World Premiere: They Sustain Us
by Skawennati

Gray Area presents the World Premiere of Skawennati's latest machinima music video installation, fashion-art collection, and runway performance, They Sustain Us.


March 22 - World Premiere & Fundraiser Night | March 23 - Encore Performance

Join us at Gray Area for the world premiere of They Sustain UsSkawennati’s latest machinima work and fashion collection. Built and filmed in the virtual world Second Life, and expanded into the physical world as garments and a runway performance, They Sustain Us tells the untraditional story of Three Sisters: Squash, Beans, and Corn—mythic figures from time immemorial reimagined as futuristic superheroes.

This two-night event begins with a fundraising premiere that includes a Curator-Led introduction, a reception, and an Artist Q&A featuring Philip Rosedale, entrepreneur and founder of Second Life, followed the next day by an accessible encore performance.


World Premiere & Fundraiser Night

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2024
6:30 – 9:00PM

Reception: Enjoy drinks and small bites.
Curator-Led Tour: Explore Skawennati’s earlier work with digital fashion.
Machinima Screening: Be the first to watch They Sustain Us.
Fashion-Art Runway Show: Skawennati's virtual designs come to life in a live runway show featuring models of Indigenous heritage.
Artist Q&A: Second Life Founder Philip Rosedale will conduct a lively discussion on stage with Skawennati.


Free for Co-Creator and Cultivator members.

Encore Performance

7:00 – 9:00PM

For those who can’t make it to the opening night of They Sustain Us, join us for an encore presentation the following day.

This evening will focus on the machinima screening and a reprise of the fashion-art show, offering a more accessible option to experience Skawennati's latest work.

Machinima Screening: They Sustain Us.
Fashion-Art Runway Show: Skawennati's virtual designs come to life in a live runway show featuring models of Indigenous heritage.

Get tickets for March 23

Free for Solidarity, Co-Creator, and Cultivator members.

No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Please email us at [email protected] for sliding scale admission.

Supporting Gray Area

Through her work, Skawennati crafts visions of Indigenous people in the future, not just surviving, but thriving, with cyberspace as both a location and a medium for her practice.
By purchasing your ticket for the Premiere & Fundraiser Night, you're directly contributing to our mission to foster antidisciplinary collaboration for a more equitable and regenerative future. Your support is essential for us to continue offering a platform for unique and compelling perspectives in the arts.


Can't make it? You can still support by making a gift or becoming a Gray Area member!


On March 22, join us at Gray Area for the world premiere and opening party, including drinks, small bites, and the first screening of the immersive machinima music video and live runway show.

After the presentation of a three-channel video spectacular, opening night will take the virtual looks off the screen and into the physical world in a runway show performed entirely by models of indigenous heritage from around the country.

Come sit front row with us! After the models sashay and shonté, Skawennati will engage in a lively discussion with Philip Rosedale, San Francisco-based entrepreneur and founder of Second Life: the virtual world where Skawennati concepts and creates her work.

Before the main show, Associate Curator Wade Wallerstein will lead a tour through Skawennati’s historic piece Calico & Camouflage: Assemble!, on view in the Gray Area Gallery. Calico & Camouflage is also a three-channel, immersive machinima film and represents some of Skawennati’s early work in hybrid fashion design—bridging the artist’s past experiments to new and expanded development. Just like in the collection presented for They Sustain Us, the looks from Calico & Camouflage bring fantastic virtual designs into physical form—empowering wearers to simultaneously proclaim their Indigeneity and their readiness to resist ongoing assimilation.

All Ages
Seated performance, with standing room

Gray Area / Grand Theater
2665 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

View our FAQ page for more info.

Contact us at [email protected] with any accommodation requests.

About They Sustain Us

They Sustain Us tells an untraditional story of the Three Sisters, beloved personifications of three North American Indigenous staple crops: corn, beans, and squash. The Three Sisters are also known among the Haudenosaunee as Our Sustenance, which translates directly from Mohawk as “they sustain us.” The Three Sisters have been a part of Haudenosaunee culture for as long as they have cultivated corn, beans, and squash together. Many stories about them exist. One explains that the sisters can’t live apart, and Western science concurs: the beans rely on corn’s sturdy stalk as they wrap themselves around it to grow upwards, while providing nitrogen-fixing bacteria to her sisters. Squash, planted at the base of the corn and beans, provides shade and helps to retain moisture. These stories transmit aspects of traditional knowledge from which the rest of society can benefit–not only the science, but also the care and kindness inherent in the Three Sisters’ relationship.

Featuring physical and virtual costume design and set construction, They Sustain Us aims to bring to life contemporized digital reimaginings of the Three Sisters as mythic heroes. Through interaction with the audience and live models, these digital avatars will share their knowledge of growing; their opinions on sustainability and food sovereignty; and their perspective on the feminine power of life-giving. The piece unfolds across a three-channel film installation, various costumes and physical objects, and a fashion show performance. As in all of Skawennati’s work, Indigenous Futurism guides the narrative storytelling in the piece, which is then brought to life off screen by the physical garments worn by models.

About Artists


Considered one of the first Indigenous net artists, Skawennati investigates history, the future, and change from her perspective as an urban Kanien’kehá:ka woman and as a cyberpunk avatar. Her artistic practice questions our relationships with technology, and highlights Indigenous people in the future. An early adopter of cyberspace as both a location and a medium, she creates machinimas and machinimagraphs (movies and still images made in virtual environments) as well as sculpture, fashion, and performative experiences. Since 2007, Skawennati has been creating work within the virtual world of Second Life, where the machinima component of They Sustain Us was designed, produced, and filmed.

Philip Rosedale

In 1995, Philip Rosedale created an innovative Internet video conferencing product (called "FreeVue"), which was later acquired by RealNetworks where (in 1996) he went on to become Vice President and CTO. In 1999, Rosedale left RealNetworks, founded Linden Lab and built a virtual civilization called Second Life, fulfilling his lifelong dream of creating an open-ended, Internet-connected virtual world. Since leaving Second Life in 2010, Rosedale has worked on several experiments in distributed work and computing, including Coffee & Power and Worklist.net. In 2013, he co-founded High Fidelity Inc. to explore the future of a next-generation virtual reality system.


Hewlett Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is a nonpartisan, private charitable foundation that advances ideas and supports institutions to promote a better world. For more than 50 years, the foundation has supported efforts to advance education for all, preserve the environment, support vibrant performing arts, strengthen Bay Area communities, make the philanthropy sector more effective, and foster gender equity and responsive governance around the world. Today, it is one of the largest philanthropic institutions in the United States, awarding over $516 million in grants in 2021 to organizations across the globe to help people build better lives.

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC)

Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace is an Aboriginally determined research-creation network whose goal is to ensure Indigenous presence in the web pages, online environments, video games, and virtual worlds that comprise cyberspace.


Generous equipment support for They Sustain Us is provided by Epson.

They Sustain Us is developed by Gray Area in collaboration with Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC), a research-creation platform based at Concordia University in Montreal. They Sustain Us is made possible by a Hewlett 50 Media Arts Award granted to Bay Area cultural institutions and nonprofit organizations by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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