My research for this project examines the ways in which Musqueam artist Quelemia Sparrow employs augmented reality technology in order to map and unsettle contested Coast Salish spaces. I look specifically at a podplay produced by Sparrow and Raven Spirit Dance for the 2011 PuSH Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia. Podplays are recorded pieces of site-specific “theatre” that audiences download onto a smartphone. Following a map, participants travel to a specific location (in this case Vancouver’s Crab Park) and a downloadable audio file guides them on a walking tour of that space while simultaneously telling a story about the history of that place. Sparrow’s piece, “Ashes on the Water,” tells the story of Vancouver’s Great Fire (1886) and the Squamish people who canoed across the Burrard Inlet to rescue settlers from Vancouver shore. Based on the historic “Women’s Paddling Song,” written by Squamish peoples to commemorate the event, the piece extends Coast Salish storytelling traditions into innovative communications technologies and incites audiences to listen to the land and the Indigenous histories of a deeply fraught and contested colonial space. Confronting the deep colonial history of the Crab Park, I illustrate how Sparrow uses sound and story to layer Coast Salish history onto the present moment, allowing the land to “speak” to Indigenous cultures, relationships, and living histories.
– David Gaertner, PhD