#995: Breonna’s Garden AR Experience as a Healing Balm to Share Memories of Those You Love with Lady PheOnix

Breonna’s Garden is an augmented reality experience that premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival that was created by Lady PheOnix in collaboration with Ju’Niyah Palmer to honor the life of her sister, Breonna Taylor. I found it to be a profoundly moving experience, and lived into the intention to connect to the tender parts of myself in listening to the recorded memories by Taylor’s family and friends. The iOS app for Breonna’s Garden is available to try out here.

lady-phoenixI had a chance to talk with the creator Lady PheOnix about her journey in creating this project, the process of collaborating with Breonna Taylor’s family in creating it, and the underlying intentions and invitations that she has embedded into this piece — including an opportunity to record your own memories of loved ones that you may have lost. Lady PheOnix referred to this piece a sort of healing balm where you can be tender, batter and bruised, and I certainly was able to experience that in this powerful piece.


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 the Tribeca Film Festival was going on for just a few more days, and there was one experience in particular that I saw that really was quite moving to me. It was called Breonna's Garden. It was about the life of Breonna Taylor, and if you're not familiar with Breonna Taylor, she's someone who was murdered by police in Louisville, Kentucky. They kind of forced entered into their home and it was actually the wrong home and ended up that Breonna Taylor was shot six times and killed. And there was no justice in the sense that there's no prosecution for what had happened here. It was kind of a situation that led to a lot of the protests, the Black Lives Matter movement last year. And, you know, in a lot of ways, the family of Breonna Taylor, kind of had their relationship to Breonna kind of hijacked by this larger political dynamics that were happening. And so Lady Phoenix reached out to Janiyah Parker, who was the sister of Breonna Taylor, to be able to collaborate with her on this project to be able to allow the family to record the memories of Breonna, but also to create a space for people to go and connect with their own people that may have lost and to kind of memorialize them and remember them and to really create this place of tenderness and love. And so, there's an augmented reality piece that does that. And so, that's what we're gonna be talking about and kind of exploring the mechanics of that. And I'd highly, highly, highly recommend you go check it out. The app is available. You can download it from iTunes. There'll be a link in the description that you can go check it out and have your own experience and then listen to us kind of unpacking it. So, that's what we're gonna be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Lady Phoenix happened on Sunday, June 13th, 2021. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:05.641] Lady PheOnix: Hi, everyone. My name is Lady Phoenix, and I am broadcasting live from New York City, where I'm here with the Tribeca Film Festival for the debut of Brianna's Garden. Brianna's Garden is a beautiful augmented reality project venerating the life of Brianna Taylor. giving her family the opportunity to visit with her in the virtual flesh and recount lovely memories together, words of encouragement from the public, and also hold space for others who are grieving the loss of someone they love, while others hold space for them through sharing memories and messages of hope. And it allows us to continue saying Brianna's name and speaking the vibration of wellness into the family and into her.

[00:02:52.362] Kent Bye: Yeah. And before we dive in to the experience you created, I'd love to get a little bit more context as to your background and your journey into this larger immersive space.

[00:03:01.364] Lady PheOnix: So I came into augmented reality or XR in 2018, officially through my first show at the MOAD, the museum of the African diaspora and partnership with SUTU. Before that, I entered a invite only hackathon at the kick school of medicine. It was a VR hackathon and I was a finalist and it gave me a lot of encouragement. And from there, I guess I've been curious about XR and doing my best to create projects and opportunities in and around the space.

[00:03:32.793] Kent Bye: And at what point did you either get in touch with Brianna's sister or directly get involved in this project of Brianna's Garden then?

[00:03:41.365] Lady PheOnix: I reached out to Sutu in July and asked him if he wanted to work with me on this project. So July 2020 was when the project started. I watched a few of Janiyah's stories and some of her lives and then decided like, yeah, this is something I really want to do, but I want to keep observing to make sure that this project and this kind of my gift and my protest is appropriate, you know, because this is a very personal project for her in particular. And it was definitely emotional, I think, for the nation, and it moved people in a significant way. And I wanted to be a part of this movement nationally for rights for Breonna. And I'm not someone who's going to get out in the street and protest, but I wanted to raise my voice and I wanted to make sure I was a part of her getting justice. Like, I'm a Black woman. We have to stand up and make sure that the culture is being respected and taken care of. And she was my sister, you know, not physically, biologically, but spiritually and within my humanity, you know. And so I think we're all related. I think we're all brothers and sisters. And I think we need to use all of the hardship and, you know, COVID, people dying, all of the hardship we've been under, especially through 2020. I think we have to use it to bring us closer together and use our gifts and service of one another. And as an artist and a curator, this was my protest and my gift. So that's my involvement. I hit Janiyah up after some time. meditating, kind of just hanging out with her online through Instagram, hit her up and said, hey, I have this thing that I hope you're interested in. It means a lot to me. And if I can get your blessing, then I'd love to move forward. And she said, OK.

[00:05:29.789] Kent Bye: Yeah, when I went to the experience, what was really striking to me was that it really felt like this grief ritual, this distributed grief ritual that you've created in order to allow people to bear witness to the life of Brianna and hear a little story from her sister.

[00:05:44.976] Lady PheOnix: Sorry, can you explain what you mean by grief ritual? Because the project for me is not centered on grief. It's centered on joy. Although people can share messages of grief and someone they miss or messages of hope, it's really actually centered on the life of Brianna and not the death of Brianna, which is why those who love her, those who hold account for who she is and who she was, those who dreamt with her and held her dreams and encouraged her, right? Those who loved her, those who nursed her when she was unwell, those who allowed her to nurse them when they were unwell, love, warmth, that's also present. And in the garden, which is why we call it Brianna's garden, because life springs eternal there. It's a place where those who are grieving can be held. right, in love and in closeness and in warmth. The focus, however, is not grief. So I wouldn't say that it's a grief ritual. It's a ritual of life and of effervescence and blooming. And grief, again, can be held in those spaces, but the focus is not grief.

[00:06:53.795] Kent Bye: Okay. Well, I guess there's two parts. There's a volumetric memorial statue of Brianna with a garden. Her sister comes in and Well, before I guess we can get into the specifics of the first part, but the second part, I guess, is what I was referring to in terms of there's an invitation for people to share. But so rather than me sort of describing it, maybe we could walk through the experience from your perspective as the things that you're setting up. And so maybe we could go back to what was the pitch that you originally gave to her sister in terms of the intention for what you wanted to create with her as you were creating this project?

[00:07:28.541] Lady PheOnix: It was just as I explained just now that It was a place where she could be alone with Brianna, unencumbered by the outside world, and be held in the memory of who Brianna was to people, who she is to her sister, and also an opportunity for others. Because here's the thing, Kent, what I noticed by hanging out with Janiyah online through Instagram is that There were those who were encouraging her, but as for many that were encouraging her, people were threatening her life. People were literally sending her death threats, calling her the N-word, cursing her out, saying despicable things about her family, about her, about her sister. It wasn't a safe place. Black people were, we weren't really allowed to, I feel like, grieve without people telling us how to feel about those we've lost. And I noticed that in particular with Janiyah, you know, and I thought, this is ridiculous. You know, she can't even grieve. you know, with her network, with her tribe online, where a lot of the protests and the comments and discussions are happening. And so I wanted to create a sanctuary for her to block out the world and really be within the vibration of wellness. Again, this is about healing for me, and I think she also understood that and felt that. And so I think we'll all feel a variety of emotions, but the one I'm hoping people will tap into, and that's the one Janiyah tapped into, which is why she said yes, was that of healing, to be with Brianna again through memory. again of those who loved her. So there's a natural love vibration when people are saying the name of Breonna Taylor. That love vibration is healing as opposed to turning on mainstream news or reading someone's random blog and them speaking ill of Breonna or the information there is false or deeply inaccurate or just straight up lies. That has a vibration too and that's painful. right, that's painful. Brianna has two godchildren, one of them is three years old, so when he looks back on this time period as an adult with a greater level of consciousness, I want him, and the family wants him, to know the truth about Brianna and not a narrative from those who never knew her. I just think we have to be a bit more intentional about how we remember people. And the greatest record would be from those who love them. Love is a very strong vibration. And I feel as a human here on the planet with you, but also as a original woman, as a black woman, we need that vibration right now, deeply in as many places as possible, through as many hearts as possible. We need a strong love vibration right now to help bring healing and even personal reconciliation.

[00:10:21.135] Kent Bye: Yeah, I definitely encourage people to go try it out and have their own experience with it. And I wanted to move into talking about what I see is like three different phases of the art and then the testimony about her sister. And then the final part, the more interactive aspect of it. And it sounds like you were also potentially working with SUTU again with the art. Maybe we could, you know, as you were starting to create this first phase of this volumetric art piece, what was your process in terms of either the design intention that you had or, you know, working directly with Sutu or other immersive artists that you were working with to be able to create this first phase of the piece?

[00:10:59.577] Lady PheOnix: That's a great question. Thank you, Kent. So we worked with, I would say, a handful of artists. Three of them worked with Sutu at The Wave, or WaveXR, WaveVR. Kandi, JC, and the last name is escaping me at the moment, but they're fantastic. Shout out to them. Kandi and JC came on the project straight away and naturally Sutu, you know, works in VR and AR. So he also added his flair and magic, particularly in and around the garden. work very closely on making it magical. And yeah, he was a creative director and technical director for the project. Then we also had Mr. Flowers Fantastic. You can look him up on Instagram. He created the actual installation here at the Warner Media Lab.

[00:11:44.168] Kent Bye: And go ahead. Oh, I was just going to point out that at the Tribeca Festival, there's a physical installation at the Warner Lab, but there's also the AR piece. I have not seen the physical installation. So yeah, I just wanted to point that out that there's also a physical installation component of this as a part of the Tribeca Film Festival.

[00:12:00.456] Lady PheOnix: Yes. At the Warner Media Lab, it's a 511 West 21st Street, the corner of 9th, I believe, or 10th. So JC and Candy worked on the initial model. Sutu came in and designed the flowers you see, the tulips and the beautiful flowers that are behind Brianna. Also worked on her dress, which is lovely. She just looks beautiful. We worked on her a number of times and wanted to make it just right. And I think she looks gorgeous. This is V1. So there's still other things that we'd like to do. So Sutu works with iJack. He's the co-founder and iJack has done all of our AR, animation. And again, Mr. Flowers is our physical in real life installation. Brianna's Garden May Tour. We've been invited by a couple of cities to come in and do Brianna's Garden in their town. So you might see us.

[00:12:55.873] Kent Bye: And because I haven't seen the physical installation, then what does that look like? Or maybe you could just sort of share what you were trying to do with the physical installation part of the festival.

[00:13:04.099] Lady PheOnix: Yeah, so what Mr. Flowers created was inspired by Japan. And so there are kind of square archways that he calls Heaven's Gate. And the beginning of the installation is with seedlings and little sprouts. The earth around it at the beginning of the experience is very loose. You can tell that life there is new. And as you move forward on the path, the plant life becomes more and more abundant and more mature. And as you move through the path, you walk under these square lavender gates or arches and there's maybe six of them and it leads you to a beautiful archway of silk purple flowers and green butterfly made of shrubbery. It's really very gorgeous, very elegant and simplistic and I love the idea of moving through the gates of heaven. And as you move through these gates, you're transforming and you meet Brianna at the end in a floral archway, also lavender, purple colors. And right next to her is a butterfly.

[00:14:10.190] Kent Bye: Yeah. And so as people do this experience, is there a specific context that you recommend people be in when they see this experience?

[00:14:18.503] Lady PheOnix: Yeah, so it's an AR experience. It's mobile. I recommend that you visit nature, go somewhere. It's Brianna's garden. So, you know, it'd be lovely if you'd go somewhere, a park or your favorite trail, hiking path, your favorite rose garden. Brianna's favorite flower was tulip. So if you want to go someplace where there are a lot of tulips planted, that would be lovely as well. And yeah, try to do it in a serene environment. There are flowers up and around Brianna that match her dress. In those flowers, you can hear messages. Some of those messages, like the one from her mother, may make you cry. It's very tender. So, you know, be in an environment where you can be vulnerable and be quiet and have a bit of stillness.

[00:15:03.235] Kent Bye: Yeah. And there's a, the second phase when you're doing a volumetric capture of Brianna's sister, Shania. I'm curious before you shot that, did you have the art piece finished and was she able to see it and react to that as she was recording memories that she had of her sister?

[00:15:19.540] Lady PheOnix: That piece wasn't finished yet. Now, when we first approached Shania, so I basically sent in her DMs and she didn't say yes straight away. We built a rapport, we got to know each other a bit, and I sent her a synopsis. Then I sent her the first V1 deck. And so she's seen the transformation over time, but she hadn't seen that yet. It was really all on vibes and trust and, you know, mutual respect. She said that she felt the sincerity from me and wanted to say yes to this. There have been others that approach her and She feels that they're a bit gimmicky or just chasing her down because they want clout. And she felt that this was different. And I appreciate that because it is very different. Like none of us were paid. We're not using this to get money. This is truly something for the family. It's for Janiyah. It's for Brianna. It's for Kenny. It's for their mother, Tamika. It's for the community. It's for those who loved her. It's for those who miss someone too, right? It's for us as well.

[00:16:22.924] Kent Bye: So I'm curious to hear a bit more in terms of you're collaborating with Janai and the family of Breonna Taylor to create this project. You're also the director, but you're also co-creating this with her. And so what was the invitation that you gave her in terms of what to share in the context of as she's being volumetrically captured, what direction did you give her in terms of where to go with this?

[00:16:44.829] Lady PheOnix: Yes. Brianna is a 3D asset. And then yes, Janiyah was volumetrically captured by Metastage in Los Angeles through support of Microsoft. And I told her to be herself. I wanted her to be herself. She's actually a little bit shy and it took a couple of conversations and yeah, eventually By the end of it, she went from being shy to like, yeah, I got this. This is great. It's wonderful also to see her bloom under this and under the light of this project. I think it's beautiful because initially she was excited when I presented with her mother as well present. She was kind of like, I don't know. I don't know. I'm going to have to, you know, have speaking role. I don't know. I don't know. The volumetric piece, though, the technology piece she loves straight away. She likes the idea of being a hologram. And it's interesting. She's taken a little bit of time off school. Right. And it'll be interesting to see if when she goes back, her interests are now in the tech space or in the art space. I'd love that personally. Yeah, but she loves being a hologram. She loves the technology behind it. And she's really curious. At first, not like a strict, yes, I'd love to be a hologram right now with Speaking Rule. It was, yes, hologram sounds great, but can I just stand there? And now it's hologram sounds great. And Speaking Rule, when are we doing this again? Can I bring my mom? Can I bring Kenny? You know, so maybe they'll all be volumetrically captured and in the garden. I'd love that. And I think they would, too.

[00:18:18.131] Kent Bye: Yeah, because you said that this is the first phase. There's an app that's released. And so is your plan to keep expanding this and growing it? Or is it going to be going offline and then re-released at some point? What's your plan as we move forward with this?

[00:18:31.021] Lady PheOnix: So my plan with the family is expanding it. It would be fantastic if the city of Louisville or the state of Kentucky would establish a garden for Brianna for people to visit as kind of like an outdoor public AR gallery. I think that would be wonderful. So that would be my plan or our plan moving forward. As I said earlier, a couple of cities have invited us to set up an installation, a temporary installation. But I'd love if Kentucky would set up a number of permanent garden installations in honor of Breonna, where people can go and visit with Breonna virtually inside of the garden in a mixed reality environment. I think that would be wonderful. So that's the plan.

[00:19:14.930] Kent Bye: In the third phase of this, as this project, as I went through it, there was an invitation at the end to come up close to one of the flowers. And then there'd be some audio memorials that people had recorded either for Brianna specifically, or someone that they had lost individually. So I'm curious to hear the intention for that part. And then the mechanics of how you're pulling it off and curating and creating this interactive memorial aspect of this piece.

[00:19:45.467] Lady PheOnix: Thank you, that's a good question. So I'd say in terms of like curating the messages, we have a great team and they're helping us curate the messages to make sure that we're getting the most touching ones out there, but prioritizing getting the ones from her family in the garden. And then, yeah, if you walk up close to one of the flowers, you can hear the message. The message we've prioritized is the message from her mother. And then there are memories in there as well from her friends and her family. I'm from Janaya. Janaya shares her favorite memories of Brianna inside of the experience as well.

[00:20:23.354] Kent Bye: Yeah. And when I did it, I personally experienced a lot of emotion and grief as I was listening to it, just because I just found it really moving to hear those personal memorials and those memories. And it connected to my own personal experiences of grief and loss, but also just learning more about the relationships that people had to Brianna. So it was a moment that I thought that was really interesting use of the AR medium to be able to take me to that place of feeling and being able to, I don't know if it was like interacting with the flowers or just being in the scene and the context that he had built, but I thought it was really quite powerful. But I'd be curious to hear your intention with what you were attempting to create with that type of using the spatial medium of AR, but also to share these memories and testimonials from people that either directly knew Brianna, or there's also an invitation for people that are sharing memories of people that they had lost. So it's not only just with Brianna, but also for people to create these memorials. So I'm curious to hear your intention as you were creating this third phase in this interactive part with what you were trying to create with those interactions.

[00:21:34.473] Lady PheOnix: I think the intention there was to give people the opportunity to say what they need to say, right, to say it out loud. There's something really special about releasing a thought into a space, specifically the garden, right, which is why I encourage going somewhere in nature. And the intention also was to give people the opportunity to be vulnerable and connect with their feelings. as you express connecting with your feelings, how it moved you toward grief. For me, especially when I look at the intro, right, and see the memories. So you see the memories, you hear the memories, you feel the memories, and it can bring up lots of complexity. And that's the point. Yeah, to have people in a place of feeling. And if it can have a physical effect on you, then we've done what we're meant to do. It's meant to move people. So mission accomplished. We want to move people into tenderness, into love, into healing, into action. Right. We still need and want justice for Breonna Taylor and her family. So sometimes in devastating moments of life, we can become numb or like life is automatic. So this is to be a bit of jolt energy into people's heart, into their life, into their field, auric field. Yeah. just helping people to tap into love and into tenderness and into vulnerability as a way of connection with others, holding space, but also as a way of healing.

[00:23:18.132] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I guess part of the reason I referred to it as a grief ritual is because that was maybe projecting my own experience into it. But as I listen to you more speak about it, there's also these other aspects of both a memorial aspect of remembering Brianna's life and her relationships and other testimonials around that. It's trying to catalyze people into action. And, you know, there's a lot of things that are in here that I think are ways in which that your intentions are manifest into this medium and using the medium of AR and interacting. And there's all these things that I feel like it's sort of doing something that's new and I don't quite know how to describe it. And so how do you personally describe it? Is it a memorial or is it a healing aspect or activist catalyst, or are there ways that you kind of self-describe what this experience is?

[00:24:03.220] Lady PheOnix: That's a really good question too. I like a conversation. You're asking me a lot of great questions, Kent. I think that I don't want to tell people how to feel. I think everyone's going to feel and receive it in their own way, right? You received it as a grief ritual. I personally receive it as an opportunity to have people connect with the tender parts of themselves as a vehicle to healing. And at the same time, being able to support and hold space for Brianna's family. At the same time, the opportunity to know Brianna for real from those who actually loved her. All of this taps into a tender part of humanity. And that tender part is a well, right? A freshness, but it's also a bit tender, maybe a bit battered and bruised, maybe a bit hurting. And so I'm hoping that ultimately it will be received as a balm, a healing balm, B-A-L-M, on a place that's tender.

[00:25:12.510] Kent Bye: Yeah. And there's an opportunity to record something at the end. And I personally didn't record anything. Part of it was because it felt like if I recorded something about my own personal experience, I felt like, well, if this goes out and it gets included, I wouldn't want it to be taken away from other aspects. of the story around Brianna, but there is an invitation to do that. And so I guess if you were to send out an invitation for people to record something, or if I go back and do it again and actually record something, what would be the Because there's a part of this experience where something is being recorded and it has the potential to be included into it. And because I didn't walk through the steps, I didn't see as to whether it was just for myself or it was going out and potentially going up and being uploaded somewhere for the world to hear. So there's this kind of interesting part that I experienced personally that was like, well, if I have something I wanted to share, it might be, it was more private and maybe I didn't want it to be in a public context. But I'm curious to hear the invitation that you would have for people as they go through this experience, what you would want them to do. Because I do think that there is something really powerful about articulating and speaking out whatever is coming up in the moment. And I think this is also a powerful aspect of the medium is to really set this context and to take people into this place of vulnerability and feeling. and then to be able to potentially speak it out. And so if you were to, I guess, give the invitation for people, what would you invite them to do at that moment of the experience?

[00:26:42.570] Lady PheOnix: Kent, when you went through the experience, what did it make you think of, or who, rather, did it make you think of?

[00:26:50.275] Kent Bye: Well, there's people that I've lost through suicide. and also my aunt that I never met, who also was lost to suicide. So it wasn't directly thematically connected to the story of Breonna Taylor, but it was my own personal grief of loss. As I was listening to some of the flowers and kind of hearing the memorial, it was just making me think of people that I've lost in my life. So, yeah. And because it was sort of thematically different than the story, then it was like, well, I don't know if this is appropriate for me to record something and then to be potentially included within the context of this garden. So that was just my own personal experience.

[00:27:41.647] Lady PheOnix: And that's what the garden is for as well. There are people who identify like Janiyah with great loss. In Janiyah's case, she had to grieve publicly. And then people were threatening her life about grieving, about missing her sister. So I think that the garden is for the expression that you want to share around someone you miss. It doesn't have to be therapy. You don't have to just like pour your heart out. You can consciously think of what you want to communicate and be very intentional about the words that you send forward in the garden, understanding that your words take root there and bloom and blossom into a flower, that not only the person that you intended the message for will hear, right, spiritually, but also others who are holding space, who miss someone, will hear. So this is an exercise, A, to get out into nature, right so there's an invitation there find a quiet space so there's an opportunity for peace and stillness and meditation and then there's the opportunity to actually articulate your feelings Brianna's garden can't hold it you know Brianna's garden is meant to hold you as you talk about someone you miss. So I would say be intentional because maybe this is the one time you have for that person to really hear it or for you to really say it in the clarity that you want to say it. And again, it doesn't have to be therapy. You are a gardener now. Once you use your words to begin planting those seeds and use your ability to begin planting those seeds, you're a gardener. So that thought is out there. You have to tend that thought. So plant what you want to grow as a message of someone you love and miss. The same way Rihanna's family is planting memories inside of her garden. because they love and miss her. Plant those flowers in the form of thoughts and words for that person you miss. Everybody is invited to do that. I'm a gardener. I simply opened up land and began with some flowers, but it is Breonna's family who will tend that garden ultimately, and us as a human family who will tend that garden, those who make the conscious choice to be a part of that. Not everyone's going to leave a message. Maybe they feel too tender, right? Or maybe visiting the garden is all that they needed. So it's come as you are, and there's really no judgment. What you choose to do is what you choose to do, and it's fine. I'm thankful that you visited the garden because your spirit is there no matter what. You added to the people who've come to pay their respects. So thank you for being here.

[00:30:47.412] Kent Bye: Yeah. Yeah. And I love that metaphor of you yourself being a gardener that you're cultivating this immersive space for people to come in and experience their connection to their own vulnerability, their own emotions. And almost as if like, as you speak, you're planting a seed of something that is growing. And you mentioned earlier that the power of speaking, and I'm wondering if you can maybe elaborate on that a little bit in terms of what you meant in terms of As a medium of virtual and augmented reality, we have these opportunities. And also on the cell phones, you can do these interactive audio pieces, but in the context of this XR piece, you're having people speak and you said there's a certain power to that. And so what do you see is happening when you have that type of interaction and what do you hope to sort of have flow from that?

[00:31:35.377] Lady PheOnix: So in this regard, I see words as architecture or words as real things. As soon as you put your words out there, you are building something or creating something with your words. And so as an architect, make sure that what you're building is what you'd like to inhabit. So if you think about your words as building a home, would you want to live in that home you've spoken to in existence? And so it's same thing with the memories in the garden. Your words become things. So what sorts of flowers are you planting with the words that you're saying and what you're thinking, right? You had to think it. It had to be taking up residence in your mind, occupying these words, these thoughts are occupying your mental real estate. Then you speak them out and actually build them. Do you want to inhabit that, that which you've just built with your words? Right. And so in the garden, plant the flowers that you want to see there. Don't plant weeds. Don't plant things that can't grow. Don't plant things that would take over and kill the garden. Plant things that'll add more life and more love, right? And more power to that garden. Rihanna is, I don't know what the term is for master gardener, you know, or mistress, grand mistress of the garden. Now she's, you know, she has a new space and you are invited to her garden. It's a place of love. So plant love. It's a place of respect, so plant respect. You do that with your words and your thoughts. That's the request. That's the invitation, right? And it's okay if you don't plant anything that time, that season, that year. No one's judging. Thank you for being here.

[00:33:20.712] Kent Bye: That's it. What's the next steps with this project? Like where do you go from here?

[00:33:30.171] Lady PheOnix: You know, beyond getting Kentucky to establish a few gardens and, you know, exploring the invitation of other cities and other people, I think that being really present with our time here in New York feels most appropriate for me and I think also for the family. We want to enjoy this moment and let this marinate for some time, you can imagine it's quite emotional. And they've gone from being without Brianna physically, so to speak, to being able to open up an app and see her standing there, in some instances as tall as them. and then seeing Janiyah volumetrically appear in this metaverse right in this alternate space in this mixed reality. So I think that I want to remain present and I think that they do as well and not think too far ahead make sure that The moment and the timeline that we're occupying right now is one that we're very focused on. And the garden will be up until the 19th here at the Warner Center at 511 West 21st Street in New York, if you'd like to see it. But yeah, no big plans other than the ones I mentioned. The focus is on being present in the garden with others right now.

[00:34:54.997] Kent Bye: And just I think yesterday there was a gathering with both you and Janiyah and other family members that were speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival. Did you have anything to report back of how that went or what was discussed there?

[00:35:11.182] Lady PheOnix: Yeah, I was just going to get into that. So we did a panel, Christina Greer from the Griot was the moderator, and it was fantastic. It was myself, Janaya, Tamika, her mother, and Kenny, the partner of Brianna. And we laughed and share our thoughts about the garden. And the Channel 4 News, they recorded it also. I believe that there was another media outlet there that recorded it. We'll post it to social media. But it felt like, you know, obviously we're being interviewed, but it felt like sitting around with friends. They're my buddy. They're also in my heart. So I would say they're my family too. Yeah, it was wonderful. It was like, it was like hanging out with family. I went to Kentucky to Brianna's birthday on June 5th as well. So I really, I got the opportunity to see them at home and be with them and have fun and toast to Brianna and yeah, have barbecue and sit with the family. I hung out with their uncle, some of her aunts. So, yeah. Yeah, I think that being on stage was kind of a reunion of that time mixed with a little bit of, you know, we're under these hot lights and we have a moderator here. So, you know, we've hung out, we've gone to dinner a few times. Yeah, it's a vibe, you know, and it's a good vibe with them. And Christina asked some great questions. Everyone who comes to this project really loves it and they identify, right? They've been able to identify with the project, with the intention of the project in particular. And so, you know, the questions and the reception of us during the panel, it felt really comfortable, felt really comfortable like speaking with friends. And I'm deeply appreciative to the family for allowing me to do this with them and for saying yes to this project and for really getting it. I'm thankful to all of our partners and everyone who helped bring this project forward. We've been working on it for about a year and we had it just in time for Brianna's birthday. I feel that that's kind of divinely inspired and Yeah, I'd like to thank Microsoft and Metastage and Emerson Group and Markeco and yeah, everyone. Heidi from Hijinx who's been helping spread the message through PR. and Joanna Popper, who's our executive producer and also works at HP, specifically Chyna and Dahlia and Jason, everyone from Microsoft. We've had a lot of interest in this project and certain people have stepped up to help us make it a reality. And I'm very, very thankful for that. And yeah, thank you Kent for inviting me to share my story and talk about the project, and thank you for sharing in Breonna's Garden. Message or no message, I really appreciate you even opening up the app, downloading it, right? We have so many apps on our phone, so thank you for downloading yet another app. And yeah, thank you for being interested in Breonna's Garden.

[00:38:26.054] Kent Bye: Yeah, for sure. And the last question that I have is what you think the ultimate potential of these immersive technologies, the virtual and augmented reality might be and what they might be able to enable?

[00:38:40.873] Lady PheOnix: For me, I would like to continue using this as a tool for impact. I think there's a lot of realities that we occupy as human beings, and we're not always aware that we're occupying multiple realities. For example, you and I, Kent, are occupying one reality at the moment while occupying so many others. There's a lot of things happening around us. I want for this specific reality to Yeah, I just, again, just a healing tool. I really want people to take moment to be tender and to be vulnerable and to be open. So I'm going to keep saying that, Kent. That's like the ultimate purpose. It's ultimately what I want people to take away. That's ultimately also next steps. So just continued tenderness, continued joy, continued love, continued healing. And if it's a moment of grief, take it. It's yours. You know, so.

[00:39:38.091] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:39:43.413] Lady PheOnix: The potential of these technologies is for us to dive deeper into self. We have to use the technology for our gain as people, as a humanity. I feel like sometimes we allow these tools to use us. we must really use the tools. They can do whatever it is we need them to do. There isn't, you know, you asked me about the great potential sort of of the technology itself. We are the technology. So whatever humans determined for these machines to do, they'll do. So as we create, you know, let us create with the great consciousness that this should help elevate our humanity, elevate us as a one family on the planet. That's it. That's, I guess, what I want to say. And thank you for your time. I appreciate you inviting me to speak.

[00:40:32.594] Kent Bye: Yeah. And thank you for creating this experience. Like I said, I found it really emotionally moving and just really interesting new ways of using the medium that I haven't seen as much, and I'd like to see a lot more of it. So I highly encourage you to continue to keep experimenting with creating these contexts for people to to share their emotions and vulnerability and joy and everything else. I just really look forward to where this all goes for you. And also just really appreciate this context that you've been able to create with not only the story of Brianna, but also some of her family and some of the audio memories as well. So yeah, just thanks for creating this and for joining me on the podcast to be able to unpack it a little bit more.

[00:41:10.477] Lady PheOnix: Super, thank you, Kent. And yeah, be well, everyone listening. And I always say this when I talk on Clubhouse, where some people may recognize my voice from, but let's be excellent to ourselves and to each other. Like the next 400 years of our human existence can be effing awesome, right? And we have a history of the last 400, 500 years that haven't been that awesome, right? And the way we treat one another socially, right, the way we think about one another as economic beings instead of just like real human beings. So I challenge everyone to join me. This is a great invitation. Let's personally, but also for each other, make the next 400 years effing amazing. And yeah, be good to yourselves. That's it.

[00:41:55.380] Kent Bye: Thank you, Kent. Yeah, thank you. So that was Lady Phoenix. She's the creator of Brianna's Garden, which is an augmented reality experience that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, I had a really personally powerful and emotional experience when I went through this experience the first time. I think it was just listening to Brianna's mother. I didn't realize it was her mother at the time, but just the tenderness that she was sharing, her own memories, I guess it really hit me in a really powerful way. sort of took me to a place of grief. And so because of that, I sort of put a context of everything. This is a grief ritual, but it wasn't really necessarily the intention to focus on the grief. So it was really interesting to hear that from Lady Phoenix and how she was trying to get us to really connect to our tender parts of ourselves as a vehicle for healing and to be able to create a space that's able to hold and support not only the space for the family, but also for other people as well, to be able to share their own memories of people that they love. And to also be able to kind of rewrite some of the stories that are out there and to have the memories of Brianna be shared from people who directly knew her, her family and her friends. And so after you see the art piece of Brianna, you get to hear a volumetric capture from her sister, Janiyah, and then zoom into these different flowers that are around in this garden and it kind of triggers these audio memories that get played. And yeah, just this overall space of trying to create this context for people to really connecting the parts that are tender or battered or bruised and She kind of described it as this healing balm that allows you a place and a context for you to be really tender and to also provide this context for able to actually speak out your feelings about people that you miss and to consciously communicate and treat your words as architecture to be able to build a The things that you want to create in your world and the intentions and also just your memories and relationships to build from as well So yeah, just really overall quite powerful as an experience And I think also just for me my own journey of discovering what this medium is all about what you can do with it I just thought it was a really powerful use of the medium and gave me an experience that I hadn't really had before any of the other experiences and I Just the intention behind it and the deliberate intentionality that she is bringing to a project like this and to really be authentic in that way and to create something that is going to really be meaningful for the family of Breonna Taylor. So, like I said, if you haven't had a chance to check out this experience yet, the app is available and Yeah, just definitely go check it out and have your own experience with it. There's a number of different invitations that are on this, the invitation to go into nature, the invitation to be able to articulate your feelings. And, you know, Lady Phoenix said, Brianna's garden can hold it. So you can really say it with the clarity that you want to say it and have those words go out and really plant something that you want to create in the world and to also just reestablish your intentions of your relationships and your memories with people that you love. 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 if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a list-supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

More from this show