The nine-episode series TimeTraveller™, created by Skawennati between 2007 and 2013, offers a postcolonial rereading of the history of Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. What makes this critical vision special is that it simultaneously projects Indigenous presence into the future through science fiction.
Starting October 13, the MAC screening room at Place Ville Marie will offer an excellent venue for viewing or revisiting this perpetually relevant work by a prolific artist who is an important ambassador for the Tiohtià:ke art community.

Synopsis

The series tells the story of Hunter, a young Mohawk man living in the twenty-second century, who uses TimeTraveller™, an edutainment system developed by the Skawennati, to learn about his heritage. Resembling sleek glasses, the technology allows user-players to ostensibly travel through time, and Hunter selects moments in history important to Indigenous people. The episodes span a period of more than six hundred years, from pre-Columbian America to the future in 2021. During his visit to the simulation of the Oka Crisis at Kanesatake in 1990, Hunter meets Karahkwenhawi, who seems to be just another little girl. But in the next episode, as a young woman in our present, she mysteriously obtains a pair of TimeTravellers™, and proceeds to follow Hunter’s trail until they meet again at the occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, and they decide to use the glasses to continue meeting. Karahkwenhawi is able to visit Hunter’s time, where she discovers an exhibition of Indigenous contemporary art, among which we can recognize works from the MAC collection.

Skawennati lives and works in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, and her work circulates internationally. Born in Kahnawà:ke, the Mohawk territory community just south of the city, she is a member of the Turtle Clan. Concerned with the absence of Indigenous peoples in the collective imagination of the future, over the past thirty years she has developed network-based new media works, videos, sculptures, textile and photographic works, as well as machinimas that bring the Indigenous presence into cyberspace. Her work is celebrated for her futuristic representations of Indigenous people as she battles against tired stereotypes and highlights today’s vibrant Indigenous cultures.

Skawennati’s community engagement and collaborative approach are remarkable. As a youth, she became active with SAGE (Students Against Global Extermination) and Femmes autochtones du Québec and was a co-founder of Nation to Nation, a collective of First Nations artists. More recently, in 2019, she and artists Nadia Myre, Caroline Monnet, and Hannah Claus created the Indigenous artist-run centre daphne, a presentation and residency venue. Sensitive to the issues of her times, Skawennati quickly grasped the incredible potential of the Internet; in 1997, recognizing the need for contemporary Indigenous artists to meet despite being separated by vast geographical distances, she organized, through Nation to Nation, CyberPowWow, a ground-breaking online gallery featuring a mixed-reality event that took place roughly every two years until 2004. In 2005, she and Jason Edward Lewis founded Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC), a research-creation network based at Concordia University, to help ensure that Indigenous people were represented in digital media as producers as well as subjects. Skawennati’s occupation of cyberspace at the turn of the millennium offered inspiration to artists working mainly in digital media. New practices proliferated in parallel with the emergence of Indigenous cultural activism networks, institutional changes, and working groups and commissions on the state of Indigenous cultures. From the onset of what became a true cultural reform, the advent and popularization of the Internet proved crucial for a then-rising generation of Indigenous artists. TimeTraveller™, through both its subject and its medium, testifies to this context of emancipation.

The word “machinima,” a combination of the words “machine” and “cinema,” is used to describe a movie made in a virtual environment. The virtual setting that Skawennati has used since 2007 is Second Life, a highly customizable, multi-player, online world. On an island that AbTeC acquired in this space, Skawennati builds sets, personalizes avatars, choreographs their actions, and then shoots scenes, which she later edits. She hires people from her community to be the voices of the characters and works with musicians and a sound designer to add depth to the worlds she creates.