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2167: Indigenous artists to use virtual reality to imagine Canada's future

Project asks 6 artists and filmmakers 'what does the future of Canada look like?'

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril Senate appearance July 21

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril speaks at a meeting of the Senate's Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on Tuesday. She is one of six Indigenous artists and filmmakers selected to take part in an immersive art project for Canada's 150th anniversary next year. (Submitted)

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Six award-winning Indigenous artists and filmmakers are being asked to imagine what Canada might look like in 150 years.

Created by TIFF, imagineNATIVE, Pinnguaq and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures, the 2167 project will use virtual reality to allow Canadians to immerse themselves in a future they might never have imagined. 

"For some of the people who maybe their voices have been silenced in the past, we're allowing them to imagine Canada in the future — 150 years in the future, through an Indigenous lens," said Nyla Innuksuk, co-founder and producer with Pinnguaq.

Three of the immersive art installations will premiere at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox in June 2017, while the remaining three will be presented in October 2017, during the imagineNATIVE film and media festival.

"Obviously with Canada 150 it's a big landmark, but it's something that is a bit controversial among Indigenous people," said Innuksuk. 

"A controversial milestone to celebrate."

The four organizations have commissioned work from three filmmakers: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Jeff Barnaby and Danis Goulet; two artists: Kent Monkman and Scott Benesiinaabandan; and arts collective Postcommodity. 

Innuksuk said people who go to the installation will be able to experience it in different ways, using a VR headset, their phone or tablet, or online.

Each virtual reality experience will be two to four minutes long.

"The great thing about VR is that it really allows you to give the viewer someone else's perspective, which I think is really interesting for this project in particular."

That's particularly important for this project, since the group says it is rare for science fiction or alternate reality stories to have an Indigenous perspective. 

"Often Indigenous people are seen as stuck in the past," said Jason Ryle, artistic director of imagineNATIVE in a news release.

"In a year that in many ways commemorates a very complex history for Indigenous people, this project celebrates the decades to come."

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