Empowered by the metaverse, Native Tongue XR is a free spirit – transcending borders and materiality. Manifesting over 3m/10ft high and viewed via mobile phone or tablet, the virtual sculpture is experienced by each person in real time and three-dimensional space. Both atavistic and high-tech, it binds ancient matter and new media, injecting the past into the present. This totemic figure is the digital twin of an ancient wood monument carved from the heartwood of a giant tree from a primordial forest that fell in the polar winds of change to lie buried in Aotearoa New Zealand at the end the last Ice Age. Preserved in the chemistry of a peat swamp for over 45,000 years, the DNA of this fragile taonga/treasure is coded in extended reality. Here, it replicates endlessly like a viral text message on climate change.
Shaped as a first person pronoun and number One/First, Native Tongue XR describes an alter-ego or 'Other I' rooted in the Earth. The golden woodgrain catches rays of light and an I-shadow prints an ephemeral presence on the land. In psychoanalytics and mysticism, the abstract tongue is a portal between physical and other worlds, engaging subconscious states of mind and being. The virtual medium also serves to amplify and release the figure’s time-bound immortality, siting creative technologies within conceptual and critical frameworks, and as a means not an end. The audience moves from passive viewer to personal curator of their own hand-held monumental Native Tongue. They activate and perform the I-figure amidst the movements of other people, clouds, birds, insects and trees, binding physical and digital worlds in the public realm.