Immerse yourself in a new kind of Toronto

Anishinaabe artist Lisa Jackson brings a striking vision to life in her VR work, Biidaaban.

Imagine a Toronto where the concrete is overgrown with lush and thick flora, where the stretch that was once home to the King Street Pilot Project is now a tributary where the locals canoe to work, where vegetables grow on rooftops, where urban life has been remixed, remodelled, reimagined.

That’s the (virtual) reality brought to life in Biidaaban: First Light. The new VR experience, created by Anishinaabe VR artist and filmmaker Lisa Jackson and 3D artist Matthew Borrett, puts the user in a new Toronto, one envisioned by Jackson as a city reclaimed by nature. The goal is to prompt people to consider their place in history, which helps them determine their role in the future.

In this new Toronto (originally known as Tkaronto), one can hear the languages that were originally spoken in the area, as well as reading the written text of the Wendat, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Anishinaabe (Ojibway), not only gaining further insight into the land’s first peoples and their thought systems, but also increasing their appreciation for Indigenous languages and their risk of disappearing.

The experience premieres tomorrow night in Toronto at Nathan Phillips Square in a custom-built installation. Up to five people can don VR headsets at once and explore the reimagined setting, which includes both Nathan Phillips Square and Osgoode Subway Station. The film will be showcased until Sept. 24.

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