Creators around the world are using Unity to bring their imaginations to life and make the world a better place. The Changemakers Showcase is a place for us to share their stories. We hope you’ll draw motivation and inspiration from the featured creator interview below.
Cat Ross (she/they) is a researcher, creative technologist, and performing artist whose practice is centered in social and environmental justice as they relate to burgeoning technologies. Their work finds form in virtual and augmented reality, spatialized sound, and live performance. Cat co-founded Love Death Design, a remote creative studio developing immersive experiences to challenge systemic injustice and raise awareness around environmental issues. Their new media work includes collaborations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Creative and Emergent Technology Institute, and the Make+Think+Code Lab. Their creative work has been featured at Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Pacific Works NW, Center of Contemporary Art and Culture, EYEBEAM, Place Gallery, and Indivisible Gallery, as well across various virtual platforms. Cat holds a BFA in Intermedia Arts from the Pacific NW College of Art and is based in Portland, Oregon.
Love Death Design received the Unity for Humanity Grant for its immersive VR documentary Gone to Water / Ido al Agua that brings first-hand accounts of environmental injustice in Los Angeles, Tongva Land, into a virtual space of protest. Are you a social impact creator using real-time 3D to make the world a better place? We’re awarding a total of $500,000 USD to help grantees bring projects to life. Applications are open until December 9, 2022. Read this blog for application tips and past grantee advice, then apply for the grant today.
Could you tell us more about your Unity for Humanity grant-winning project – Gone to Water / Ido al Agua?
Gone to Water / Ido al Agua is an immersive, playable documentary that addresses the rampant environmental racism that persists in South Los Angeles – Tongva land. This docugame takes audiences to several key oil extraction and refinery sites in South Los Angeles, including University Park, Watts, and Wilmington, where community members recount the impacts of urban oil drilling on community health. Gone to Water combines extended reality capture approaches like lidar scans, point cloud systems, spatialized sonic interviews, community collected environmental data, art, performance and music in a virtual space of protest and stands in solidarity with community members leading the fight against big oil.
Gone to Water tells the everyday story of communities in South LA living with localized, intentional contamination of their environment. This power imbalance is poisoning marginalized communities where they live. We are collaborating with several community environmental groups such as Communities for a Better Environment, People Not Pozos, Puvunga Wetlands Protectors, and more to bring first hand accounts of those most affected by and most involved in combating environmental racism in these communities.
“We are hoping to employ VR as both a tool for inciting empathy as well as furthering digital inclusion within virtual spaces.”
We are hoping to employ VR as both a tool for inciting empathy as well as furthering digital inclusion within virtual spaces by highlighting underrepresented perspectives and engaging communities in the use of cutting-edge technology to tell their stories. This is a long fight; we understand it is absolutely critical to engage and further the discourse around environmental justice, no matter the efforts to silence the fight.
What made you want to change the world?
My parents. I have been greatly impacted by my mother, who is a pianist and composer and my father, a social justice lawyer who fought for land and water rights for several tribes across the Rocky Mountains and high desert plains of Idaho. From my father, I inherited the fight for social and environmental justice and from my mother, a deep knowledge of how to wield creative expression as a means to amplify and sustain that fight. It is in my familial inheritance to do the work that I do.
What first sparked your interest in real-time 3D?
My interest in real-time stems from a desire to contribute to these burgeoning mediums at a time in which the aesthetics and boundaries are still actively being defined. We are in the wild west of XR. How these spaces function, how they impact the world, and who is represented within them are critical to developing an equitable culture within new media.
What prompted you to move into real-time 3D?
My background is in performance, sound design, and dance. I have always been interested in theatre works as complete works of art – a way to describe an idea in its entirety. Real-time, in that sense, has become an extension of this process for me and is a tool that I'm exploring to further performance, storytelling, sound design, etc., in an effort to elevate theatre as a mode of describing and processing my experience in the world.
How did you network, find communities, and make the connections needed to succeed?
I found community through seeking and valuing mentorship, practicing self-study and cross-disciplinary exploration, fostering collaboration as often as I could manage, and by learning from and respecting the folks that I worked with. “Success” is a subjective term and, for me, has everything to do with participating in a collective and engaging with community. Curiosity has been the most powerful tool in navigating connections, in my experience.
What inspires you to create?
Knowing in my body that life is a beautiful experience, that justice is possible, and that art is a powerful and important means to understand this world and our position in it. I am also deeply inspired by many young, upcoming creatives, including my nieces and nephews.
“It is through creative expression that I make sense of my experiences, that I try to understand the experiences of others, and how I come to terms with the sharp and smooth edges of being alive.”
What inspires me most is the complexity of lived experience. It is through creative expression that I make sense of my experiences, that I try to understand the experiences of others, and how I come to terms with the sharp and smooth edges of being alive, in general. From this angle, I am never short on inspiration.
What motivates you when you’re stuck in a creative rut?
Though it may sound counter-intuitive, when I hit a creative block, I rest.
Do you have a favorite quote that helps you stay motivated?
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire” – which is a Charles Bukowski quote, an artist I don’t particularly care for. But, I really like how this paints an image of resilience.
What are you most excited about for the future?
I’m really looking forward to our release of Gone to Water / Ido al Agua at the beginning of 2023 – to share what we have created with our collaborators and the world. More broadly, what excites me about the future are youth movements, crumbling old systems, and new sustainable architectures. I am excited to see a continued obliteration of the power-imbalance, an unapologetic demand for equality that will shake the foundations of white supremacy and patriarchy, and an ever-growing use of art for social change.
“I am excited to see a continued obliteration of the power-imbalance, an unapologetic demand for equality that will shake the foundations of white supremacy and patriarchy, and an ever-growing use of art for social change.”
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Co-founding Love Death Design creative studio with my dear friend and brilliant collaborator, Marin Vesely.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To tune into my own creative intuition and trust it, especially if it looks different from what everyone else is creating and brings in mixed reviews.
Gone to Water / Ido al Agua will be released in the beginning of 2023. Follow Love Death Design on Instagram to stay up-to-date on the launch. Because we believe that the world is a better place with more creators in it, we’re always excited to hear about the inspiring work our community is doing to make the world more sustainable, inclusive, and equitable for all. Want to join the movement? Apply for the 2023 Unity for Humanity Grant, join our Social Impact creator Discord, or subscribe to our Social Impact newsletter.
|Disclaimer: The information and opinions contained in these interviews are those of the interviewees and are provided here for informational purposes only. Unity and its affiliates assume no liability for any inaccurate, delayed, or incomplete information, nor for any actions taken in reliance thereon. The information contained about each individual and company has been supplied by such individual or company without verification by us.|