Wolf Totem Documentation


Wolf Totem is an interactive screen-based installation where distinctive images of chemical models are shown in the torso of a wolf sculpture. The theme is to juxtapose but also harmonize Native American symbolism and Westernized Science.  By combining the two cultures, native science becomes more mechanistic and westernized science becomes more humanistic. To the Haida First Nation, the Wolf symbolizes a protector who will challenge anyone who threatens her young. When presence of another is detected, the chemical stimulator for the fight-or-flight response appears in increasing concentration within the wolf’s abdomen to indicate fear and preparation to defend her young.

At first the wolf is asleep; its eyes are dim and nothing appears in its abdomen. When motion is detected its eyes slowly glow and the first appearance of epinephrine chemical appears in its torso. As the moving object gets closer, more epinephrine appears in the stomach area. If the object were to stop moving, no more epinephrine would be added and some might disappear depending on the distance between the sculpture and object. Get too close for too long and wolf will let out a deep snarl. Conversely, if the moving object is far enough then Cortisol, a rest hormone will appear in the abdomen. The wolf can only see straight ahead, so an object can sneak up behind her and give her a fright indicated by the appearance of a lot of Epinephrine.

Practitioners of Native Science and Westernized Science occupy the same geographic location but experience little diffusion across social circles despite each having something to learn from the other. The use of electronics with Native American imagery produces a wholesome creation that is sophisticated and sensitive. The piece further illustrates its point when it is presented in a gallery setting alongside Native American artifacts. This way the unexpected dynamic visualizations are most startling and intriguing. The scene conjures up scenes from folklore but appropriated to the contemporary gadget era. What can be learned from combining the wisdom from Native American culture and the knowledge from Westernized Science is a heightened awareness of the living things in our ecosystem and a solid understanding of our effect on them.

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