Digital Futures & CFC Media Lab welcome Kanien'kehá:ka artist Skawennati

Skawennati: Becoming Sky Woman
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - 6:30pm

Skawennati makes art that addresses history, the future, and change. Her pioneering new media projects have been widely presented across Turtle Island in major exhibitions such as Now? NOW! at Denver’s Biennial of the Americas; and Looking Forward (L’Avenir) at the Montreal Biennale. She has been honoured to win imagineNative’s 2009 Best New Media Award as well as a 2011 Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. Her work in is included in both public and private collections. Born in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory, Skawennati graduated with a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal, where she is based. She is Co-Director of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC), a research network of artists and academics who investigate and create Indigenous virtual environments. Their Skins workshops in Aboriginal Storytelling and Experimental Digital Media are aimed at empowering youth. In 2015 they launched IIF, the Initiative for Indigenous Futures.

Venue & Address: 
205 Richmond St. W. Room 115
Free all welcome!
Skawennati Flyer


A quipu. Photo by David Mcintosh.
Weavers in Peru. Photo by David McIntosh.

David McIntosh, an Associate Professor, Media Studies at OCAD U, is the recipient of a major Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant for a major research and creation project he’s leading called QUIPUCAMAYOC. McIntosh's project is a transmedia, translocal digital game that will be played simultaneously within two Andean communities, one in Cusco, Peru and the other in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The grant will fund project development for three years and is valued at $278,690.

McIntosh and his team of researchers are beginning with historical and geographical research into pre-colombian texts and remote communities referenced in those texts. The game concept began with the historical, Andean notion of quipu, a form of record-keeping based on knots in strings that was used in Inca society until the Spanish Conquest in 1532. Like a decimal system, each knot position, colour and twist in the string has meaning. QUIPUCAMAYOC refers to the keeper of these string memories. These were the traditional storytellers of a community, and any quipu that survived the Spanish colonization are sophisticated narrative devices, rich with stories of the past.

The game prototype McIntosh’s team will develop centres around both historical storytelling and contemporary communication between communities in Cusco and a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. “I spent a lot of time in Cusco and Buenos Aires over the past ten years, and became aware of a large expatriate Peruvian community of textile factory workers in an area in Buenos Aires,” says McIntosh, who describes this neighbourhood as similar to Spadina and Kensington Market in Toronto, insofar as the concentration of immigrants in it has shifted over the years. What interested McIntosh was the fact that the Peruvian expats developed their own communication system back and forth between Cusco and the neighbourhood in Buenos Aires to make it easier to send money back to their families in Peru.

“I thought about the movement back and forth of money and people, and developed the idea of a game structure — a publically performed mix of performance and gaming using wearable game controllers that are also musical instruments that reunites these two Andean communities based on their shared history,” says McIntosh.

In addition to sound, gameplay will also include dancers and performance artists, culminating in a public fiesta which the public will both observe and participate in. In development of gameplay, McIntosh and his team will be working with local Peruvian and Argentinian musicians, choreographers, performers and game specialists and anthropologists.

“A lot of commercial gaming centres around first-person shooting,” says McIntosh. “My goal is to deploy digital media research and creation to push the boundaries of technological innovation in specific contexts. Where we go in our research will be propelled by creative outcomes, historical documents, questions of post-colonial reinterpretation and provocative ways we can engage gaming as a contemporary idiom.”

About David McIntosh

In addition to teaching at OCAD U, McIntosh is a visual artist, film producer, scriptwriter and curator. His PhD from York University focused on the rise of decentralized media structures and distributed networks. His research regularly brings him to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico and has multiple points of focus, including: globalization and the political economies of audiovisual spaces, network theories and practices, new media narrativity, mobile locative media, game theory, digital documents, Latin American media and queer media.

QUIPUCAMAYOC arose out of an earlier project McIntosh led, a new media documentary called Qosqo Llika, a mobile media documentary that invites participants to travel back in time to experience the cultural life Cusco, Peru in the 1930s.

McIntosh’s research team for QUIPUCAMAYOC includes:

Ricardo Dal Farra, Concordia University
Patricio Davila, OCAD U
Judith K. Doyle, OCAD U
Alan Durston, York University
Dot Tuer, OCAD U
Emma Westecott, OCAD U

The grant is one of two awarded to OCAD U (the other project funded is Richard Fung's RE:ORIENTATIONS).

Learn More

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) 

Original Quosqo Llika project

David McIntosh