#771: Indigenous VR & Embodying the Colonial Super Predator with Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

paisley-smith-lawernce-paul-yuxweluptunLawrence 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.


Here is a brief trailer for Unceded Territories that features some of the interactions, art aesthetic, and music from A Tribe Called Red

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

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 way back in 2015, here in Portland, Oregon, I was having a conversation with someone who was not in the technology community. And we're having a little bit of this debate of virtual reality and the merits of VR. They're a student of Martine Prechtel, who is kind of like this shamanistic, psychedelic culture teacher, going back at all these different indigenous practices. And they were making an argument that still sticks with me today because I don't necessarily have a good answer to it. And it's something that Douglas Rushkoff actually also brought up. And the point that they're making was, can you source back all of the material for where this came from in the earth, all these VR headsets? And can you have a little bit of accountability of whether or not this was being ethically produced? And at that time, and still to this day, I can't answer that in any conclusive way. It's a little bit of like, well, I don't know. But in talking to Douglas Rushkoff, and he was telling me the story about the fairer phone, the guy who's trying to create this phone that is ethically produced. And the result of this guy was that he wasn't able to actually produce a phone that was completely ethically produced, especially because he wasn't able to like ensure that all of the rare earth metals and everything came from a system that didn't have any slavery embedded into it. So we're in this situation where we're using all these technologies, but yet there's some sort of unconscious shadow side that we're not looking at. So this podcast that I have today is with Lawrence Paul Yooks-Bellopton, as well as with Paisley Smith. So at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, there was a piece called Unceded Territories. And Lawrence is an indigenous artist, and he was trying to tell the stories of things that he has from his perspective, his perspective as an indigenous perspective, and dealing with a lot of the colonialism and capitalism and all the sort of Western mind perspectives that he has received. And so in some ways, there's certain aspects of this perspective that Lawrence Paul has that I think is not being fully included within our current paradigm. And I think it's possible that that thing that we're not looking at is leading us into all these different crises. And so the challenge is to try to listen to what's being lost and try to accommodate these different perspectives into something that's a little bit more inclusive. And I think that starts with just listening to what the indigenous perspective is. The other thought that I'd share before we dive into this podcast interview is that when I went to the American Philosophical Association Eastern meeting this year, I was really struck by how the analytic philosophers categorizing this taxonomy for how they view what the domains of philosophy is, they will say that, well, there's these two major branches of philosophy, there's analytic philosophy, as well as continental philosophy. The way that the Western mind looks at philosophy is through this almost like false binary between analytic and continental, because there's all these other branches of philosophy, like indigenous philosophy, and Latin American philosophy, Eastern philosophies, and Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, there's all these other philosophies that don't fit neatly into this analytic versus continental perspective. And so in some ways, this is a lot of the indigenous philosophy that I'll be covering in this podcast today and trying to figure out, well, how do we adapt the way that we view the world and we operate in a way to really start to see what the deeper message is that Lawrence is trying to give to us in this art piece that he's doing that was premiering at Dravica this year called Unceded Territories. So, that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So, this interview with Lawrence and Paisley happened on Saturday, April 27th, 2019, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, New York. So, with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:54.070] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: I'm Lawrence Paul Duke-Wilson. I've been working in VR since the 90s when I did a project at the BAM Center in virtual reality. So it was quite a few years now since I've been involved in working with it from time to time. What was interesting is the virtual native habitat in design structure. That's what I was very interested in, looking at it in a virtual landscape concepts.

[00:04:28.033] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so maybe Paisley, you can talk a bit about seeing that piece and then how this project came about.

[00:04:33.868] Paisley Smith: Yeah, so I actually already was very familiar with Lawrence's work because I studied Canadian art history in undergrad as well as film. And so I already had, you know, massive respect for Lawrence's work. But when I was working on Homestay, I got obviously pretty depressed working on that project. We've already talked about that. And one of the things I did during that process was order a bunch of books on the 80s and 90s VR work that came out. I'd seen Jackie Mori do a talk at SIGGRAPH. And she had talked about how, like, she was just describing the freedom that they had at that time to create and how so many artists and women, I mean, women artists had created these pieces that were super experimental and very based in video art and performance art and kind of this, like, it sounded like, kind of like the best. most fun ever. So I ordered this book and when I was reading it, it was from the BAMF Center, Lawrence had an essay in there and it was just all these different areas of my life, virtual reality and art and activism coming together. And so I actually got to try Lawrence's project, Inherent Rights, Vision Rights, at his retrospective at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver.

[00:05:44.271] Kent Bye: Yeah, maybe you could, I haven't seen that piece, but what were you trying to, you said you were trying to create a sense of the ecosystem, or what was the message that you were trying to create in your first VR piece that you did in the early 90s?

[00:05:53.578] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: I guess that nothing is found until a wise man claims it. So virtually, inherent rights, vision rights, was the concept of what is inherent rights, what is sovereignty, what is aboriginal title, what is aboriginal world, what is, you know, all of these questions at the same time in the fear of others. I don't understand your belief system, then I fear you, then I hate you, then I hate the color of your skin. You see where this is going?

[00:06:24.033] Kent Bye: Yeah.

[00:06:26.175] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: People I didn't understand a lot of natives that are not Christianized. If you're not Christianized in this world, you're not assimilated. If you're not assimilated, you're not a part of us. So there's this us and them situation going on. So I want to make it clear that the religious wars of the world and the Pope, that we will never surrender our culture. And British Columbia tried to outlaw Aboriginal culture. We're talking about this is a colony. This is a part of the British Empire. This is a British ideology. And I wanted to show them, no, we haven't surrendered our identities. We're not going to give up our beliefs. And no, I'm not going to go to your church. And no, I'm not going to pray to your God. And no, I'm not going to listen to your Pope. We went to your residential schools. All we got was raped and murdered and molested and violated and tortured and experimented on. There was all of those things that happened at residential school, but we still survived residential school. So I went to residential school. Yes, I lost my language, but I still retain my identity. And I think identity politics in terms of, the virtual reality is maintaining one's cultural identity. I was putting a native culture into virtual space so people could have a better understanding of and not fear me as much as they would. That I do worship all, everything is sacred and all my relations.

[00:08:09.439] Paisley Smith: Lawrence, I remember you telling me that you called the virtual reality piece and the mask, the white man's mask. Can you talk about that a little bit?

[00:08:20.116] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Well, when they first created it, it was the mask of the white man. It was finally their awakening and what their mask was. And when they first designed it, it actually came out of Nassau. They used it for warfare, the black death helmet. So they say helmet I still say mask, it goes over your face and it's a weapon. So it's a weaponized concept. So it derives from there from its history. Artists were around the world were asked to take this technology and do something else other than war. So that is the objective that opened up the use of this technology. They had this technology for a long time. But it wasn't released to the world until later on. So if you look at your history, that's the reality of virtual reality, the purpose of its intent. But now I think that artists, we're not really interested in weaponizing the concept. We're more interested in culturalizing. the concept of virtual reality in our own worlds that we have in place in time and in the world and I think that's what's exciting about what's going on with virtual reality is that we all will look at it differently, we'll all culturally look at it differently. I mean it is the pixie cell and that's what it is and it's on a grid and every artist that challenges that grid, has to convert their culture into that grid. That's what I looked at, and that was the challenge that I was striving for, and with a lot of help, we were able to produce. This is the second piece now. So, I've always had a lot of help. Basically, it's been amazing help to bring the type of work that I create in virtual reality space but you can walk through one of my paintings other than standing there looking at one of my paintings or I can't really tell you what one of my dreams are like but they are like sometimes like my paintings so yeah it is exciting.

[00:10:32.930] Kent Bye: So one of the things that you said that was really interesting and provocative is that something doesn't exist until the white man discovers it. And we look at something like virtual reality as being this real cutting edge technology, but it sounds like what you're saying in some ways is that a lot of what the VR gives you is something that maybe has been preserved through these different indigenous philosophies and practices and ways of relating to the larger context. And so I'm just curious to hear you expand on that a little bit.

[00:11:00.550] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Well, You have to look at the technology as it expands our globe. I mean, you have airplane crashes and they have to go on assimilated virtual plane simulators and look at the technology and to resolve the issues of technology and see what happens. You have doctors that'll use virtual reality to test their skills out. So the advancement of virtual reality is is coming into place you have drafting designs where people can start an engine and have a vehicle drive in a virtual space but they have to develop the technology and the drafting skills to create it so companies will use it. So the same thing with architecture where virtual architecture is being created and expanded so there's vast movements within the virtual world now so that's a part of it but I think that As artists, we have to look at how we would work with this technology and how we would create a virtual space and how would we... the endless possibilities of using virtual reality. So that's an open-ended situation for people to possess what they think and then create something. That is quite different in terms of being a photographer, a painter or a sculptor. Now you can create virtual sculpture. You can create a virtual space in a three-dimensional space. You can walk through it. So it's completely changed the idea of how you would visually stimulate your eyes to visually experience something and wearing a helmet, wearing a mask. But that's part of the technology, so that's what I see where it's going to go is a lot of different people will look at it and say, well, I can use it here, and I can use it here this way. So people will approach it in the way that is needed for them, and others will, well, I want to entertain you this way with it, or I want to educate you with this, or I want to bring you somewhere. You know, people will like to be somewhere, but they can't do that. So, so somebody creates a program and says, okay, I'm going to take you to Everest and we're going to all stand on the top of the mountain and we're all going to virtually be there. So that's what technology is going to do is it's expanding everywhere when it wants to show you. Hmm.

[00:13:31.610] Kent Bye: Yeah, and your piece is called Unceded Territories, and so when I had a chance to be in Vancouver for the Vancouver International Film Festival, it was striking to me to go to a film screening and see that there was a land claim that was being made as to whose territory it was in terms of the history of colonization of that location. And it seems like there's this movement, especially in Canada, trying to either work things out at a government level with the different tribes, but that term of unceded territories, maybe you could expand upon that a little bit in terms of, you know, your relationship to that and what that means for you.

[00:14:10.289] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: joining the Confederation of Canada. Okay, British Columbia joins the Confederation of Canada. It doesn't give Native people citizenship and doesn't allow them to vote until the 60s. So are we a part of this country? Technically, we're not even citizens of this country. So it's like, give me citizenship. Let's get rid of the Indian Act, in terms of the Indian Act is nothing more than a white supremacy act of Canada, of the world. We're indigenous people around the world. This is the same thing as United States of America, Australia, South America, New Zealand. You have the indigenous people, but you take away all their rights. So it's so convenient to put us on colonial reservations and tournament camps forever. I mean, it's, Virtually, is this what I'm supposed to expect? Is that we're going to stay on colonial concentration camps forever on these little reservations? And I'm supposed to be happy and satisfied and grateful that we're interned on these places and spaces and my rights are limited? and we don't acknowledge aboriginal people and we want to put a pipeline through the mountains over the mountains and we want to destroy this world and kill everything as a colonial construct the capitalist system that is destroying this planet and I'm supposed to sit there and gleefully say thank you for killing everything, and cutting down all the trees, and poisoning all the rivers, and fracking everything, and killing all the salmon, killing all the birds, deforestation everywhere. I'm really grateful for that, and I'm grateful for all of those things that have been bestowed upon Aboriginal people. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed the smallpox that Britain here wiped us out. It's like, am I not grateful enough? And they go, no, well, we think that you should pay taxes. And I say, well, I think that we should give Aboriginal people human rights. Why create a building in Canada that commemorates human rights of the world when you won't give Aboriginal people human rights? This is the problem of the two-faced colonial construct, is that it'll stand around and point their fingers at the world and say that there's a problem, but then it doesn't admit to the problem that it is that standing right in front of you, the Indian problem, which is my human rights. My human rights are being violated every day and every native person in Canada and the United States around the world are being violated. Yes, they do want equality. Yes, they do want to see that the United Nations to have their voice. And yes, we should be moving away from fossil fuels. And these are concerns that aboriginal people have. That's my inherent right to say these things, to speak. I may be a prisoner of colonialism, of democracy, but I still have the right and my freedom to say, to speak, to have a voice. to say something. If that's all that I have, then I will use my voice and my concerns about the world, that the ozone problem that we have, the plastic world that we have, the problems of the oceans that we have, the temperature of the planet. These are worldly things. These are encroaching upon my reservation that you stuck me on. You know, it's like you have to remember Chernobyl. I was sitting on a reservation. And that accident happened, and it went around the world. And the radio says, you can't use your rain catcher to drink the water. So I went over to the Ben office and said, what the hell's going on? I can't use my rain catcher anymore. I think you guys should send a message to Russia and tell them to stop radioactive waste so that we can drink our water again. But Ben, the chief of council, was looking at me going, are you serious? What power do you think you have, or any one of us, to say anything, to even send a message to Russia to tell them to stop polluting the world? It's the same thing with Japan, the radioactive waste that's going in the ocean right now. These are things that are ongoing, but do we have any human rights to say anything about that? We don't have a right to go to the United Nations and say, Japan is still radioactive wasting the oceans and killing the ocean because we don't have a place at the United Nations because you don't see us as human beings that we're not recognized as the United Nations because we don't have a flag in the ground. I'm not a patriotic person towards the Canadian government, towards the provincial government, and to acknowledge them and their constraints, because they're the problem. We're still sitting on reservations. We didn't ask for reservations. We didn't ask for colonial reservations. That's the reality, is that this is not something that we enjoy, that we're grateful of. People take the design of South Africa, of apartheid, they took it from the Department of Indian Affairs Canada. You know, Department of Human Affairs went over there to help them out to resolve their apartheid system because they had already designed one that was already functional for the Canadian population. So yes, this is an apartheid Canada. And that's the reality of this country is that as long as you have the Indian Act, you will always have an apartheid system. Get rid of the Indian Act, emancipate the Indian, and let's get on with the business of the world and try to clean up this world. not destroy it, as it is now we're only destroying this world. Environmental Canada is a joke. They want to put a pipeline into British Columbia with really bad oil, bitumen oil, that has no cleaning solutions, and they want to walk over Aboriginal title, Aboriginal rights, American rights, without even settling land claims. Now, Natives don't mind sharing as long as you can clean up after your mess. Alberta cannot clean up their mess. They've got billions of dollars of contamination that they haven't cleaned. So the world has to start to clean up its toxic waste of the world. You know, we've been making this mess, but are we spending our capitalist construct to cleaning up this world? You know, the 1% rules the world and they have all the money in the world, but they're not going to clean it up. you're going to have to tax them to take it away from them, to make them clean it up. You know, that's not an easy thing to say that, well, we're going to tax the rich. Well, good luck with that. You know, your time is running out in terms of you have a world where it's increasing its heat and global warming. The polar caps are melting and You have a capitalist system that goes towards the 1% and we're not going to change that. Destroying the world is the capitalist dream of success. It's very successful. It's only geared towards destruction, not any salvation. There is no salvation in the capitalist system. It's spent more time destroying than it is to protect itself. And that's where the world is right now. To say that it's not, well, and you have people that don't believe in any of these things, that's fine. You know, you can have all your scientists and line them all up and government scientists and your trumps of the world that disagree with global warming. Well, There's other people in the world that do care, that do see these things, that do want to see change. And the children want to have a place to live and breathe and survive. And they want to have a future. Where we are right now, there is no future. It's going to get very different in a world with global warming in effect in the next 200 years. If you ask the question, how do you stop global warming? There is no answer on the internet to the solution to global warming, because the gross national product will not create a different dimensional space on how much profit margins they will make. They're more concerned about their profit than fixing the world. This is the new world order, and until that changes, nothing is going to change. Nothing is going to get better. worse, it's going to get worse. That's the reality. If people don't like that reality and they just want to ignore it, they can ignore it all they want. At a certain time, it's going to come to roost this world.

[00:23:08.083] Paisley Smith: On that note, Lawrence, what we tried to do with this virtual reality project is put the audience in the body of the super predator. So Lawrence paints the 1%, the oil barons, the people who are ruining the environment through businesses or what he was just describing, like people who have the oil fields in Alberta and all that stuff. So in this experience, you put on the mask of the super predator, you have hands that look like Lawrence's paintings, of super predators. They're suited people and he can probably talk about that a little bit. But what we wanted to do was to give people this world. They enjoy it. They're totally having a joyful experience of creating a surrealist landscape in Lawrence's art style. It's exciting. You're having a good time. The music is fun. Being a colonizer, I'm sure is a great time. And then as you realize what you're doing, it's too late. You've started to destroy the world. So as you throw this paint and you enjoy this world, you're also simultaneously destroying it. And so the realization is that this isn't some other time period. This isn't fiction. The world is being destroyed and you're involved in that and you can't do anything about it.

[00:24:21.447] Kent Bye: Yeah, Lawrence, did you want to expand on that a little bit, especially the role of the predator? We're being put into a mask of a predator bird and maybe talk a little bit about that symbolism, but also that process of trying to create an embodied experience for people to have a direct experience of being that colonial predator.

[00:24:39.414] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: I think that one has to step outside of themselves and experience themselves within a virtual space, and that is the design factor of superpredators. The superpredators of the world are the Putins, the Gates, the Rockefellers of the world, the 1%. So they're superpredators that rule the world, that have no interest whatsoever in changing the course, the direction, the oil industry, the superpredators. and how much time do we have and the super predator are very dangerous 1% that are destroying the world and that's the reality and we have to accept that so people don't get the chance to be that 1% so now I give you the opportunity to stand there and feel what it's like to be a 1% and to put on a suit to become the predator and give you the glorification of the capitalist construct with all your wealth and glory and go and rape and pillage and kill and destroy and put to extinction everything in the world. I mean, that's kill everything. Isn't that the colonial dream? Isn't that the capitalist construct is to kill everything in its wake? That's how I see it. I think it's there perfectly clear that we're not here for any salvation of anything. All I want to do is get wealthy, rich, and destroy and kill everything and enjoy my wealth that I have. I think this is what the world is doing, so I thought I would create a piece so that they can actually see themselves, what it's like to be destroyers, to be the people that are the super predators. And to see themselves. So, I only get to gaze on this world. I don't have any magic place to stand at the United Nations. I don't get to stand in the Parliament building. We stand on the outside. We're the outsiders. There's no we in this world. There's no we or the world. There's an us and them. We're still sitting on colonial registrations. We still don't have human rights. So that position of my gaze, my gaze of the world, and I'm showing the world what it truly stands for, for what it is. I'm not giving you anything other than what actually is reality. I mean, it may be a virtual reality, but in reality, I think that the mining companies, logging companies, the oil companies, the oil barons, The superpowers, they've done a great job in going into Africa, going into South America, going into Canada, going into the United States, and destroying vast amounts of land and contaminating. The United States of America has 83% groundwater contamination. I mean, come on. Can't we shoot for 90%? We can destroy more, can't we? I mean, What rights do you have to say anything about a multinational crown corporation? What rights do you have to say anything about all the people that are dying from fentanyl? What rights do you have to say anything about the man who creates all the fentanyl for the world and that family? What right do you have to say anything about... I mean, this is capitalism. You have the right to be death bringers. You have the right to be the destroyer. That's the great thing about the capitalist system, is that we're destroying all the mammals of the world. It quenches your thirst. Doesn't it make you happy that you get to kill everything, that all the mammals are dying in the world? Isn't that the capitalist dream, the colonial ideologies, the globalization? Isn't that nice? Isn't that beautiful, that we can kill everything? You get the privilege of doing that, and I think that's what that piece is about. It's about death. It's not about anything other than destroying super predators. You can be that super predator, because that's what you're geared towards, is the capitalist system, that you want to become super wealthy and pay no taxes, and you get to be the dominant force and not care about the biosphere. Because there is no rules for to do whatever they want. If one man says he wants a pipeline, a Kinder Morgan pipeline, then he gets his Kinder Morgan pipeline. But the rest of the world has to stand there and say, well, gee, we don't really need it. Well, I want to get wealthy. But he's still going to get his pipeline. This is the reality of the 1% rule, is that there is no rule. They get their way all the time, and they get to kill everything. So I thought I would create this piece so that people can enjoy being the destroyers. I mean, that's what I think that's what everybody wants to do, is to be that super destroyer of the world, to contaminate, to kill everything and be happy about it. I mean, that's the virtual reality of the capitalist structure, is to not to care about anything other than one's own personal wealth. And I think that's just a sad thing. I thought I would direct it in a way that people can enjoy seeing themselves or being themselves for what it is in this world. And somebody has to look at this stuff. I'm not, you know, I'm just a person gazing upon this world. And that's what virtual reality allows me to do is to present what I see, what I feel, what I experience. And that's the virtualness of that piece, is that it's going to get you very, very angry. And no, people are not going to be happy with how this piece portrays itself out. They're going to start to see themselves. That's exactly what I wanted people to do.

[00:31:08.522] Paisley Smith: I was just going to add on to what Lawrence just said. One of the surprise delights of installing this piece here at Tribeca has been, to be honest with you, we hadn't tested the mask on top of the Oculus until we had it installed here. A fortunate surprise of the mask on the Oculus is that it has a long snout. and people keep hitting themselves on the face and I think it's really hilarious because it's like you're hitting the colonizer on the head and it's kind of like a tongue-in-cheek embodiment of this role and also we've been noticing that it's kind of like the weight of colonization on your head weighing you down

[00:31:50.848] Kent Bye: Yeah, actually, I had told you, Paisley, that the actual headset was losing tracking a little bit, but also the weight was really heavy. And I was like, I don't know, like if this is really a comfortable experience for people, because in the eyes of the animal that was at Sundance a number of years ago, it was like a 10 or 15 pound headset on your head. And it looked better from the outside to look at it. But I said in this piece, it felt similar where I'm wearing this heavy thing on my head. And that it was making it more difficult to experience the experience. And you said, well, that was by design. That was actually to actually create that level of uncomfort in the viewer.

[00:32:25.314] Paisley Smith: It's definitely a happy accent. Like I think it actually is super appropriate to the project. So I would like to say it is by design, but it is a relatively new design.

[00:32:33.260] Kent Bye: I see.

[00:32:35.378] Paisley Smith: embracing the experimentation of this project. And I think Lawrence and I are both really excited about how it's going and how people are reacting to it. And people are quite disturbed by their role as the super predator when they get out of the experience because they say, I feel so guilty because I really enjoyed that.

[00:32:52.798] Kent Bye: Oh, wow. Yeah. And I, I actually had the experience of hitting the beak as well. And so I also, you know, it's like an extension of your body. I was embodying a part of myself that I don't normally have a long beak. And so I don't expect to. have to avoid it. And so it sort of changed my whole orientation of my role in that piece that I didn't necessarily connect those dots of like how it was connected in that way. But now as we're talking about it, it makes perfect sense that it's sort of the disruption of creating an experience that's slightly uncomfortable, but for narrative purposes to really tell this deeper story that you and Lawrence are trying to tell.

[00:33:31.289] Paisley Smith: Yeah, and one of the things I really love about this project is that it really draws from video art and performance art, and that is kind of something that is part of the realm of performance art, where, you know, you are having this weight on you and this object that's kind of destructing your experience of what it should be. So I really, I love that, the layers of theory that are behind that.

[00:33:53.327] Kent Bye: Yeah. And, uh, I don't know if you had anything to add onto that as we're, we're talking about creating not only in the virtual reality experience, but also the physicality of the mask that we're wearing in this experience and the symbolism of all of that. And, you know, if you had any thoughts that came up as you heard us talking about that.

[00:34:10.830] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Well, yeah, I mean, that's the super predator, that's the vicious nature of yourself when you put the mask on and you become this virtual super predator and You're just a worker that's a grunt soldier going to the pulp mill. And you get your salary, and you go home, and you feed your family, and you're really happy. But all the emissions of pulp and paper, and the dioxins, the furans, and the acids, and the acetones, they're all pumped out into the ocean, or whatever stream or riverway is contaminating. And so that is the problem. So in a way, you are that super predator doing all these things to the environment. So you can't disallow yourself to say, no, I'm not a super predator. And so wearing that mask every day, you don't see yourself as a super predator because it becomes a normalized cultural ideology. And you're almost just asking for it to become sainthood from the Pope. You know, it's, my hands are clean and I haven't done anything to the world and I'm innocent. I'm innocent. I'm innocent. That's the nature of human beings. They never see themselves as the ones that the problem is somewhere else. Somebody else is doing it through this environment. Somebody else's clear cutting in the Amazon. Well, the biggest clear cut in the world is in British Columbia in Canada and Canada is the problem. And that's the reality of this piece, is that wherever your backyard is, wherever you are, you are the problem. And you've created this mess yourself. And this is what this virtual piece is to do, is you get to experience it in a lifetime, that you can go around and virtually destroy it quite rapidly and experience it virtually. in a visual sense, other than out of sight, out of mind, it goes into the atmosphere and I don't see anything and I'm innocent. So we all claim innocence, but ignorance and innocence are two and the same. And so we're all claiming innocence, but we're all contaminating the world. So, you know, I thought I'd create a piece that was more visually prepared for people to experience what they are actually doing. And why? And so it gives you that sense of power and being, and feeling yourself of, I have to think about this. I have to think about my green footprint. Do I have any concern for the world? Do I really care for the world? Or am I just a nationalist? And I only care about my nationalist interests, and I'm a patriotic, flag-wearing person, but other than that, The biosphere has no interest in me whatsoever. So it is a question is when you're walking this earth, are you going to leave it for somebody else? Can you leave it for somebody else to look after? And that that's, that's my question of this time on this world is that I'm concerned about what people are doing and that they're not leaving something for somebody else. They want to take it all. They want to destroy it all. They want to kill it all within their lifetime. and take as much with them as they can and then leave the world. And so that's a big question that I have is, I would like to leave something for my children. But I think that, can I? Is there going to be anything left? And this whole world is geared towards destruction. There is no salvation right now. So that's the beauty of this piece is that there is no solution. You can't go into that piece and say, well, I have a solution. Well, there is no choice because you're still destroying your values. The difference between the native and the European world of the noble savage, the noble savage is always all my relations, therefore I have wisdom, which everything is related and we have to respect everything. Where on the other hand, another person would say, I think therefore I am. Now I just want to get greedy and I'm going to destroy this world. And I want to be the super predator. So our ideologies are colliding. And I think that's the difference of the noble savage. We've always been the noble savage here in this world. And we have to give direction. Does it have to be always on the individual basis? Do we have that much fear of collectiveness? And we only sing, we are the world, but not do anything of the world? I mean, You know, it's like saying, let's give peace a chance, but only on my terms. Let's have equality. Let's maintain the 1% rule, and everything will be fine. That this is the system of the world, and it's supposed to stay this way. It is the only solution to the world, yet we're geared towards destruction. We're geared towards extermination of all species of animals on the planet. Why would I change that? Why would anybody on the capitalist system want to change that? Why would you? Because it gives you your wealth. It's crazy that the world wants to kill all the animals and all the space and everything. That's the reality. They've killed all the black bears in Europe, exterminated them all. You know, the history of extermination of species has been going on for a long time now. So this is nothing new. We've lost, in my lifetime, 76% of the songbirds of the world. So, let's keep killing it all. Isn't that what it's supposed to do? Isn't that the glorification of this world, is to be the superpower, the supremacy of the planet, and the superiority, the guns and tanks and armies and science and technology and industry and industrialization? There's no space for animals. We don't need animals. You don't need bears. You don't need deer. You don't need... Let's have global warming. We don't really care. They don't really care. Super predators don't care about anything. They only care about themselves. They're only happy when they're destroyed. It gives them great joy in having great wealth and destruction. It's like a mirror of the world, of yourselves. you get to see yourself for everything of the world. And I think that's, that's what that piece is about. And I'm happy that I'm saying these things and I have nothing to hide. And when you're on the outside looking in, your gaze is a lot different when you're on the inside looking out, you know, you're the oppressor and I'm the oppressed. And I think that's, as I see this world, And I think that's what, it's sad that I get to watch the destruction of this world within my lifetime, and how much of it has been destroyed. I've had 62 years now on this planet, and I've seen so much destruction, and all I've seen is destruction. I don't see any change within that concept. Human race is not about loving this planet, it's about the destruction of the planet. And we allow it, and we expect it, and we're going to stand by it. And I think that's the sad thing about this world, is that it really doesn't care about anything other than destruction still. And I think it's going to take... We're not going to fix it until it's broken. It's the same thing with the ozone. We're not going to fix it until it's broken. The scientists got to the world and said, well, we better fix the ozone because it's broken. Well, they broke it before they fixed it. We're trying to fix it. And we're still trying to fix it. So we have a long ways to go. And it takes a long time to fix something. And do we have the time to fix? Can you fix global warming? That's the dilemma. That's the trillion dollar question. Can you resolve global warming? And right now I say no, I don't see it. I don't see people going in that direction. I think that some people will say it's too late.

[00:43:02.143] Paisley Smith: Yeah. Well, thanks, Lawrence. That was amazing talking to you and hearing about all your thinking behind the project. I think that Kent and I will probably finish up this conversation here, so I'll let you go. Um, is there anything else?

[00:43:16.113] Kent Bye: Yeah. Let me just, uh, before we do that on my podcast, I like to ask all my guests, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality might be and what it might be able to enable?

[00:43:27.067] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: I think it's always going to advance in many different ways. for the use of all people, and I think that people will use it how they will see it. And it doesn't come to everybody. Virtual reality is a very advanced technology and primitive at the same time. It's still in its pixie cell infancy, and it still takes time to develop. It still has lag, and that's just the nature of the equipment. So maybe we could have a super, computer and plug it in and have virtual reality with no lag, and that would be quite interesting to have access to something like that. But nobody gets to hold up the Superbrothers. Nobody gets to hold up the motherboard of the world just to play virtual reality. So, yeah, it's very fun. It's very exciting. It's very visually stimulating your mind. I know that you can stay in it for only a certain amount of time and then your eyes can start to get a headache or something like that. So there's still a lot of advancements that have to do it. it's a virtual space that's quite different to your mental stimulating your senses and it's just a part of the virtual reality so yeah it's fun to do it i've been looking at it and experiencing it as a person culturally and i use it as a tool a part of my work i do painting performance art done So, it's cutting edge technology and somebody's got to play with it and somebody's got to do something with it and that's the challenge. It's like somebody has to stand up in front of a square piece of It's the world of art. That's the thing about virtual reality is that it's become an art entity as well. And I think that other aspects of it will come out to where people will use it in different ways. But now I think a lot of artists and with a lot of support, you know, that's what the arts are for, is to enlighten you, to make you happy, to make you sad, to make you think. That's what art is for, is to give you all of those things. And I think that's what, food technology can do those things as well. And I think that's the great thing about art, is being an artist, is creating art that engages you in a world, in the sense of this time in history. It's new, and that's the thing about being something new, is we get to play with everything now, and that's the now factor of giving you everything now. And so we'll take what we got with the primitive technology that we use. And if the planet has a thousand years from now, they will look at it and they'll go, wow, technology was pretty slow. So it will always advance. That's the great thing about Computers and technology and virtual spaces that it'll always get better and better and better So I waited for a long time for picture cells to get better and better and better resolution base So it has advanced and so it it's always going to advance. That's what I like. So I think that's I'll leave it at that that it is always can improve

[00:46:48.088] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Lawrence, I just wanted to thank you for creating this piece of art and for joining us today and sharing all your thoughts and the deeper meaning that you were trying to communicate within this piece of art. So thank you for creating it. And thank you for talking to us today about it. So thank you.

[00:47:03.840] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Okay, that's great. Thanks. Basically, we had a wonderful time.

[00:47:08.043] Paisley Smith: Thanks, Lawrence. I'll talk to you later. Okay, bye. So that was awesome. Lawrence covered a lot of the theory behind the piece. I guess just from a production standpoint, I can talk a little bit about the aesthetics of the piece. Everything that you see in the project is from Lawrence's paintings. How that worked is we just both found references like every single tree he's ever created, every character, every super predator reference. We just sort of figured out which ones we liked and which ones we wanted to have in the world. So we have Spirit Bear and Colonial Snake are two of Lawrence's sculpture pieces that are wooden sculptures, one's obviously a bear and one's a snake, and they are both made using wooden ovoids. So Lawrence's work is dominated by the ovoid form. He's created his own modern art style and he calls it ovoidism. And he uses the ovoid to assert his freedom as an artist. So that's what makes up a lot of the landscapes the trees, the characters are all made of this shape. So when you watch the experience, you'll see that colonial snake eats you and you go into the belly of the beast and that is where you're surrounded by ovoids who are really your mirror. You have no control over what's happening to you. They are surrounding you and confronting you with your actions. So it's been really, from an artistic and creative production standpoint, such a cool project to work on because even before Lawrence and I had started the project, I just saw how his painting style would just look so beautiful in a game engine. When I saw it, I was like, the colors, the vibrancy, just the landscapes. I can just see this in a virtual world that you could just touch and move through. And it was a fantasy to work with him, and it came true. So that's been really cool the whole time.

[00:49:00.313] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know. For me, One of the really striking moments of the experience was, you know, you're painting different things. And then there's this turn where you're, I guess, improving the aesthetics. You think you're making things look pretty. And then all of a sudden there's this oil spill and all of a sudden the active. doing this painting, you've now all of a sudden destroyed everything. And then I think in the beginning you, you touch maybe a hanging object and it's fine. And then it returns to that moment where you're kind of invited to touch it or it's hanging there. I don't know. I, there actually wasn't an invitation. I just touched it without an invitation. And then at that point it just fell down and broke and it was like, see everything you touch breaks. And it was just kind of like this coming right after this experience of beautifying and painting, but also simultaneously then destroying without intending to. And then all of a sudden going to another scene where you're in the role of destroying things. And so there's this experience of participating in the world, but yet you're kind of coaxed in into thinking that things are okay. But then at some point there's a turn and then it, all of a sudden you're now the destroyer and the super predator.

[00:50:05.647] Paisley Smith: So you just totally nailed the whole project. You summarized it. It's not a subtle project. You are the destroyer of the world. At first, it is delightful and joyous and super fun. And the music is by a tribe called Red and very full of movement. And you're excited to be there. And you're creating this lush, natural environment with so much color. But every couple of paint balls that you throw are actually oil. And the hole at your feet that's filled with oil gets bigger and bigger as you throw more paint. So that grows as you go through the experience. And the environment changes to become darker. And trees start being lit up and avoid flames. And bones start appearing, a trail of bones behind colonial snake. The orca whale turns to bones. The sky grows dark. And then you're faced with the destruction you've caused. Yeah, it's a pretty interesting experience. And it's been really cool watching people come out of it and sort of give their reactions on being the destroyer of this world. Yeah.

[00:51:18.136] Kent Bye: What are the range of different types of reactions that you're seeing?

[00:51:22.270] Paisley Smith: Well, it is a fun experience. So the joy and the music, all these things really evoke like happy feelings. And then you realize what you've done and you're confronted with this like guilt and also realization that you want to make. changed, but you can't. When you're in the belly of colonial snake, you have no ability to interact with the ovoids. Whereas previously, you could touch them or throw paint, and you felt like you're participating or at least doing something in the world, then you can't. All you can do is look at the world. And at the end, when you see Lawrence's mobile art, so those are, he makes kind of like colder using the ovoid form. hanging mobile, so that's what you see at the beginning and end. When you touch that piece and it finally falls to the ground and smashes, Spirit Bear, voiced by Lawrence, says, you should not touch what's not yours. And I think that summarizes the piece. It also speaks to the title, Unseated Territories. And I think the virtual world, at this point, reflects reality. And you think about what you're touching or using that might not be yours.

[00:52:32.969] Kent Bye: Yeah, and when I visited Vancouver, it was very stark in terms of the awareness of the unceded territories and making land claims and a whole culture that has been trying to do some level of truth and reconciliation with indigenous tribes, clearly from hearing from Lawrence, there's a long way to go and the Indian Rights Act and different elements of what he calls an apartheid that's happening in Canada. but there does seem to be at least some efforts and awareness compared to United States, a whole further development in terms of awareness and people talking about it and in public gatherings, making land claims. And so from your perspective, where you see things at and the differences between the United States and Vancouver and the general awareness around these issues, whereas, you know, it's got a long ways to go clearly, but it seems to at least be further along than where it's at here in the United States.

[00:53:24.479] Paisley Smith: Yeah, I think it'll be interesting to show this project in different places. This is the first time we've shown it. My experience with the United States is that there aren't land acknowledgments before events, whereas that's pretty common practice where I grew up. It wasn't always the case. I think that started maybe a little bit more in the last five years. I've seen it at most public gatherings. They'll do a land acknowledgment of whoever's land we're on.

[00:53:48.391] Kent Bye: Maybe you could give an example for people who have never heard of it.

[00:53:51.294] Paisley Smith: We'd like to thank the tribe of the Coast Salish people for letting us use their land that we're on and hosting this event. People do it their own way. There's guidelines online that you can follow to figure out whose land you're on. There's a really incredible map that shows you whose native land you're on. so that you can find out who to think. I did a talk at USC and that's the Tongva people. And so, yeah, you're able to just kind of draw whatever event you're at, their awareness to the territories and land of the people who live there and who you are visiting, the land that you're visiting. It may not come naturally to everyone to think to do that, but I think it's becoming more of an awareness. to think beyond yourself and your own experience. I mean, even as someone who grew up in Vancouver who's been around making land acknowledgments, in my own personal practice, I've only started doing it maybe in the last two years since I started working on this project and really confronted my own self as a non-Indigenous person growing up in British Columbia. I mean, Lawrence started a whole campaign called Rename BC. I mean, he's right. British Columbia is a colonial name. It's not reflective of the people who live there, whose land we're on. Makes no sense, actually. So he proposed several names. You can read about them online, but one of the ones that always stands out to me is TNT, Traditional Native Territory. And I think that Canada should really take that proposed name change very seriously. I think with that action will inspire so many people to reflect on the land that they're on and just to educate themselves.

[00:55:41.393] Kent Bye: Because there's a certain amount of how did this transfer happen? Was it like stolen land or was it some sort of like deception? But there's a bit of open-ended ethical lapse that is a trauma that is unacknowledged by people who benefit, but people who are on the other side of that live with it every day. And so there's a bit of just making that land acknowledgement, first of all, just doing the research as to whose land it is, but also kind of researching, like, how did this, transfer or happen, and is there ways of speaking some sort of truth and reconciliation, just naming it, and then by having it in the conversation, maybe potentially having other things happen. At least that's how I kind of understand it.

[00:56:21.341] Paisley Smith: I don't know if that's... Yeah, one thing that I found really helpful for myself as a non-indigenous person who is trying to educate myself as best as possible and to represent Lawrence's work when I'm traveling with this piece and representing both of us when he's not here, The thing that I did was I took a class through the University of British Columbia on reconciliation and indigenous ways of knowing. And that was a free class that's offered online. And you can get certified in the, just basically gives you the language to communicate these ideas and concepts of reconciliation and bring awareness to just the issues that are affecting a whole culture of people who share their land with us. And I'd really recommend anyone to sign up for the class. You don't have to be Canadian to take it. Anyone can sign up for this class. And I would really recommend looking into it. And there's a lot of things that you can do to educate yourself, obviously, online. But I think the coolest and most important thing you can do is have conversations with people. Show up for communities. Be aware of the fact that as a non-Indigenous person, you have privilege that is really actually quite strange. You know, Lawrence talked about it. This is his land and he's treated like a second class citizen. The Indian Act is still in place. That was one of the reasons we decided to work together was 30 years have passed since his first piece. And as he mentioned, the first piece was political, but it was about the spiritual realm. I mean, that's a very generous offer to invite people into the sacred realm. Right? That's what the Longhouse piece, Inherent Rights, Vision Rights, does. It invites you into the space of the Longhouse, and as a non-Indigenous person being invited into the sacred space, we should not take that for granted. Thirty years have passed, and so we decided to make this piece to confront the fact that changes have not been made. the Indian Act is still in place and we need to talk about that with friends, with family. I think we should all be aware of this and be having conversations and seeing what we can do to make a difference. And hopefully this project will inspire people to reflect. I mean, it is, it's a fun project and it uses art and color and music, but it is in your face. You know, I think it'll be great to see how it is shared. So I'm excited about it.

[00:59:00.698] Kent Bye: What do you hope happens to the project? Do you expect to travel to different like museums or have installations at different places for people to experience it?

[00:59:07.793] Paisley Smith: Yeah, I guess I have to, Lawrence and I have to have a conversation about that. Like what, what is the best case scenario where we take this, how we're going to release it publicly? I know personally, I really want to travel around Canada with it and take it to different communities. And I think there might be a chance that we take it up to UBC Okanagan. They have a indigenous digital studio there where they do a lot of virtual reality kinds of work. So it'd be really cool to bring it up there. I think that Lawrence might have a retrospective of his work coming up at some point and to include this piece among those pieces. And especially the dream of mine is to have it installed next to Inherent Rights Vision Rights so that you can see the change in the virtual reality styles and also change in technology together is so interesting.

[00:59:58.313] Kent Bye: Yeah, to have a VR experience in a museum installation next to the same artist who created another VR experience 30 years later around the same topic around how it's changed and evolved. I think I don't know of any other example of that happening, especially from an indigenous perspective.

[01:00:13.181] Paisley Smith: I think that would be really mind blowing. So if anyone from a company wants to help us pay for that, feel free to connect with us. Or the Canadian government. We'll take that too. But yeah, actually, on that note, we have been talking to the Canadian government about bringing it to Mexico City. And as I mentioned earlier, A Tribe Called Red did the music. So we're hoping to do something with them as well. So maybe have Tribe perform and Lawrence and I show this piece in some capacity. So that's like, We're still really in it right now. We're deep in finishing this for Tribeca and exhibiting, so the world seems really like we'll figure it out once we finish here, but we have so many opportunities.

[01:00:57.001] Kent Bye: I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about this tricky balance of being an ally and ambassador to this indigenous culture and then having to either tell the story or explain the background and the context of how you as a non indigenous person came about to telling the story and be involved with it. I feel like When people hear about a project like this, I think they want to know, like, is this authentic? Where's this coming from? And to know that there's this connection and through line to that indigenous voice, but you're also trying to be an ally and spread it out there. But it seems like there's unique dynamics that you have to navigate with that. I'm just curious to hear what those dynamics feel like and what comes up for you in that.

[01:01:38.128] Paisley Smith: Yeah, I definitely am aware that I am not an Indigenous person, so that's on the forefront of my mind when I'm making this work. For me, it is working with Lawrence and making sure that Lawrence, his voice is being heard. and that his vision is being shown. So that's my role essentially in the project, is fostering that with Lawrence. So it's been an interesting journey of collaboration for both of us because we were in two different places when we were making it as well. So a lot of phone calls, conversations, and when we were in person, we did a lot of audio recording and that kind of thing. So it was a cool production process, but yeah, definitely being aware of it, also letting people know that that's the case. I am speaking on behalf of Lawrence when I talk about the project, and I reference him and his writing where possible. So that's why I have his quote on the wall here, his ovoid manifesto and what that means. And I don't put words in his mouth, like that's not really like what I'm trying to do. So.

[01:02:39.572] Kent Bye: Yeah, and as a journalist covering this piece, I thought it was really crucial to have his voice included because I didn't want to just talk to you about the technical parts of how you produced it in the absence of hearing his intention and have him participate. So I'm glad that we're able to phone him in even though he's not here, but I'm glad that we're able to at least include his voice and to hear his perspective and for us to then unpack the other technical aspects of it afterwards, but that yeah it's something that I also try to be aware of in terms of if there's a topic or a project you know just tracing like what the through line is to people if there's white people telling the story of either non-indigenous or people of color then what is the sort of dynamics around that and yeah I feel like it's sort of an open question especially with the green book winning the oscar this past year when they won the best picture with having a majority of white people up on stage about this topic on the Green Book, there seemed to be a lot of discussions around this as just a general issue of that similar kind of colonial mindset of telling the stories from marginalized communities.

[01:03:44.813] Paisley Smith: Well, I have a couple thoughts related to what you just said, but I think for us, having a really small-scale team allows for safety of the voice. I think on a lot of big projects, you don't have the same control. So Lawrence and I really did create the structure of this project and what would happen and what would be seen. So there aren't as many hands in the pot Like in that case of Green Book, I don't know that situation exactly, but what I'm imagining is it's just a huge team and the 1%, the super predators are up on stage, you know what I mean? So in this case, we funded it with grants, it's small scale. I don't think that would happen in the same way, you know?

[01:04:33.225] Kent Bye: Yeah, I imagine it happening. It's something that I think has just happened in the culture. And, you know, as a journalist, it's like, there's a sort of an ethical and moral issue there that I want to kind of know what that story is. And talking to other indigenous artists, and I know there was an indigenous artist who was working with Marvel that I talked to. And so when that came out, I think people were wanting to know, like, where did this story come from? What's the lineage back to those indigenous voices? And so I think that decolonization movement is to make sure that it does have those through lines of authenticity and I think that's just something that an awareness of that's happening in the broader culture right now.

[01:05:10.096] Paisley Smith: Yeah and you know Lawrence and I share a very similar perspective which is like we shouldn't shy away from speaking our mind. I try when I'm around my parents not to swear but I still do it. But I really do speak my mind most of the time. Especially when there's a microphone in front of you, you might censor a little bit more. But normally, both of us just tell it what we're thinking. So that's been something that we share. And we decided that we would have some fun with this project. Just really throw it out there. We don't really have anything to lose. If this project changes someone's opinion or they're more aware of

[01:05:52.269] Kent Bye: Indigenous rights and climate change as a result of this piece and we've done a good job Great and and finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual reality is and what am I people to enable?

[01:06:05.580] Paisley Smith: This is such a tricky question Kent Well, it's cool having started in VR, working for an immersive journalism company, then working on Homestay, which is a very personal project, then moving to this piece, which is, you know, very art-based and activist and, you know, based in action. And so, I think, having tried a lot of different things, the through line is, it's sharing emotion with people. So emotion inspires action. And so I just follow that as a rule of thumb. And I keep hoping that people will reflect on their own lives when they create work. So virtual reality, like Lauren said, is, and this is something you've said to me too, Kent, is a mirror to our own lives. And so I think the tools of technology just allow us to connect more deeply with the world around us. And that's my personal goal with the technology because Even if I didn't have technology, I'd still be talking to people. But this just allows an interesting conversation to happen.

[01:07:10.744] Kent Bye: Great. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[01:07:16.105] Paisley Smith: Sure. If you're interested in seeing this project or watching the trailer, we have a website, uncededterritories.ca. And you can feel free to reach out to myself or Lawrence and have a conversation with us. So thank you so much, Kent. I always love talking to you. I feel like you kind of get my weird interests in VR, like the layers of theory and interaction and meaning. So it's always super cool to explore these things with you. And thank you so much for calling Lawrence in and allowing us to both talk to you. You're the first person we've talked to about the project together. So I'm really excited to share this with people. So yeah, thank you.

[01:07:58.202] Kent Bye: Yeah, thank you.

[01:08:00.160] Paisley Smith: All right, I'll talk to you later. All right, goodbye.

[01:08:02.523] Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Goodbye.

[01:08:07.688] Kent Bye: So that was Lawrence Paul, Jux Wellington, as well as Paisley Smith, and they did The Unceded Territories, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019. So, I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, the thing that I took away from this conversation is that there are certain ways in which we run our economy, we run our world, where we're not in harmony and relationship with the earth. And I think it's in part because of our philosophical orientation towards reductive materialism, being able to turn things into numbers. If you can't turn something into a number, then in some ways it becomes invisible and doesn't exist. A good example of this, I think Lawrence is speaking to, is that Being able to clear-cut a forest isn't able to be put into a number that fits into the equation for the gross domestic product. And so because of that, it's an externality. It's an externality because you can't measure it and it's just something that gets externalized into the whole ecosystem because you can't essentially account for it. So it's just kind of discarded. So because of that, there's no feedback mechanism to be able to be in harmony with the earth or with the way that we're running our world today based upon our economies and our capitalistic systems. And I think it's not that we need to overthrow capitalism and adopt something like socialism or something like that. I don't think it's necessarily that type of economic ideology. I think it's more of a balance of a yang and the yin, where the yang is something that is much more quantifiable And the yin is the invisible connectivity of the ecosystem of the earth. And they actually need to be in harmony and balance. And I think the big question is how do you actually have some sort of forcing function to have something that's very yang oriented into something that is taking into account the concerns of the yin. And so in this conversation, I think Lawrence is really speaking to this indigenous philosophy of all my relations of trying to look at things holistically and to be in relationship, not only to each other, but to the entire ecosystem of the planet. And I think the way that we are operating today, we're not doing that yet. And I think that's in some ways a huge problem. There's a number of different things that were really striking to me. One was just Lawrence saying that something doesn't exist until the white man discovers it. And so there's so much about getting fixed into our taxonomic ideas about what the nature of reality is that until it fits into our very specific ways of going through this scientific peer review process, then it doesn't exist in our minds. And I think There's so many different aspects of the world that we can't fit neatly into that paradigm. Just to be able to turn ecology into a number, to be able to fit it into our math equations for our economies, to be able to make different judgments, then it's a bit of this tragedy of the commons, where it's a collective thing that we're all responsible for, but it's like a shared resource that we can't necessarily figure out how to account for it. But the other thing that was really striking to me was Lawrence talking about this direct experience he had back in 1986, when he heard on the radio that he could no longer be catching rainwater because it was poisoned by the radiation for Chernobyl. And just last night, I did a whole binge watch of the Chernobyl five-part series on HBO, and it was absolutely amazing. And also really emphasizing this point that Lawrence is saying is that there's things like nuclear energy that when things go wrong, there's a nuclear disaster. And then there's all this unattended externalities and unattended consequences of killing thousands or perhaps up to 100,000 people. not only that, that they had to do all sorts of just radiation cleanup. And, you know, it's just something like nuclear energy is not in harmony with the ecological vibrancy of our world today. And I think the film Chernobyl starts to address that. But I think the deeper point that Lawrence is trying to make is that as indigenous people, they don't have necessarily a seat at the table to be able to talk about these perspectives at all. And there's some aspect of what's happened in our culture both in North America and United States and Canada where those indigenous perspectives are Siloed off into their unconscious shadow and that we're not necessarily listening or paying attention to them in some ways We have to ask why why is that? Why are these perspectives that are being shared in this podcast? not being more widely discussed and into the dialogue and So I think that this piece of art, Unstated Territories, is really powerful in that way, especially because I had such an unconscious reaction to just having this huge thing on my head. They put this VR headset and then on top of it you have this super predator beak that is pretty heavy, maybe 10 or 15 pounds or so. It was kind of uncomfortable doing the experience. And, you know, I told Paisley, hey, maybe this is not the best way to experience this content. And then, you know, she at the time said that it was by design. And as we unpack it later, I see that there's a little bit of this purposely putting me in this position of slight uncomfort because the topic that they're talking about is these deeper policies that are put forth by our culture have these qualities of being a super predator. of trying to turn everything down to a number and to try to completely squash all the competition and do whatever things that you have to do to become the winner. And I think that in some ways that mindset and that culture is very individualistic and it's not taking into consideration the larger ecosystem. And it's not like we need to completely overthrow it, it just needs to accommodate these other perspectives, we need to transcend the limitations of that perspective and try to include a more pluralistic perspective of other ways of knowing and other ways of understanding. Because if that's relegated to the unconscious for too long, then we're going to create these ecological catastrophes that impacted the entire world. And I think in some ways, watching the Chernobyl, it was a little bit of a symbolic warning sign towards how things could go horribly wrong when you're not taking all these things into consideration of trying to be in harmony in this different way. So this ended up being a really powerful experience for me. It really stuck with me, especially being able to talk to Lawrence as well as with Paisley to kind of unpack the whole process of creating this experience and the fact that Lawrence had created a very similar experience almost like 30 years ago and to compare the virtual reality experience from back then into now and to have them potentially show side by side I think it's really vitally important to see not only where the technology has gone and grown, but to see one artist speaking about a specific topic and to be able to track it over that large period of a time. And, you know, just the final thought that I'd just share is this interview that I did back in Oculus Connect 5 with Aaron Stanton, episode number 702. And at the end of the podcast, he starts to talk about this book called Blue Ocean Strategy. In essence, what it is talking about is the difference between competitive and cooperative markets. The red ocean, metaphorically, is that the market is so saturated that in order to get new customers, you have to take those customers from another company. So it's an essence like sharks in the water and all this blood from trying to fight with each other in this sort of zero-sum game type of way. And the blue ocean strategy is that whenever there's new markets that are emerging, that there's a bit of cooperation that happens between the companies, but it's not about trying to take customers away from somebody else. It's about trying to cultivate and build a whole new market. And I feel like in some ways VR is in this blue ocean phase, but with a lot of players and actors that are still in this red ocean mindset of trying to do this zero-sum game, walled garden approach, win at all costs. And over time, I think that there's been different aspects in which these different companies have been able to cooperate and collaborate with each other, but that it's in some ways kind of a reflection of the larger culture of that zero-sum game, competitive mindset, red ocean strategy, ways of approaching all of this and so I think that in some ways that is Symptomatic of not being in relationship to the larger ecosystem as well to have these externalized costs whether it's from the ecological damage that could be done by some of these business practices or from like in Facebook's case the externalized cost of undermining democracy because of the network that's so large and huge that becomes a target for information warfare and And so what are the deeper ethical and moral obligations for creating these different technology systems that have these types of unattended consequences? And I think in some ways, that's the deeper message of what Lawrence is talking about is all of those various unintended consequences and ways in that we're not living in harmony and relationship with the larger ecosystem. So that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and also just to thank my Patreon supporters. Everybody who's supported me on Patreon, I wouldn't be able to do this podcast without your support. And I'd encourage you, if you enjoy the podcast, then, you know, there's a few things you can do. First of all, just spread the word, tell your friends, share out links to these different podcasts, either on social media or send it to somebody you think would enjoy any particular episode. I survive by word of mouth. And so if there's any time that you think of a topic or a subject that you think somebody would be really interested in and resonate with, please do pass along a link and share these different podcast episodes with people and you know, make sure that you have conversations with them afterwards. And if you'd like to support the podcast, then please do consider becoming a member of the Patreon. Just $5 a month makes a huge difference and allows me to continue to do this type of coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of the VR. Thanks for listening.

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