Indigenous VR experience Biidaaban imagines Toronto after reconciliation
Publication/Creation DateJanuary 9 2019
DescriptionPicture the Toronto skyline overgrown with plants. Green shoots poke through broken concrete, and trees sprout from patchy rooftops. The subway tunnels are flooded to platform-level, forming a collection of interweaving tributaries just wide enough to be navigated by a canoe. Skyscrapers are crumbling under the eye of the CN Tower.
The scene’s description invites a vision of a dystopian, postapocalyptic nightmare. But in the hands of Anishinaabe multimedia artist Lisa Jackson, creator of the virtual-reality experience Biidaaban: First Light in collaboration with the National Film Board, the transformed Toronto is both fertile and meditative.
“I don’t like using the word postapocalyptic,” she tells the Georgia Straight on the line from her home in the city. “That’s one of the words that comes to mind, of course, and Mathew Borrett—the amazing 3-D artist whose work fed into this—his creations can conjure those ideas. But there is no term for a future place where current societal structures aren’t operating, apart from one that implies there has been total death and destruction. Instead, I’ve sometimes been calling it a reconciled Toronto.”
Jackson’s Indigenous heritage is at the heart of Biidaaban. Offering an insight into a world in which age-old First Nations traditions flourish within Toronto’s urban jungle, her imagined future allows the viewer to wander around a to-scale vision of the city reclaimed by the natural world. The anchor point of the experience is language. As users slip between each rich vantage point, words from the Wendat, Anishinaabemowin, and Kanien’kaha—the first individuals to inhabit the place initially known as Tkaronto—rise up on the screen and are narrated over the sound of chirping crickets and stirring leaves.
, Indigenous Futurism
, Physical Space
, Science Fiction
Date archivedFebruary 11 2019
Last editedApril 26 2019