Elizabeth LaPensée | heart of the game

Elizabeth LaPensée, still from Thunderbird Strike

Dec. 1, 2018 - March 3, 2019

Opening Reception Saturday, Dec. 1, 2-5pm
Artist Talk (6-7:30pm) and Reception Wednesday, January 9th, 6-9 pm

From December 1, 2018 to March 3, 2019, Hedreen Gallery hosts an interactive gaming hub in which artist Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinaabe from Baawaating, Métis, settler-Irish) rewires the architecture of contemporary gaming imaginations in ways that center, iterate and mainstream Indigenous ways of knowing.

heart of the game highlights the work of Elizabeth LaPensée (Ph.D.), a prolific artist, writer, designer and scholar who foregrounds Indigenous self-determination and Indigenous sovereignty through game design, game development and game play. Featuring a variety of games in both digital and non-digital platforms, this exhibition celebrates LaPensée's many innovative roles and radical interventions in game design, including: producing and designing original game architecture, writing backdrops for game-play, organizing teams of Indigenous writers for collaborative game development, producing original artwork and more. In addition to learning about the design and context of a wide range of LaPensée’s games, gallery visitors will have the opportunity to play the side-scroller arcade game Thunderbird Strike, i-pad singing game Honour Water, table-top role-playing game Dialect and several test levels from When Rivers Were Trails, an Indigenous take on Oregon Trail, which will be released in early 2019.  

heart of the game is a satellite exhibition in collaboration with yəhaw̓, an open call exhibition featuring over 200 Indigenous creatives opening at Seattle’s King Street Station in 2019. For full information and events listings: www.yehawshow.com

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Artist Bio

Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher who creates and studies Indigenous-led media such as games and comics. She is Anishinaabe from Baawaating with relations at Bay Mills Indian Community, Métis named for Elizabeth Morris, and settler-Irish. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University. She is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow

Most recently, she designed and created art for Thunderbird Strike (2017), a lightning-searing side-scroller game which won Best Digital Media at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. She also designed and created art for Honour Water (2016), an Anishinaabe singing game for healing the water. Her work also includes analog games, such as The Gift of Food (2014), a board game about Northwest Native traditional foods.

She is co-editor of the comic collections Deer Woman: An Anthology (2017) and Sovereign Traces Volume 1: Not (Just) (An)Other (2018) and editor of Sovereign Traces Volume 2: Relational Constellation (2019).

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The title of this exhibition is a quote from a published conversation between Elizabeth LaPensée and Vicki Moulder in 2017:

Vicki Moulder: When you use the phrase heart of the game, are you referring to the core philosophy? I’m curious to know if the heart of the game informs the game mechanics, and if so, how?

Elizabeth LaPensée: Both! Ways of knowing and game mechanics always inform one another in anything I work on. In Techno Medicine Wheel, the heart of the game involves finding and tending to plant medicines. How that unfolds can forever iterate, but the core experience of reinforcing closeness with plants will always remain.


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Lee Center for the Arts (CNFA)
901 12th Avenue, between Marion and Spring | 206-296-2244
Open: Wednesday through Friday 1:00-6:00 PM

2 Hour Parking is available on the street and visitor parking is available in Seattle University parking lots.
The Hedreen Gallery is wheelchair accessible.

For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations please contact Seattle University Galleries Curator Molly Mac. Two weeks advance notice of need for accommodations is requested.