64 Ways of Being is a free augmented reality mobile application that allows users to see Melbourne through new eyes. It’s an Indigenous-led cross-cultural walking and listening experience developed by Dr Troy Innocent with support from Creative Victoria and RMIT University, and first explored as part of Kummargii Yulendj (Rising Knowledge Project).
The app launched when Melbourne was in and out of lockdowns and is re-launching in 2023 with journeys in Footscray, St Kilda, Melbourne CBD, and RMIT University. Beautiful new journeys are also planned for Melbourne and New Zealand.
A recent event at MPavilion allowed the team behind 64 Ways of Being to discuss reimagining how a mobile device can be used, and its potential power in facilitating mindful engagement with place, and sharing stories and knowledge. The insights here have been drawn from this event.
So why is 64 Ways of Being different to other augmented reality experiences and art trails and why is it important to Melbourne right now?
Dr Innocent grew up in an outer suburb of Melbourne and played a lot of video games, and said he always felt like he was living in a simulation of sorts; it felt constructed, and it wasn’t authentic. Listening to N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM challenged and led him into other ways of being and thinking, and that’s where the inspiration for 64 Ways of Being came from.
Simply, it’s a new way of connecting to place, and language.
Matt Sykes from Regeneration Projects, who collaborated on the 64 Ways of Being project said it’s important to acknowledge all the different paths of our ancestors who have brought us to this place. He said we need to consider how we start differently, or where we go from here. ‘Often, we need an invitation or a different starting point and 64 Ways of Being is one of those invitations.’
In each journey, users set out on a walking tour with their mobile device (headphones are also essential) and engage with elements of the built environment, combined with music and artwork by various artists, including Allara Briggs-Patterson and Jarra Karalinar Steel.
The voice of N’arweet guides attention to landmarks and features, telling stories about language and places. For example, the St Kilda journey starts at the Ngargee tree, which is the oldest known living resident in the City of Port Phillip. It’s the last survivor of a wattle forest, interspersed with mature gums, that extended into Prahran. N’arweet tells us that Ngargee was a place for celebrating guests coming onto Country. It was where the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boonwurrung performed songs and dance, ensured reconciliation after conflicts, and told stories. As players learn about the rich history of this single tree, Melbourne appears suddenly more layered, and we are drawn to continue this urban adventure on 64 Ways of Being.
N’arweet explained that 64 Ways of Being means, ‘we’re putting ourselves back into Country’. For a moment, we can erase the colonial history from the screen of the phone to bring other layers that are there, and have always been there, into the foreground because the built environment often obscures them. Dr Innocent calls this process of defamiliarising these places and getting to know them in a different way, ‘reworlding’.
Jarra Karalinar Steel’s visual art features throughout 64 Ways of Being journeys and she said, ‘it’s almost like a contemporary version of how we learn in Indigenous cultures through oral traditions.’ And Jarra emphasises that ‘although we were here first, we’re still here. We’re contemporary people; we’re not museum pieces.’ N’arweet agrees, saying ‘you can write things on paper but how is that living? We’re bringing us into the now, we’re making it live.’
Importantly, 64 Ways of Being is a collaboration where Indigenous narrative and voice has been the driving force. Jarra says, ‘you’re not doing it for us, you’re doing it with us.’
64 Ways of Being is showing us what is possible in terms of public, digital art. It’s changing narratives and our connections to place. Dr innocent said,
‘we know sovereignty was never ceded so we’re in two places at once; we’re in the country known as Australia and we’re also in the Kulin nation. We should have more than one map of this place.’
The 64 Ways of Being project is continuing with new journeys in Fitzroy and St Kilda being added later in 2023.
Join us as we rediscover this place.