Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"The View from Outside In: Margins of Art and Activism"

This panel discussion took a look at how art and activism "share a common belief in the value of the renewal of 'point of view'."

:: Cheryl L'Hirondelle

Cheryl sang for us again - god, it's so beautiful - and then talked about drumming and singing as technology, which is really lovely too because it draws out the sense of culture that I most appreciate: not a thing we have, but rather what we do. She also talked about the aboriginal desire to "not become roadkill on the information highway" and how the internet could be used to expand age-old Native path-making practices.

She explained that there was some early concern about how the internet might act as yet another means to commodify Native culture, but she asked if Native peoples wouldn't want their children to be able to find them online, as part of that world too? To this end her work has included the Drumbytes, Kids From Kanata and Dene/Cree Elderspeak projects.

Cheryl's also played with the notion that everyone can be indigenous in the sense that we all come from, and have responsibilities to, what we call home. This work received a lot of criticism from aboriginal communities who, for obvious reasons, want to protect their identities - but she still tried to push concepts of identity, including her *awesome* treatycard project, which played with the notion that a Treaty Card (the Canadian certificate of "Indian Status") is something that non-Natives would covet, by allowing anyone to create or modify their own Treaty Card. Her most recent project is wępinâsowina: offerings (to the spirits) which allows people to make prayers online.

:: Fiddian Warman

Fiddian talked about some of Soda Creative's work, like VisionLondon 2012 which allows students to express their visions of future life in London through new media production, and Nahnou Together, which connects children and young people in London and Damascus. Along similar lines, b.tween2cultures.net joins children in the UK and China through images uploaded to flickr, to create a kind of semantic dialogue between people. Very nice. Irrepressible.info was created for Amnesty International to disseminate banned information around the world, in numerous languages, and raise awareness around internet censorship. Also very nice. His main point, of course, was to remind us that interactive media can be effectively and successfully used to participate, to communicate, to change the world, to make a difference. Right on.

In discussion it became sadly obvious, but not entirely unexpected, that these kinds of projects struggle the most to secure adequate funding. In terms of public participation and involvement, the technology issue is still important. Cheryl mentioned how many Native communities still only have dial-up connections, and Fiddian credited existing techie communities for spreading the use of social software, even when the political motivation was lacking. Interestingly, Fiddian also mentioned the differences between UK committment and that from Damascus and China - apparently UK participants have been far more skeptical and have ultimately participated to a far lesser extent. (How embarrassing is that?!)

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