‘Listener’ is an iterative, site specific performance artwork developed from an idea originally conceived during an Initiative for Indigenous Futures workshop on 7th Generation Character Design. 'Listener' is a performance that engages with Lakota epistemologies through computational media, machine learning algorithms, and narrative. The result of this project will be multiple site-specific iterations of the performance, featuring a hair-braid interface and including wearable sculptures, costuming, Lakota interface designs, an interactive website, documentation of performance, and a platform for audience feedback.
Lakota is the common language of the peoples indigenous to the plains regions of North America, closely tied to Dakota and Nakota languages. There are many types of storytelling that shape the Lakota terrains: national, intertribal, communal, familial, and personal. This multiplicity of mythologies are constantly present in the contemporary storytelling of the Lakota. My research and artwork uses computational media and performance to explore these mythologies and articulate how they can be conceptually, creatively, and pragmatically productive alternatives to the hegemony of Western epistemologies. I have utilized my research on Indigenous epistemology to inform the development of a technological suite that will enact relationships between the body, the user/performance interface, and the computer. The performance system will consist of a hair-braid interfacing with a digital audio and video workstation utilizing machine learning frameworks to respond to my movement. This creates a spiral feedback dynamic between myself and the system. Developing the system and conducting the performances will assist me in developing an integrated Indigenous and Research-Creation methodologies approach. Such an approach is necessary in order to understand and articulate how the Lakota acknowledge and support truth-telling in a variety of forms: facts, lies, stories, spiritual channeling, family gossip, and community mythologies.
This performance is an experiment in how technology can be used to build a narrative which investigates the ways that contemporary Lakota epistemologies inform creation. Lakota ways of knowing tell us that hair is an extra-sensory tool, operating in physically, metaphorical, and spiritual dimensions simultaneously. Questions I am interested in asking with this work are: how can Lakota understanding of hair effect the design of technology for making use of this 'extra' sense? What does a Lakota data-visualizing interface look like? How can the data produced by such an interface be communicated effectively and affectively to an audience?
The performance is 18 minutes. It begins with live audio from the LA police scanner as well as a live GPS map on the downtown area swirls slowly, suspended a projected circle. A video feed begins to live stream a figure walking and walking. A voice suspended in static begins cut through the police scanner. It is a scrambled transmission, seemingly abstract but forming a kind of poetry. This voice speaks of a future landscape, prophecies, dreams, rumors, and the possibilities in hearing, in listening. A figure in a cloak appears on stage, swinging and manipulating a very, very long hair-braid. The sound shifts, a deep pulsing enters underneath the voice and the scanner transmissions. The figure spirals in and in. A second projected circle appears, inside a transmission appears. It is a growing geometric design, reminiscent of Lakota womens’ geometry designs. It grows and shifts and grows, seemingly controlled by a distant relationship to the hair-braid, glowing as the figure shifts it. A state of transmission and control is reached, reaching a state of a low roar of noise and suddenly the transmission ceases, a lost signal.