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 in real time and 3D space. Binding ancient matter and new media, this ephemeral figure injects the past into the present. The totemic form is the digital twin of the ancient wood monument Native Tongue, carved from the heartwood of a giant tree from a primordial forest that fell 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 now coded in extended reality. Here, it replicates endlessly, like a viral text message recording 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 its I-shadow describes a 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 serves also 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. Each activates and performs the I-figure amidst the movements of others and of clouds, birds, insects and trees, binding physical and digital worlds.