May 6, 2020

Virtual gallery opening features 11 indigenous artists

By Alaina Perez, IIF social media coordinator

Image by Anastasia Erikson (a.k.a. Abbi Bluebird), AbTeC’s Research Coordinator

When COVID-19 caused cancellations and postponements, we saw the entire globe migrating to cyberspace. We at Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace, part of Milieux’s Indigenous Futures research cluster, realized that we were ready for this moment. We have been creating Indigenous art spaces on the internet for years.

On May 1, 2020, we were thrilled open our virtual doors and inaugurate our online gallery space. We welcomed approximately 30 visitors to our vernissage in Second Life, and another 80 guests who livestreamed the event.

The inaugural exhibition, Reformatted is a once fictional space that has been repurposed for a new reality. The artworks in it, never intended for Second Life, had to be imported, uploaded and sometimes digitally coaxed and cajoled to make it possible to show them in this particular world. They are reformatted versions of their original selves —like all of us now, seeking new ways of being and speaking with each other, trying new ways to be together apart during a global pandemic.

The gallery was originally created in 2013 as a set for a machinima. To populate it, AbTeC co-director Skawennati turned to her community of fabulous Indigenous artists.  She asked them for works that would fit the particular aesthetic of Second Life, which is brightly coloured, animated, and clean in the way that digital spaces so often are. Call it cyberealism. All eleven artists responded with an enthusiastic yes:

  • Sonny Assu
  • Rebecca Belmore
  • Richard Bell
  • Scott Benesiinaabandan
  • Hannah Claus
  • David Garneau
  • Maria Hupfield
  • Jason Edward Lewis
  • Peter Morin
  • Nadia Myre
  • Skawennati
Avatars visit cloudscape, an installation by Hannah Claus, during the vernissage. Image courtesy of Kahentawaks Tiewishaw (a.k.a. Abbi AbTeC)

AbTeC’s Skins Workshops Associate Director Maize Longboat (AKA Abbi Bigboots) expressed his delight at the turnout to the opening: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many avatars gathered on AbTeC Island! The gallery was full and alive with virtual art fans mingling amongst the works while they nibbled on hors d’oeuvres and sipped bubbly drinks.” 

Visitors mingled, danced and even got to float around on a flying pig! It all came together splendidly. Our team put in a lot of work to make it all happen, whether it was conjuring up a last-minute DJ booth, offering digital champagne, or helping folks navigate Second Life for the first time.

We were so happy to have the support of Milieux and Concordia’s 4th Space to help spread the word about our event. It was a wonderful time and we cannot wait until our next exhibition!

Watch a video of the livestream:

Virtual Vernissage: AbTeC Gallery presents "Reformatted"

A livestream from Second Life for the virtual vernissage of "Reformatted". Co-founded and co-directed by Concordia professor Jason Edward Lewis and multi-disciplinary artist Skawennati, AbTeC (Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace) has been creating indigenously determined spaces on the Internet for years. In this moment of heightened virtual connection, AbTeC invites you to visit their island in the vast multi-player online world of Second Life to explore their inaugural gallery exhibition, “Reformatted.” “Reformatted” features artwork by Sonny Assu, Rebecca Belmore, Richard Bell, Scott Benesiinaabandan, Hannah Claus, David Garneau, Maria Hupfield, Jason Edward Lewis, Peter Morin, Nadia Myre, and Skawennati. The exhibited works, never intended for a virtual world, are newly presented as reformatted, digital versions of their original selves.

Posted by 4TH SPACE Concordia University on Friday, May 1, 2020

The Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) is a partnership of universities and community organizations dedicated to developing multiple visions of Indigenous peoples tomorrow in order to better understand where we need to go today.