Fun in Four Directions: start of a sideshow of Aborginal avatars

Posted on April 21, 2010, 3:19 pm, by skawennati, under Artists, representation, Virtual Worlds.

I think it will be fun to do a slide show of portraits of AbTeC avatars for my presentation for PSi, the Performance Studies gathering I’ve been invited to in Toronto in June. So I’ve been looking through the hundreds of Second Life snapshots that I’ve taken over the last few years. Today I revisited an artwork from 2008, a collaboration between Bea Parsons and myself, called Guided By The Four Directions.

"Guided by the Four Directions" by Bea Parsons and Skawennati

"Guided by the Four Directions", 2008, Bea Parsons and Skawennati

The image, divided into quarters like a medicine wheel, depicts four incarnations of Bea’s Second Life avatar, Bea Box. Bea has spent countless hours exploring this virtual world, many of them devoted to finding skins, hairstyles, clothing and props that would make our avatars look “Native”.

Representing the colour white, in the upper left corner is a young, hip, urban Aboriginal. This is the character we call “Katsi”. Her jet-black hair and dark skin signify her aboriginality, but her bangs, make-up, clothes, and environment set her just a few minutes into the future.  Beside her, beset with yellow highlights, is our cool, modern and fair Indian princess. Bea nick-named this character “Pow-wow-a-go-go”; With her regalia and her fancy-dancer-esqe hairdo, you can’t quite tell if she’s taking a smoke break from the circle or from the disco. Below her is another sister, floating in the clouds above Mars, perhaps. She wears the original AbTeC team uniform, which we liked because it was both futuristic and free. Also it inexplicably had the initials “JL” on it, which we decided would stand for Jason Lewis, beloved co-director of AbTeC. Finally, we come to the floating headdress, depicting the otherwise invisible Indian, the ultimate stage in a performance entitled “You Want a Piece of Me?”

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