Jackson 2Bears

Artengine's ARTIFICIAL IMAGINATION

Jackson 2Bears, a Mohawk multimedia artist, shared insights during an artist talk after participating in a panel discussion. Currently based in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he teaches at the University of Lethbridge, Two Bears is known for blending his artistic practice with deep cultural and theoretical explorations. His talk delved into the integration of Indigenous perspectives within contemporary technology and art.

2Bears spoke about his recent projects and the philosophical underpinnings influencing his work, particularly the ideas of spatial philosophy as opposed to the Western focus on temporality. He cited the works of philosopher Vine Deloria Jr., emphasizing the contrast between tribal spirituality and Western ideologies. 2Bears highlighted the notion that landscapes are not merely physical spaces but living, storied entities that embody cultural narratives and histories.

Further, he discussed his collaborations with other Indigenous artists, exploring site-specific installations that engage directly with the land. These projects often involve immersive experiences that challenge conventional views of space and place, aiming to foster a deeper connection with the environment.

Throughout his presentation, Two Bears proposed a rethinking of technological engagement, advocating for an approach that respects and incorporates Indigenous cosmologies and methodologies. His discussion was not only a reflection on his artistic journey but also an invitation to consider more inclusive and culturally aware frameworks in the intersection of art, technology, and society.

This presentation was part of the symposium ARTIFICIAL IMAGINATION which unites innovative artists engaged with emerging technologies. This focused on exploring and sharing their individual practices, experiences, and insights related to algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. It served as a platform for an enriching exchange of ideas between the artists and the audience, aiming to contribute a distinctive artistic viewpoint to the ongoing discussions about our evolving relationships with machine collaborators. Each session, including this one, highlighted how these technologies are being integrated and reflected in contemporary artistic processes, encouraging a broader understanding and appreciation of the creative potential of new digital tools.

Tékeniyáhsen Ohkwá:ri (Jackson 2bears) is a Kanien’kehà:ka (Mohawk) artist and cultural theorist from Six Nations of the Grand River and Tyendinaga. 2bears’ research-creation activities focus on Indigenous land-based histories and embodied cultural knowledge, wherein they explore the creative use of digital technologies as a means to support the innovation, transmission, expression, and transformation of FNMI creative and cultural practices in the context of our current digital epoch. 2bears is currently Associate Professor of Art Studio and Indigenous Studies, Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Indigenous Arts Research & Technology, and Director of the Onkwehonwe Research Environment (ORE) at Western University.

We need a framework that incorporates our stories, our laws, our philosophies; one that recognizes that technology is not just a tool but a way of seeing the world.

Stories are written on the landscape, the landscape itself is animate, an embodied living archive.

Engaging the Non-Human

Jackson 2Bears

This idea of kind of breaking down these distinctions between, you know, mind, body and these kind of binary kind of dualism. It’s a strikingly similar. So and on the other sense, I should talk just, you know, I don’t want talk too long with my son artist talk, but I want to talk a little about my practice because that is mostly what I do. I mostly I’m an artist and maker. I produce things, I work an installation performance. And I asked to have this one slide up, which is just an illustration of a photograph, and that’s been altered. That’s part of an installation. And I just want to talk really quickly about two different projects. The first is entitled it’s a series entitled for This Land, which is borrowed from course Fine Deloria for this Land series is a part of a collaborative project between myself and Gagnon, Gahagan Mohawk, poet and artists and performance artist Joe Rogers. We’ve been working together for the last, I guess, for almost five years now. We met each other actually on the West Coast and on in territory, and we kind of felt it was interesting because both of us sort of simultaneously I’d been living in Victoria, B.C. for about 14 years and she had been living there for about 20 years. We both had simultaneously come to this point in our lives, in our careers, that the idea of of home became really important idea of six and eight. She’s from six nations to I should say, the idea of home became really important. This idea of doing site specific installation, this idea of of land and communicating with land, and this whole notion started to come sort of, you know, it became important to both of us. We kind of started to do a series of projects that brought us back to Six Nations. The first was a short experimental documentary we made followed by a number of these projects in the series that had us going to different locations on our home rez to do the project was really inspired by this idea that the first thing we did was at Chiefs Work, which is a heritage site in six nations, is the birthplace of Pauline Johnson, a famous Mohawk poet. We went to this location and Janet had this idea that that, you know, Pauline had left stories for us there on the landscape in the site. And so we just literally spent a couple of weeks there on location recording, doing any number of different actions, making things from the materials we found in the landscape, doing sound recordings. That became kind of our as our esthetic interpretations became the installation piece that we were doing. So that’s one that’s one work I wanted to talk about. The second one was this one. This image is from which is from a piece that I did in Cologne, which was part of a gathering there two years ago at the Ubco in Okanagan. The reason I mention this is because I think this also kind of frames my some of this idea that I want to present today and, and that is we were invited to go to this, this residency which was several, few months long. I was only able to be there for a couple of weeks. And the idea was that was introduced that we start thinking about how to do not just social practice, social relational practice, which always seems to in some way involve engagement with, you know, you know, with our social spaces, which is really interesting. This project was all about trying to engage with other non-human so, you know, and non-human society. So, you know, as we talk sometimes Mohawk and the Ninja, we’ll talk about, you know, animal societies, bird societies, the these other kind of, you know, or societies of the tree in the sky, this kind of thing, this idea of doing performance and work and media for those societies rather than just, you know, this sort of this idea of decent bring the human within sight of that kind of concept.

Exploring the Intersection

Jackson 2Bears

I have no concept of time or spatial. It’s all spatial. Sensory. So this framework I wanted to talk about and we had great discussions yesterday and part of this is framed again in the spatial and temporal. But it struck me too, as we talk more and more about technology and more and more about our understanding of technology, it struck me that these are actual these are cosmological questions and theological questions or much older questions. I kind of split my this kind of framework into two different sections. And the first is kind of this idea of technological determinism, which is a it’s an older term, but it’s an idea really of really to kind of get at that technological imperative. And in Canada, in Turtle Island and this kind of different kind of scope and optic that we have towards technological, technological society. The other is this concept I’m just kind of developing inspired by our talks yesterday about technological dimensional ism. That’s kind of the other side or flipside of that kind of coin. So what I’ve been really thinking about the last year or so, I was invited to the Carnegie Council for the Arts Digital Summit last year, and I was really asked there to to kind of speak to, you know, how, you know, funding in the arts and technology and the technological funding in the art sector would kind of benefit or but it struck me that I had to ask a several questions kind of leading up to that which ended up kind of coming across as sounding like warnings, but really were just sort of meant to be, you know, again, these kinds of frameworks to think about really when we’re asking about the question of technology and what that actually means. And so when I was thinking about that, of course, the first thing that came to mind and that always comes to mind and where I’m leading to is this question really between the relationship between technology and power itself. They are really, you know, think about the question of technology and technological determinism is really to think about, you know, the story of technology as destiny. And it seems to me that’s what really animates, you know, our our kind of our dialogs really about when it comes to technology and culture. And really this idea, really fatally, I believe, to some extent, really has to do with technology that becomes, in a lot of ways, the controlling logic of our cultural destiny.

Challenging Cyberspace

Jackson 2Bears

I wanted to meditate a little bit on Lauretta Todd, who wrote at that time and has written since about Lawrence Lawrence Paul’s work about how it kind of upsets what she called the ontology of cyberspace. You know, using a term from the night and from the early nineties, you know, inverts the ontology of cyberspace and one that doesn’t rehearse again. Some of these usual Western codes of that, from her point of view that rehearse Western codes of transcendence or any of these other kinds of of notions of separation, of body and place, body, land, this kind of thing. I will wrap up, though, because I don’t want to be rude to a colleague, but just to say two last points about that. The other element of this kind of framework that I’m developing with, on the one hand with Loretta Todd, who is talking about these kinds of Western traditions, but also on the other side, I think a very important critique was levied by a philosopher by the name of Katherine Hales, who wrote this really important book called How We Became Post-human. Her analysis, I think, is just really spot on about the history of cybernetics. She talks about Hans Moravec and Norbert Wiener, these ideas of, you know, in the, I guess, late 1930s and early 1940s about these histories of cybernetics and really how it really in frames, you know, talking about its technological future at the time, I think is spot on with how we are we understand some of these these concepts too. But, you know, again, some of these ideas between separating information from from materiality, you know, equating things like the thinking, conscious human mind with information, how these things, you know, even saying things like consciousness is similar to that of a machine in these kinds of ways. All these sorts of analogies that were made in these early days of civil rights and how they really do animate our technological or their technological destiny, which is our technological present, but also, you know, really exemplifies how, you know, like coding and all this stuff is not neutral, that it really does inherent, you know, it’s something from its cultural context.

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