(Speaking the Language of Spiders)

This project is an Internet World Wide Web site that consists of an interactive screenplay and multi-media storyboard. The underlying thematic context of the screenplay is based on an examination of the differences in world view and the construction of reality that occur between cultures structured by First Nations languages and those constructed by English language.

It involves the use of poetic, fragmentary, highly visual and intuitive modes of expression that bring into play the ways in which First Nations historic cultural paradigms, and ancestral and animistic spiritual forces operate in a very real manner in contemporary First Nations culture. This work concentrates on the experiences of people who have been consigned to the fringes of urban streetlife and their sources of joy, grief and intense humanity. It is a recognition that they are being rendered more and more invisible, yet are being further institutionally objectified in the increasingly neoconservative climate of contemporary Canadian culture.

This project is not intended to add to sociological theories about these issues. Its process of creation has been a difficult and often intensely personal examination that owes a great deal to memory, dreams, stories, songs, family and community. It avoids conventional morality and social analysis in favour of creatively honouring those who have achieved the miracle of survival in the face of inhuman odds, and those who have not. For many of the artists it has also involved negotiating the risky and sometimes dangerous balance between loss and hope.

The screenplay and storyboard are produced entirely on the World Wide Web in order to construct networks of relationships between the elements at each stage of development as a primary part of the work.

The current stage of development of Isi-pîkiskwêwin-Ayapihkêsîsak has been constructed through the collaborative influence and creative participation of the following artists who have built practices in various media and who share a strong interest in, and affinity with the issues that shape this work. They are: Lynn Acoose, Cheryl L'Hirondelle, Joseph Naytowhow, Greg Daniels, Elvina Piapot, Sheila Urbanoski, Sylvain Carette, Mark Schmidt, Russell Wallace and myself. Important contributions were also made by Richard Agecoutay, Anthony Dieter and Chris Kubick.

Isi-pîkiskwêwin-Ayapihkêsîsak owes a debt of gratitude to the Canada Council Media Arts Section, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and to many others (especially Faye Heavy Shield, Kokum Piapot, Buffy Sainte Marie and the Aboriginal Film and Video Art Alliance) for their inspiration and support.

Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew, December 11, 1996