AWAVENA: a review of the VR award winning collaboration.

A personal response to AWAVENA

Written by Brendan Toole

AWAVENA by award-winning Australian Artist Lynette Walworth’s Virtual Reality collaboration with the Yawanawa of the Brazilian Amazon Lynette Wallworth, Hushahu Yawanawa and Tata Yawanawa.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to venture into the healing realms of Ayahuasca first hand, many times. I have returned listening to countless people try, like myself, to interpret their profound, life-changing plant-medicine experiences. Often, words merely touch upon the inexplicable sense of ego death and the deeper connection to true self, the empathy and the universal consciousness that these insights bring. The action we learn to take into our everyday lives from these experiences is to be the medicine for the world.

As a wholly and completely perfect immersive experience, AWAVENA goes way beyond trying to simply describe this journey. The work not only distills the message of the divine feminine to its absolute essence in a beautiful, exhilarating way but also encourages the participant to dare to imagine what it is like in the realms of the shamans. Participants are connected directly to a shaman as she knowingly employs VR technology to speak to them personally and share heartbreaking, real, intimate moments nursing her dying teacher and chief, before teaching them about her world and medicine.

I am humbled by the women who have co-created this experience and how they have simply yet exquisitely projected their intentions, from the fuzzy otherworldly onset of the journey into the book, to meeting the radical indigenous woman and being taken up river by canoe. Crossing bridges as metaphors for layers of perception and seeing the fabric of the forest glow with X-ray projection, participants are taken giddily up into ancestral realms in the tree canopy, before connections and associations are peeled away and insights presented. Meeting the butterfly spirit guide from beneath the surface of the water introduces the masterstroke of the piece. Sent through ceremony and memorial then back through a film screen with a digitally created, respectful representation of this idea, a delicate and powerful gift, it flutters reassuringly beside Hushahu in the returning afterglow.

The second phase of the immersive experience gives the participant a more visceral personal connection with the spirit guide. Using breath and movement to navigate through a sacred forest, they are taken to the very heart of the gift being shared in this cutting-edge digital encounter.

This is more than a 360-degree immersion into an artistic interpretation of the medicine experience. This is the fusion of two polarized technologies in a way that is profoundly unique and completely groundbreaking. It is digital communication transcending into the spiritual realm in ways that we can only begin to appreciate. We live in the digital age and must learn to ethically harness the very best of what technology offers us as a species, at our fingertips, if we are to survive, wherever we live on the planet.

AWAVENA is the planting of a seed, an idea, a feeling, a memorial, a prayer and a gentle but powerful call to arms. It is a collaboration of minds from two different cultures finding connection and meaning on the deepest of levels and it is quite simply startling. My memories of this VR experience resonate deeply with my memories of altered states achieved during and lessons learned from Ayahuasca journeys. In everything we do, we must strive to protect wild spaces, the forests and the indigenous people living there. We must honour their sacred lineage, their custodianship, their continued knowledge and their descendants, for the sake of the entire planet. This call is stronger now than ever and we must harness our technologies to connect and grow together. The gentle flap of the butterfly’s wings can reap a whirlwind of change.

From the outset of this creative work, the late chief Tata, Lynette Wallworth, Hushahu and the Yawanawa have tapped into each other’s spirit and knowingly reached into the very core of human existence in a totally new way. As a plant shaman and a digital shaman, two women have poetically woven layers of reality together sending a message through space, time and from across the boundary of life and death. Art can make the world a better place and I thank them both for doing this so intimately. With this epic collaborative creation, they will truly touch minds, hearts and souls across the globe for years to come.

Find more about AWAVENA here!

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