North-South-East-West at Trinity Square Video, Toronto Canada, October 2004.
The North-South-East-West , inspired by the traditional knowledge of the Anishinaabe People, was presented by Trinity Square Video from October 2 – 31, 2004 in conjunction with the ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival of Toronto from Oct 21-23, 2004.
Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge by Aubrey Reeves, Programming Director
Trinity Square Video
Inspired by the four sacred directions, as taught by the Anishinaabe peoples of North America, Thompson’s North-South-East-West video installation is concerned with enhancing our emotional connection to the earth through the use of digital technology. Thompson states that his “desired effect of providing ancient stories in the context of a modern technological environment was an effort to show the relevance of aboriginal traditional knowledge to our contemporary society. By popularizing the ancient themes 1 am hoping to re-frame our modern “Canadian” experience as part of a much older Aboriginal culture that has been here in North America for thousands of years, and to offer the “old ways” as a contemporary solution for modern humans to reconnect to the earth and find peace with their environment.”
Thompson does not see ancient culture and digital culture as necessarily at odds, but two worlds that can be positively fused. Like any other artist working in new media, ‘Thompson’s artistic choices are informed by technological parameters. For instance, he is limited by the “software/hardware involved in presenting text, images, sound or video on internet display devices – such as flat screen monitors or traditional video displays that try to satisfy user desire for scaleable fonts, quick scannable text, speedy delivery and simplicity of design.”
Yet at the same time, Thompson allows traditional knowledge to shape his approach to technology. Using multiple television screens, projected video images and an interactive Flash CD-ROM, Thompson transforms the gallery into a meditative atmosphere where we float from one vision to another on our collective journey. This format is configured based on two Aboriginal traditions, that of the Sweat Lodge Ceremony and the Healing Circle Ceremony. He translates the experiences and themes from these ceremonies into the format of new media, thus making it more accessible to a potential audience who is unfamiliar with Anishinaabe traditions.
Thompson explains his adaptation of traditional ceremonies to new media as such: “By also thinking of these two ceremonies as points of reference for the new media installation in general, multiple monitors and computers were used in an effort to recreate the hypnotic environment of sweat or the immersive interpersonal space of the healing circle. The use of repetition of audio-visual themes on overlapping displays allows for the creation of an audio-visual space that engages the audience in a complex environment of sounds and images – in order to provoke a feeling of belongingness and inclusion, and a feeling of shared experience.”
Thompson designed North-South-East-West as “a ceremonial experience that permitted self-reflection and examination of one’s life stages and to explore our spiritual and psychological relations to the earth.” He examines our life cycle in terms of four challenges: the challenge to survive; to find a vision; to find a path; and to learn wisdom. The viewer is carried in a circle from East to North, moving through seasons, personalities and stages of life. Thompson emphasizes that all people, no matter what age, race or culture, “face very similar challenges in life.” It is his aspiration that North-South-East-West can aid viewers on their own paths along the four directions, four seasons and four challenges of life and the installation can eventually help them to arrive at a final place of wisdom, so that ultimately “they may communicate it to others.”
PRESS RELEASE: Ancient Wisdom Meets New Technology
September 28, 2004 ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival and Trinity
Square Video (TSV) are proud to co-present the Toronto premiere of Graham
Thompson’s new media installation North-South-East-West at the TSV
Gallery from October 6 – 23, 2004. Inspired by the four sacred directions,as
taught by the Anishinaabe peoples of North America, North-South-East-West
2.0 is concerned with enhancing our emotional connection to the earth
through the use of digital technology.
The artwork consists of a video installation and an interactive CD-ROM Flash
presentation that examines our life cycle in terms of four challenges: the
challenge to survive; to find a vision; to find a path; and to learn wisdom.
In North-South-East-West 2.0, ancient knowledge meets new technology, making
the point that living, itself, is a work of art. The viewer is carried in a
circle from East to North, moving through seasons, personalities, and stages
Thompson has an optimistic belief in the ability of technology to bring
people together. Trained as a graphic designer, Thompson is also a member of
the Metis Nation of British Columbia. This background has encouraged him to
see ancient wisdom and digital culture as realms that can be positively
fused rather than as two opposing worlds. Using multimedia, he transforms
the gallery into a meditative atmosphere where we float from one vision to
another on our collective journey.
The artist will give a lecture at TSV about his work, the four sacred directions, and the fusion of traditional and digital culture on Friday October 22, at 7 pm, followed by an ImagineNative Festival Party.
The ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival runs October 20 24, 2004. See http://www.imaginenative.org for details.
Trinity Square Video Gallery
401 Richmond St. West, suite 376
Hours: Monday Friday, 10 am 6 pm
Special Festival Hours on Saturday October 23, 12 5 pm.
Aubrey Reeves, Programming Director
Trinity Square Video
416. 593.1332 aubrey@…
Wanda Nanibush, Festival Co-ordinator
ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival
416. 585.2333 info@…