Paisley Smith and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
Title: Unceded Territories
Artists: Paisley Smith, Writer + Co-Director, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Artist + Co-Director
Medium: Interactive Virtual Reality
Location: Vancouver Biennale App
Are we that different than the pipeline executives sacrificing mother earth for their own wealth? We want you to think about these things, to feel our anger, and to fight for change
– Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
Unceded Territories is created from First Nations artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s iconic pop-surrealist artwork. Part interactive VR experience, part art activism, Unceded Territories links colonialism with climate change, and has us think about our role in the destruction of the environment. The powerful beats of The Halluci Nation, (formally A Tribe Called Red), pulse throughout the experience and create an anthem for change. Unceded Territories had its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival as an Oculus-based VR experience. The Vancouver Biennale has adapted the original game to make it accessible for all to play on mobile devices.
You begin to create a beautiful and prosperous paradise. Spirit Bear appears as a warning of your perilous role, but soon it’s too late. You’ve become the greedy Super Predator draining the world of its resources. As the pulse beats faster, you’ve lost all control. The wheel of environmental destruction has been set in motion. Evil Colonial Snake emerges, leaving a trail of bones behind him, and devours you in one gulp. Inside the psychedelic belly of Colonial Snake, you are forced to see the environmental chaos you’ve created.
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Director’s Statement – Paisley Smith
Unceded Territories is a provocative interactive experience that harnesses virtual reality and the power of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s artistic practice. What emerges is a world that is both entertaining and political, made entirely out of Yuxweluptun’s bold, surrealist style, dominated by the ovoid form. Yuxweluptun uses ovoids as an expression of his freedom as an artist, and “Ovoidism” is his own theory of conceptual art. Yuxweluptun’s art activism makes the toxic realities of forest fires, poisoned waters, dead fish, and spilled oil palatable. The player is forced to question their own role in the real world and recognize the need for change.
I have been working in VR’s recent renaissance creating immersive journalism and documentary works. While researching the history of VR art, I was astonished to discover that Yuxweluptun had created a pioneering work Inherent Rights, Vision Rights at the Banff Centre in 1992. VR innovation and art activism were uniting. My personal connection with Yuxweluptun and a deep fascination with the power of recent virtual reality innovations inspired me to create Unceded Territories.
Unceded Territories is a not-so-subtle political and environmental confrontation. The powerful beats of A Tribe Called Red pulse throughout the experience and create an anthem for change. Together we are invading your virtual worlds to assert Indigenous aesthetics and rights – a rebellious, full-colour fight against colonialism, environmental destruction, and systematic racism.
Artist Statement – Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun
“I have been a Blackface dancer eighteen years now, a masked dancer, a Sxquxwey dancer since I was fourteen. I have been able to draw from these native experiences, combining them with western world experiences and technology to make my work. Employing technology that has in past been used against native people. I create art to show people what is happening to me spiritually. Always, I create art to communicate with others, to let other cultures see things for themselves. To show my world, Indian World, to show that we do have a spirit, a place to go, so people will understand who I am as a west coast native person. You cannot hide the real history or even the censorship of native history, a colonial syndrome. You can hide the Department of Indian Affairs documents from the time of Confederation, but you cannot hide my paintings. They are for all people to see.”
I wrote these words when talking about Inherent Rights, Vision Rights, a virtual reality experience that invited audiences into the longhouse and to witness the spirit world. It was 1992. That was 31 years ago. The Indian Act is still in place and we have not made strides to improve climate change. Computers are now fast and can now hold more memories for others to experience. Paisley Smith and I have made Unceded Territories to force audiences to recognize their role in the destruction of the environment by having them embody the greedy, Super Predator. Are we that different than the pipeline executives sacrificing mother earth for their own wealth? We want you to think about these things, to feel our anger, and to fight for change.
Beyond Unceded Territories
By Corbie Fieldwalker
Beyond Unceded Territories dives deeply into the perspective of artist and activist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Yuxweluptun is one of Canada’s most outspoken and influential contemporary artists. His work is highly political and confronts issues of colonization, climate change and oppression head-on. In Beyond Unceded Territories, Yuxweluptun shares his feelings honestly against a backdrop of climate and pipeline protests. Yuxweluptun uses his art as a tool to effect change – and change is coming.
Corbie Fieldwalker creates films and salmon leather textiles to raise awareness for salmon harvest transformation. Born and raised on Unceded Territories, Corbie films and fishes the waters of Xwemelch‘estn and the Capilano River. For more information visit
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is one of the most prominent and outspoken contemporary First Nations artists working today and is projected to be one of the most relevant of our time. A strong advocate for contemporary Indigenous issues in Canada, Yuxweluptun uses First Nations imagery and surrealism to voice his political concerns, exposing environmental destruction and the struggle of Native people. More Info
Paisley Smith is a creative leader and experienced virtual reality director, writer, and producer. She creates engaging virtual reality films with physical, real-world impact, including Unceded Territories and Homestay. Smith has been recognized as one of the “10 Filmmakers to Watch” by Independent Magazine and has been nominated for an ADC Young Gun Award for her immersive media work. More Info
The Halluci Nation
Formerly known as A Tribe Called Red, The Halluci Nation is a Canadian electronic music group who straddle a broad range of musical influences including instrumental hip hop, reggae, moombahton and dubstep-influenced dance music with elements of First Nations music, particularly vocal chanting and drumming. The group is a modern gateway into urban and contemporary Indigenous culture and experience, celebrating all its layers and complexity. In 2014, they garnered mainstream recognition when they became the first Indigenous group to win Breakthrough Group of the Year at the Juno Awards, and their debut album was included in The Washington Post‘s “Top 10 Albums of the Year” list.
Vancouver Biennale – Project Sponsor + Exhibitor
Miriam Blume – Producer
Developed with the participation of Creative BC and the British Columbia Arts Council