we need more representation, not just me doing the same old thing all the time. Because there are so many amazing stories and so many interesting ways to tell those stories too, you know? So, yeah.
[00:26:23.939] Kent Bye: Have you had a chance to see any other experiences here at Tribeca Immersive? And I'm curious to hear some of your reflections on these other emerging media of virtual and augmented reality.
[00:26:34.130] Terril Calder: Sure, it's always been an interest of mine because I do travel a lot with my other films as I always go into the immersive or interactive section and check out and see what they're doing. I think it's called The Fury. It's like amazing, you know, like once again, it's always just thinking it's not going to be because the technology is spectacular. It's going to blow you away. I always call it like a roller coaster ride. Something cool is going to happen. But using that cool thing with an intention and using it as a conceptual device is a little bit tricky, you know. Some people, and I get it, like you just become so dazzled with trying to figure out the brand new coolest toy and it's amazing. But if you can use it in a way that enhances, supports and is integral to that story, it's so powerful. And the Fury did that for me.
[00:27:24.692] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. I thought it was really, really quite powerful piece and enjoyed it quite a lot. Yeah. Almost like a way of having a community ritual at the end of the film where it felt like this is something that doesn't exist in the existing culture, but something that could be a new mode of catharsis or ritual making that is emergent out of a community. I don't know. I just thought it was really beautiful as a way that the artists could present this as a possibility and then I don't know, I feel like trauma and healing from trauma is one of the biggest challenges of our time and you know how to actually work through these different issues and it seems like this is a theme that you're working through as well and exploring in your media but love to hear any other reflections on the degree of trauma and how that impacts humanity and how we can use art to maybe help us work through it.
[00:28:14.150] Terril Calder: That's a big ask. Well, I wish I had all the answers for that. No, you know, I don't know. Like, I think what I've come to the conclusion of my life is that we're going to get bruised always along our journey. And some are more bruised than others, you know, that terrible things inevitably will happen, you know. And instead of sitting there and saying, oh, that was terrible and living in that trauma that we always need to look for the light, you know, I always say, OK, that did happen to me. And that comes into us and becomes a part of who we become as people too as we navigate the world. My trauma makes me a good teacher because I understand the depths of sorrow. You know, and I don't wish trauma on anybody to say, OK, you're going to be a great person when you go through a bunch of stuff. It's just learning how to bounce and to always say, you know what? Today's a new day. The sun is shining. You know, what am I going to do? What am I going to do to be curious and find joy in the day or the moments? And it's as simple as that. It's not like this big grand thing where I'm going to be winning an Oscar or stuff like that. It's like, how do I enjoy my morning coffee? You know, Because it's never a pendulum. Trauma, then I'm happy. Oh, if that didn't happen to me, I'd be good. It's like dealing with what you've got and the tools you've got to heal yourself.
[00:29:36.001] Kent Bye: Awesome. Do you feel like your artistic practice is one modality of helping process or digest some of your own experiences of trauma?
[00:29:47.485] Terril Calder: Well, I would hope. I don't know. I find answers in art. When I go and see art, you know, specifically that moves me or touches me, it'd be my hope that somebody could find something in my work. Because it is, I always try to be very honest in my work, and I find that work that's honest connects with you some way. And that would be my hope. You know, with this piece, like, there are many people that, like I said, had very unique experiences to it. And I do get a lot of hugs sometimes. Sometimes people are a little bit annoyed that they're triggered, I guess. You know, it's all over the map, really. But like I said, if we can get at that, you know, just be a human and just feel stuff. We can get it out of our bodies and then heal. Yeah.
[00:30:33.550] Kent Bye: Awesome. And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual and augmented reality and all these immersive media might be, and what it might be able to enable?
[00:30:44.314] Terril Calder: Like I said, it's amazing. And it's just a tool. And everyone's now freaking out about AI content, right? So it's like, oh my goodness, what's going to happen? But I mean, they were freaking out. When I was learning computer animation, everyone was freaking out that the interface was now accessible to artists. It's like, what are we going to do? They're going to have access. Everyone's going to be making animation. It works itself out, you know, like and audiences aren't dumb like, you know, you're gonna figure what you like It's just another player in the game, right? It's gonna be another like when CG hit the screen then it threw out practical effects and then practical effects came back because we started hating like it's it's always this moving entity, you know, and it's it's another brilliant tool that I really hope people don't adhere to the rules that it's creating for itself, but always kind of explore with it, with that same curiosity, and work on their narrative, concept, storytelling, and just using it to the best experience that they possibly can. Because you can still make awesome stuff with a pencil, right? You know, and you're just using a brand new pencil that is amazing. Yeah.
[00:31:52.471] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?
[00:31:57.866] Terril Calder: Keep making stuff, make dynamic things that I'm excited to see, that inspire me. You guys are the future, so surprise me.
[00:32:08.708] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Terrell, thanks so much for joining me today to help unpack your project beneath and all the technical aspects and just your whole journey of creating this piece. And yeah, like you said, this fever dream, it's like this transport of journey visually, but also the story was really quite compelling with all these ethical dialectics that you're creating between these two different systems. So yeah, I really appreciated hearing a bit more context for how it came about and the backstory of it all. So thanks for joining me here on the podcast. Thank you.
[00:32:36.188] Terril Calder: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
[00:32:37.845] Kent Bye: So that was Terrell Calder, a metis from Fort Francis, Ontario, a visual artist, filmmaker, exploring different aspects of media, and also this transmedia aspect of the Peppers or Ghosts technique that she has in her piece called Meneeth, the Mayor of Ethics, which picked up the New Voices Award at Trebeka Immersive. It's contrasting the seven deadly sins with the seven sacred teachings, and so the seven deadly sins of wrath is compared and contrasted to the seven sacred teachings of courage, envy with wisdom, pride with humility, greed with honesty, gluttony with respect, sloth with truth, and lust with love. So, I've had a number of takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, Well, the story was really quite powerfully told and using this stop motion animation on top of this Pepper's Ghost technique where there's some compositing on top of that, the style of it was quite unique and suited the topic of both ethics on the one hand, but also exploring these different aspects of trauma and just trying to reckon indigenous identity with the teachings of Christianity. And yeah, just exploring all these themes of alienation and also just trying to find your own ethical way. And also being able to heal from trauma was also themes that were explored within this piece as well. So again, a really powerful piece that was using this fever dream of an aesthetic with exploring all these deeper topics. Now, in terms of whether or not this as a technique is going to be continued to explored, I think it's this idea of having one media, which is just the 2D film, and then starting to project onto a spatial context that is able to, as Terrell was saying, that she wanted to really explore things that were hidden and unseen. And these are aspects of her own indigenous traditions of ancestors and this polychronic way of looking at time where you see the past, present and future of both looking at the connection to the ancestors in the past, but also the seven generations in the future. And having an ongoing dialogue with ancestors is something that is just more embedded into the indigenous culture as contrasted to the much more linearized perspective of Western colonial cultures. So, yeah, just trying to take this approach of trying to reclaim some of those different aspects of her culture and to represent it through this spatialized context where you're getting this ghostly apparition of her grandmother figure who is whispering in her ear all these seven sacred teachings as she's confronted with the seven deadly sins from Western cultures. So, yeah, just I thought it was a story that was really well told. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of ER podcast, and if you enjoyed 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 so 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 voicesofer. Thanks for listening.