SSHRC Insight grant supports collaborative research “Wrapped in the Cloud”

Wrapped in the Cloud: An Anthropology of the Multimodal between the Physical and the Virtual | SSHRC Insight Grant

Wrapped in the Cloud. Video still. Jaad Kuujus Meghann O’Brien, 2018. Produced in collaboration with Conrad Sly, Hannah Turner, Reese Muntean, and Kate Hennessy.

Wrapped in the Cloud: An Anthropology of the Multimodal between the Physical and the Virtual (Dr. Hannah Turner, co-Applicant) applies theory through practice to critically engage the concept of multimodal anthropology from a decolonial perspective. Since 2018, our team of interdisciplinary scholars, artists and curators (Hennessy, Turner, Jaimie Isaac (Winnipeg Art Gallery), Conrad Sly, and Reese Muntean) have collaborated with artist Jaad Kuujus Meghann O’Brien (Haida-Kwakwaka’wakw) in creative exploration of digital imaging to support the return of her original woven artwork, Sky Blanket, from circulation in contemporary art contexts back to her community for ceremony. Through our close collaboration in digital imaging and 3D scanning, we produced a model and animation of Sky Blanket called Wrapped in the Cloud so that the artwork could be present in two contexts at the same time–the digital animation of the blanket in the gallery and the physical blanket in community. Wrapped in the Cloud helps to show Sky Blanket’s connections to Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw origin stories, material qualities of mountain goat wool, and relationships between data infrastructures and land based practices. We will continue to explore the potential of research creation as a method for engagement with multimodal tools in anthropology and expanding public understanding of repatriation of cultural property and decolonial approaches to curation.

The proposed program broadens the foundation for the critical development of an anthropology of multimodal practices. An investigation will be undertaken into the potential of research creation as multimodal method, exhibitions of Jaad Kuujus Meghann O’Brien’s work at the Haida Gwaii Museum and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and museum ethnography in physical and virtual exhibition spaces. Using these methods, Dr. Hennessy hopes to critically explore the role of multimodal tools in decolonial curatorial work in galleries and museums, increasing understanding of how researchers, artists, and practitioners can support the repatriation of cultural property more broadly.

Read more about recent research grant successes in SFU’S Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology here. 

Wrapped in the Cloud, installation view, Alberta Gallery of Art. Meghann O’Brien 2018. Photo by Rachel Topham.