Visitors to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg can view The Witness Blanket, a 12-metre-long installation made of more than 800 items collected from the sites and survivors of residential schools, in the style of a woven blanket. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

Visitors to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg can view The Witness Blanket, a 12-metre-long installation made of more than 800 items collected from the sites and survivors of residential schools, in the style of a woven blanket. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

Camosun College team working to turn Indigenous art into virtual reality

Expert team will scan Victoria Indigenous artist Carey Newman’s work The Witness Blanket

An expert team from Camosun College’s applied research centre was sent to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg on Feb. 17 to scan The Witness Blanket, a large-scale art installation by local artist and University of Victoria professor Carey Newman, whose traditional name is Hayalthkin’geme.

The results of the project will be a point-cloud rendering of the original artwork, which will be used to create a virtual reality experience, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the narratives that are embedded into the objects of the blanket.

Members of the team include Matt Zeleny, applied research technologist, and Louise Black, visual arts student and member of the Tsawout First Nation. Camosun College has planned the project for more than a year, collaborating with Newman, Media One and the museum.

“It’s an enormous project, and comes with great honour and great weight. It is important to reach an understanding of present and future, through an understanding of the past,” Black said.

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The Witness Blanket is 12 metres long, made from more than 800 items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings, friendship centres, treatment centres and post secondary institutions across the country. The blanket has become a national monument that recognizes and acknowledges the trauma of the residential school era that took place from 1870 to 1996.

“By harnessing the power of virtual reality, more people than ever before can interact with the Witness Blanket and learn about the dark legacy of residential schools and the restorative power of reconciliation,” said Richard Gale, director of Camosun Innovates.

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Newman’s dream for his art installation was to bring it back to every community where materials for his art originated from. After four years of touring, the installation has not reached every location from where its materials originated. By creating an accessible, virtual model, it is hoped more locations can be reached.

sarah.schuchard@saanichnews.com


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