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  • J. Miner

SCMS: Low Poly, Low Rez: Digital Animation and Cultural “Resolution” in Indigenous Game-Based Media

Low Poly, Low Rez: Digital Animation and Cultural “Resolution” in Indigenous Game-Based Media

The making-visible of Indigenous lived experiences has been a central concern of digital media production by Indigenous artists. Likewise, recent rights movements have called attention to how the disjuncture of Indigenous bodies and environment perpetuates settler-colonial violence. Where these two energies meet, an array of activist media reaffirms that relationship by increasingly exploring its computational permutations—from Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ short video “Bloodland” (2011) to the first #MMIW crowdmaps (2013), to the #AmINext photo campaign (2014). Taking hold of digital platforms that facilitate new modes of expression, Indigenous game designers and artists have likewise used animation and digital modeling to explore the algorithmic relation between digital bodies and places, articulating the processes of Indigenous embodied sovereignty.

This paper situates game-based media such as Achimostawinan Games’ Purity & Decay (2017-20) and Skawennati’s TimeTraveler (2014) and She Falls for Ages (2017) in a larger project of digital embodiment and place-making practices by Indigenous artists. Rendering Indigenous bodies and places computational means exploring their interconnectedness at the level of procedurality: what relationship do the data points on the Missing Sisters digital crowdmap have, for example, to the unique Indigenous player avatars on AbTeC Island in Second Life? What does it mean to set digital Indigenous bodies in motion inside digital Indigenous environments? These animations intervene in the aesthetic history of patriarchal settler media, which has understood Indigenous women’s bodies as low poly—low-resolution bodies of narrative motif—but never as active bodies in digital space. They articulate the negotiation of techno-cultural limitations by Indigenous designers—constraints in the level of particularity or “resolution” communicable in a settler representational image or narrative structure. These animations surface at the perceived gap between Indigenous stories and digital animation, evoking Indigenous systems of embodiment in order to generate a digital presence against the narratives of the settler state.

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