Ełexiìtǫ ; Ehts’ǫǫ̀ / Connected ; Apart From Each Other
“Ełexiìtǫ ; Ehts’ǫǫ̀” is an interactive installation that communicates the journey of learning more about one’s culture through distance education and research; utilizing and adapting to work with technology and communication tools as viable resources for learning language, tradition, stories, and spiritual beliefs.
After leaving my hometown of Yellowknife when I was seven years old, a disconnect of my culture started to form; I lived all over Western Canada and even though I have met some amazing people and experienced many things, I was away from my people and language. Throughout my life there have been times where I would return to the Northwest Territories and slowly learn more about who we are as Dene people and our specific practices, songs, and beliefs, but those instances were far and in between. Within my early adulthood I felt the obligation and importance of learning as much of my culture as possible by using the knowledge I have acquired and the technology that I enjoy working with. Even though it has been a challenge, there are a few key points that have helped me form a better understanding of who I am regardless of my location:
- To follow traditional protocol of using every part of the animal. Within my art I use every part of the materials harvested; nothing goes to waste and everything has a purpose.
- To give offerings when taking anything from the land, travelling, and when visiting friends and family.
- Communication is key; especially at great distances from home or from the people you love and care about.
- Read and remember the stories and legends of the Dene people; this has been an influential factor for a lot of my work involving installation, sound, video, and 3D/VR/XR.
- The focus of resonance and vibration for our songs; as we are mostly made up of water, the greater the vibration, the better the connection between us and the spirits of our ancestors.
- Pay attention to the universal language of the Medicine Wheel and its teachings; it is followed and referred to by a wide variety of nations across Turtle Island, and helps to create a common understanding and mutual respect between cultures. The four logs within the corners of the space communicate the four directions, teachings, and colours of the Medicine Wheel.
- I am not any less Indigenous because I am not fluent in my language; various life situations have made it difficult to learn and become immersed in my language. Learning the Tlicho dialect will be a journey for the rest of my life, and it’s never too late to try and learn ones language.
- Experimentation is essential for progress; bringing together many different mediums and technological approaches within my creations that are rooted in cultural, spiritual, and ceremonial practices.
- Work hard and respect each other; growing up my parents had always placed an emphasis on work ethic and mutual respect for people.
- Follow the “Dene Laws”. During my early adulthood I’ve tried to follow the teachings of these laws as much as I can; even though my focus has swayed throughout my life, I try to always return to these teachings as they have helped me to represent myself in a way that is common to Dene people:
**Help each other.
**Share what you have.
**Be polite and don’t argue with others.
**Sleep at night and work during the day.
**Be respectful of elders and everything around you.
**Young girls and boys should behave respectfully.
**Love each other as much as possible.
**Be as happy as possible at all times.
**Pass on the teachings.
The hanging logs mimic the power of nature and the relationship that we all have with the land. The resonance of sound and song from within the logs triggered by the viewers proximity emphasize the steps towards finding the connection to culture. The multi-channel Dene drum, electronic instruments, guitar and chanting occupies the space as people explore and interact with the surroundings and discover their own composition. The experimental visuals with the Dene Laws converted to binary code reference the exploration of this digital path motivated by a thirst for knowledge, personal reflection and understanding of cultural identity.
Thank You / Mahsi Cho, Casey Koyczan
Culture, technology and the environment are intrinsically linked within the evolution of our society. We live day to day practicing the teachings of our ancestors, while at the same time coexisting with the technological advances that are consistently developed every year. We have adapted to the use of these resources in order to develop a better understanding of where we come from, who we are, and what we will be in the future.
Casey Koyczan is a Tlicho Dene interdisciplinary artist from Yellowknife, NT, that works with various mediums to communicate how culture and technology coincide together alongside the political, economic, and environmental challenges in the world. A portion of his large scale installation work utilizes earth materials to evoke the idea of nature reclaiming architectural space. Inspired by sci-fi and the future, Koyczan implements various techniques of interactivity, audio-video, VR/360/XR, and the engagement of the bodily senses within his creations.
He is an international artist that has participated in many residencies, exhibits, festivals and collaborations in parts of the world such as Finland, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, The Netherlands, and the UK. He is also a musician, producer, filmmaker, actor, writer, teacher, workshop facilitator, graphic designer, web designer and advocate for future generations of artists and musicians.
He has a Multimedia Production diploma from Lethbridge College, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Thompson Rivers University, and is in his final year of a Masters of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba.
A personal Thank You / Mahsi Cho from Casey to University of Manitoba – School of Art, and MFA advisor Lori Blondeau, Chris Pancoe, Mahsa Merci, Hye Yeon Shin, Julianna Zwierciadlowska-Rhymer and Daina Warren – Director of Urban Shaman Gallery