Along the River of Spacetime is a virtual reality game about activating Anishinaabe star knowledge to enhance river ecosystems.
Along the River of Spacetime is a virtual reality game which shares Anishinaabeg teachings relating to land practices, star knowledge, and quantum physics in an interactive non-linear journey about restoring rivers and their ecosystems by activating Anishinaabe constellations. Coded particle systems of light, hand drawn art brought into form with copper, and 360° film of riverways running through Nkwejong in Michigan are merged into technology-empowered storytelling. The work reflects the worldview passed on to me by mother Grace L. Dillon who coined the term “Indigenous futurisms”—our stories share science.
So, too, can our stories be shared through technology. My greatest hope is to show ways in which our ways of knowing can be experienced through design. Along the River of Spacetime does just this by embedding Anishinaabeg scientific teachings within user interactions. The leaps in the journey are activated with an Anishinaabe symbol which parallels a particle physicists theorize may relate to teleportation, recently recognized by the LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. As riverways are fully restored, Anishinaabeg teachings about water unravel to the light of stars nourishing medicinal plants into form.
The demo of Along the River of Spacetime will debut in the DEPTH Exhibition in a closed space with a cutout copper canoe which includes seating for multiple people to simultaneously sit, relax, and experience the virtual reality game in headsets and headphones.
Design & Art
Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher who creates and studies Indigenous-led media such as games and comics. She is Anishinaabe from Baawaating with relations at Bay Mills Indian Community, Métis named for Elizabeth Morris, and settler-Irish. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow.
Most recently, she designed and created art for Thunderbird Strike (2017), a lightning-searing side-scroller game which won Best Digital Media at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and Honour Water (2016), an Anishinaabe singing game for healing the water.
Music & Sound
Exquisite Ghost aka Jordan Thomas from Peguis First Nation is an electronic artist and sonic experimenter who melds urbanity and Indigenous futurisms. Following the release of his album Shrines (2013) on Salient Sounds, he opened for Aboriginal Music Week 2015. He contributed to the Indigenous Futurisms Mixtape (2015) and Leanne Simpson’s Under Your Always Light (2016). He debuted on RPM Records with the dual track, single release–The Heart (A Side) and The Heart (B Side) (2017). In Along the River of Spacetime, he balances natural sounds from the rivers with acoustics and electronic beats.
Made Possible by the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship 2018