(Canadian Museum for Human Rights)

Multi-disciplinary artist Carey Newman has put together a moving piece that has garnered attention nation-wide and now he wants to expand upon it.

The Witness Blanket is a large-scale art piece inspired by a woven blanket which attempts to tell the story of residential school survivors. It features over 880 items found in communities which were torn apart by residential schools across Canada.

Since the Witness Blanket was completed and exhibited in 2015, Newman has decided to expand upon the already moving and ornate piece of art.  

Newman collaborated with UVic and Camosun to create a ‘soundtrack of resilience’ for the Witness Blanket. He asked people from Indigenous communities impacted by residential schooling to send in audio recordings that are meaningful to their communities. 

With those, he and his team from UVic and Camosun will weave together a soundscape to be paired with the visual of the Witness Blanket.

The sounds will then be integrated with a virtual reality (VR) representation of the Witness Blanket to be experienced by anyone with a VR headset.

“In virtual reality, sound is part of the experience and audio allows people to explore the blanket in a new way,” explains Newman. 

“If each of the objects on the Witness Blanket had a voice, what would they sound like? What language would they speak? What songs would they sing,” he asked.

While UVic was imperative to the addition of audio to the Witness Blanket, the VR representation is being spearheaded by Camosun Innovates, a branch of the college that allows students to get hands-on experience in applied learning and research.

“Each of the artifacts tells a different story about residential schools and the children who were impacted during that period,” explains Camosun Innovates Director Richard Gale. “Rather than pulling out a drawer and looking at something in a museum, you can reach out and see what each object really looks like in your hand.” 

“Collecting sounds will augment the visual impact of the installation, making it more personal, more influential on many levels.”

People from across the country are being asked to contribute sounds which will augment the visuals and tell a story of their own. 

Newman invites any sound that has some significance such as music from traditional instruments, sounds of cultural activities like paddling or carving, ambient tones from the natural world or traditional spoken languages. 

Sounds can be contributed to the project online, here

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