[ISEA2011] Paper: Cheryl L’Hirondelle – Codetalkers Recounting Signals-of-Survival


In most of the world Indigenous people are thought to be behind in using new technologies and either on the other side of the digital divide or in the chasm of the unknown that separates haves from have-nots. Yet to the contrary, Aboriginal artists have been, since time immemorial, ‘making things our own’ and, certainly since the 1960s, finding our own indigenous aesthetic in digital storytelling and in the unique contributions and ingenuity we’ve contributed to computing and technology.

This presentation will be the first of sizeable future involvement featuring the landmark creations and innovations of several Indigenous artists from around the world. It will illustrate and critically analyse their contributions that need to be included in the field of electronic arts internationally so that a more truly global picture of aesthetic and technological advancements can be viewed. Works critically contextualised (and illustrated using powerpoint) will range from interactive and participatory websites/net.?art productions, performative MIDI and haptic objects/screens, locative and i-phone/android applications, kinetic art, computer generated and sound installations.

The artists’ projects discussed have all been included in three exhibitions (Codetalkers of the Digital Divide, RE:counting coup, S-O-S) curated by award winning media artist, musician and curator Cheryl L’Hirondelle for imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival as part of their commitment to focus on presenting cutting-edge, groundbreaking new media exhibitions from an Indigenous perspective. What L’Hirondelle envisioned for imagineNATIVE and will present for the ISEA assembly is the findings from a  three-year “triangulation” of exhibitions that artistically, culturally, and critically examined and located the intersections between new media practice and that of Indigenous history, cosmology, and artistic expression.

  • Cheryl L’Hirondelle (aka Waynohtêw, Cheryl Koprek) is a nomadic mixed-blood multi and interdisciplinary artist, singer/songwriter and curator. Her creative practice is an investigation of the junction of a Cree worldview (nêhiyawin) in contemporary time and space. In 2004, L’Hirondelle was one of the first Aboriginal artists from this land now known as Canada to be invited to present her new media work at DAK’ART Lab, as part of the 6th Edition of the Dakar Biennale for Contemporary African Art, Dakar, Senegal. In both 2005 & 2006, L’Hirondelle was the recipient of the imagineNATIVE New Media Award for her online net.art projects: treatycard, 17:TELL and wêpinâsowina. Her 2008 interdisciplinary project nikamon ohci askiy (songs because of the land), was recognized as an honoree in the Net.Art category of the 13th Annual Webby Awards. From 2009 to 2011 Cheryl was the guest new media curator and advisor for imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. To date, the results have been three group exhibitions: Codetalkers of the Digital Divide (or why we didn’t become ‘roadkill on the information superhighway’)RE:counting coup and S-O-S3 (signals of survival) featuring the work of 19 international Indigenous media artists. She has also been involved in a variety of media arts initiatives including:  Smartlab Associate Researcher (UK), 2005–07; Banff New Media Institute Advisory Committee, 2006; ISEA2006 – Pacific Rim New Media Summit Working Group Member (US/NZ), 2006; Circuit4.ca – Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2004; RIXC – International Locative Media Workshop (Latvia), 2003; Drumbytes.org; 2002; Canada Council Media Arts Advisory Committee, 1997–2001; KIDS FROM KANATA On-line Aboriginal Liaison, 1995-96, and AFVAA – Drum Beats to Drum Bytes Thinktank, 1994.  L’Hirondelle is a member of the OCAD University Indigenous Education Council and teaches in their Integrated Media Department. artinjun.ca