For Raven John, a Vancouver-based two-spirit multidisciplinary artist and activist, interactive live performances and artistic collaboration have always been very important in their process. But like many of us, the need to adapt has recently become crucial.

John says the physical disconnect that resulted from the COVID-19 restrictions was really tough, but they ultimately decided to embrace the inevitable and develop more digital skills to help navigate the ongoing pandemic.

“I’m a pretty stubborn person,” said Stó: lō nation member from S’olh Temexw. “So it took the most recent lockdown procedures and not having our ‘security six’ anymore for me to really get into digital work. But I’m having fun getting started. I’m currently working on VR-AR slash XR which is kinda fun. “

Part of developing these new skills will be John’s participation this month in Vancouver’s Zee Zee Theater’s new adaptation of the company’s long-running Human Library project.

The Human Library was a project initiated in Copenhagen in 2000 by a collective called “Stop The Violence” to encourage a more human connection as a way to break down barriers with the ultimate goal of transcending prejudice.

The Human Library project was created to highlight the value of personal experience and to allow participants to explore the rich life experiences of others through organized personal interaction through a borrowing model where real people can be retrieved from a library for short investigative conversations. .

The concept has become so popular that over the past two decades the practice has been adopted by organizations in 70 cities around the world, including Vancouver, when the Zee Zee Theater decided to lead the project there. Eight years.

“A lot of the division is created by people who don’t engage with each other and really listen,” producer Jordy Matheson says in a press release. “What makes this project so powerful, even radical, is that we are asked to face our differences directly, literally. There is no closing your eyes, no rest in apathy. They are two people who share something intimate as a way to gradually change the world. “

Now here in 2021, with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to physically separate us, Zee Zee Theater and Matheson have also come up with a digital solution to rename the human library experience this year to virtual humanity.

Hosted by Bunny (Daisy Joe) and Sam Chimes with a focus on Black, Indigenous and Colored (BIPOC) contributors, Virtual Humanity will connect online public participants with over 30 ‘virtual human’ subjects for a series of meetups. individual. a personal conversation on specific topics.

As a virtual participant, John, 32, will share his insights and life experiences from the perspective of a young, two-minded, queer Indigenous man.

“I’m going to give a (talk) about the difference between gender identities and sexual orientations and these specters and how they relate to the term two spirits and where it comes from,” John explains.

“Most people don’t know that Indigenous cultures included gender variance, sexual orientations, as well as different types of family buildings. Tolerance of polyamorous relationships, queer relationships and marriages, and trans identities, and that many of these practices were linked to cultural and traditional values ​​and practices.

Virtual Humanity will take place on Saturdays from March 6 to March 28. Attendees will be prompted to create a WeShowUp account through the Zee Zee Theater Virtual Humanity online event page, and then they will be able to purchase tickets for specific dates.

After booking their day pass, participants will receive an event confirmation email containing a link to a booking portal. At 10 a.m. on the day of the event, ticket holders will be able to book two “virtual humans” through the booking portal on a first come, first served basis.

By joining a Virtual Humanity Zoom meeting, participants will be greeted by their Virtual Humanity host who will introduce them to their storytellers of choice. Once introduced, they will share a one-on-one conversation that includes a ten minute storytelling experience followed by a ten minute question and answer session.

Skilled in jewelry making, sculpture, mold making, set creation, art installation and performance, John also sits on the advisory boards of a few organizations, including the Greater Vancouver Professional Theater Alliance, and acts in his capacity. cultural consultant for the Vancouver theater. industry as an intersectional person.

The artist and activist also offers ‘consultations’ and ‘mediations’ on their website providing advice on cultural protocol and how to be successful across social and political boundaries, making John an insightful and dynamic human candidate for the Virtual Humanity project.

To join the conversation, visit the Virtual Humanity event page at https://zeezeetheatre.ca/production/virtual-humanity/

Windspeaker.com

By David Owen Rama, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com

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