Dakota Spirit Walk

Artist: Marlena Myles in collaboration with Todd Boss
Location: Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, St Paul, Minnesota, USA
Year: Ongoing
Researcher: Robb Mitchel

Dakota Spirit Walk is a permanent artificial reality (AR), public art, land-based educational exhibition as a part of the on-going Dakota Spirit Land maps project in the public park Bruce Vento Sanctuary in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. The piece, designed by artist Marlena Myles consists of location specific computer augmented art and storytelling, requires downloading the Revelo AR app to a mobile device or smartphone and launching the geo-guided map to view the imagery and the temporal specters and general frameworks of cultural and historical Dakota connections to sacred stories and sites along the walking path.

The Dakota Spirit Walk happens on Dakota land within the temporal spectre of tribal cultural history and spirituality. The AR aspect makes spiritual manifestations or what might be termed grafts of spectrality on the general framework of the sacred land. The artist and projects aim was not to displace the natural environment objects or engineering but, instead, graft the existence of the spirits Uŋčí Makhá (grandmother earth), Íŋyaŋ (Grandfather Stone and Thunder Being) (teaching history) Imníža-ská, Wakíŋyaŋ that doesn’t impact the land. The Spirit Walk encompasses the historic home to the Dakota village of Kap'óža and the banks of the Mississippi River.

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Pokemon Go might be considered an analogous technology to the mobile app based spirit images conjured up throughout the nature walk. Myles' animated creations drawn in Adobe Illustrator of the Dakota spirits are superimposed on the landscape, transporting the viewer to another level of consciousness. Visitors with headphones can listen to Native speakers tell stories at each location such as the opening of the Wakháŋ Tipi Cave. The encounters feature spirits such as Grandmother Earth, Grandfather Stone and Thunder Being.

Todd Boss has created an exhibition platform with Revelo AR with the assistance Zach Chapman of Pixel Farms, who worked as the main developer on the project. While the stories have always been orally passed down from Dakota elders, most people cannot see them unless they have a Dakota elder by their side.

The Thunder Being presents itself in the mobile app at the entrance to the cave, a spring flows from the cave that one was filled with prehistoric petroglyphs carved in rock of a rattlesnake that is a protector of Dakota medicines and burial mounds. The visual stories are told in five stops on the trail through artist Myles illustrations in the AR application; integrated by Pixel Farm and hosted by Todd Boss’s Revelo AR gallery.

French philosopher Jacques Derrida spoke of cinema as phantoms on the screen and the Macintosh as his little “Paper machine” however, Marlena Myles takes phantoms in the machine to a completely new spectre with her AR art spirit walk.

Within American history Dakota Tribal culture and spiritual life is taught as a small detail existing only in the past or relegated to gated museums. Marlena Myles creates a living history geolocated on Dakota land conjured up with modern technology breaking down the walls of disregard and nescience for cherished grounds.

Progress Agency