Recently awarded for best VR/360/Interactive works from the Northwest Territories Professional Media Association for his work ‘Eleghaa; All at Once,’ Casey Koyczan is a Tlicho Dene interdisciplinary artist born in Denendeh.
He weaves technology and Dene storytelling to manifest dreamscapes that speak to the past, present, and possible futures.
“I allow myself to be inspired by anything and everything,” Koyczan replied when asked where he draws inspiration from. “This can come in the form of an emotion, a word (in either Dene or English), a song (instrumental or lyrical) — like ‘Breaking Away,’ which is a song by the band Ratatat — inspiration from nature and from experimentation with software or technology.
“Culture, spirituality and ceremonial practices heavily influence my work, like in Ancestors, where the underlying inspiration comes from our Elders who were, at times, very hard on us, but for good reason as they were the ones that saw our true potential.”
Because the pandemic affected each of us differently, the art landscape as much as any industry, Koyzcan acknowledged how this impacted his work, and what pivots were necessary for him to continue.
“When the pandemic hit, I was working on my sculpture/installation at the U of M (University of Manitoba) while still travelling and showcasing both nationally and internationally. I had a very busy year of travel and showcasing planned, but knew that they would all either be cancelled or postponed. Sure enough this happened, so I was already mentally prepared and started to create backup plans for artistic expression.
“I’m very glad that my practice spans numerous mediums, because the call for digital artwork skyrocketed,” Koyczan shared. “I’ve maintained a digital practice quite heavily because I find it fascinating, and continue to expand my knowledge of 3D, VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and 360-filmmaking. I still create sculptures and installations but nowhere near the amount that I used to even two to three years ago.”
Speaking of how he felt his work has transformed him, Koyczan stated, “I feel I’m a totally different person — now way more insightful and analytical, understanding and accepting of myself and other people, and having the ability to look at the world a lot differently than before.”
When asked what advice he would give to his 20-year-old self, he said, “That the world, in general, would be much different, but that I was on the right path. I would also tell myself to take more risks and try not to second-guess myself in all aspects of life. I don’t think I would tell myself about any accomplishments because then that young punk wouldn’t work as hard, ha ha.
“I see a lot of support and promotion for numerous Indigenous artists worldwide, but there seems to be only a handful of Dene artists that are present within the global Indigenous community. One of my main objectives is to inspire the next generation of artists, and I’m hoping that includes emerging Dene artists.”