Adelle Lin, BLM Memorial (detail), 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon
Photo by Adelle Lin, BLM Memorial (detail), 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon. Image: courtesy of the artist

About the exhibition

During a chaotic and unpredictable time, many people have turned to the Nintendo Game Animal Crossing: New Horizons as a haven. Through decorating, forming relationships with animal residents, and custom designing outfits, Animal Crossing islands have been used to gather, share, inspire, and restore. They are refuges during a deadly pandemic, but they have also become the battlegrounds for activists who have put their lives on the line. Surprising many, this charming game has become the catalyst for government censorship, charity drives, political campaigning, and growing quiet warnings to keep politics “out of the game”.

From Hong Kong to Black Lives Matter to razor blades and mayonnaise, the creative and complex Animal Crossing: New Horizon community grapples with questions every person who has fought for a cause has to ask themselves: when do I choose activism and when do I choose self-care?

Driven by the tension between safety and courage, PAWS looks at how a slow, sweet game of social relationships, crafting, and exploration became the stage for global tensions and tensions of the heart.

Take a tour

About the artists

Ciel Noel 

Noel is a Caribbean-Canadian dreaming catdeer who likes to bite. Noel’s work uses immersive installation, crypto technology, game design, salvaged materials, gardens, romance, and alchemy to explore the intimate mythology created through pain and ecstasy. Noel enjoys the wilds of liminal spaces and exploring conversations between art, desire, and transcendence.

BattleAx Bunny

Mell, who goes by BattleAx Bunny, is a Trinidadian born, Winnipeg based graphic designer and artist who has worked as a freelancer and in the screen print and apparel industry for over twelve years She grew up with, and has been heavily influenced by the animation companies of the 80s and 90s. While pencil is her most common medium, she also paints with acrylics and works with digital media. She in influenced by Trinidadian artist Stuart Hahn and Canadian illustrator Marcos Chin, amongst others. For her, art is an expression and emotion, a means of finding peace in a hectic world, and way to replicate a situation with exaggerated lines and dark humour.

Kayelynn Kennedy 

Kennedy is a character designer & illustrator based in California. She has designed and created polymer clay jewelry and more for her online shops and has created work for fan zines, independent projects, private clients. Kennedy has exhibited at anime and pop culture conventions and is often inspired by sweets and animation.  She loves creating cute things with bright colors. 

Adelle Lin

Originally from Malaysia, Lin is a creativist who lived in Australia before moving to the USA. Having joyfully negotiated various cultures and systems, she draws on these experiences to develop projects that help connect people with themselves and the spaces they occupy. Current projects include working with Leo Villareal Studios to illuminate 9 bridges along the River Thames in London through kinetic lighting technology. In 2020, she created a virtual Black Lives Matter protest in Animal Crossing, and other virtual community spaces for Burning Man and Chaos Computing Congress. She has also worked on projects for Paris Fashion Week, Tokyo Olympics, Burning Man, Play NYC, Play Times Square, A.Maze Festival and NY Maker Faire. Whether it’s building virtual worlds, playful installations or fusing light with the body, she’s passionate about integrating the digital and physical to make the unseen seen.

Hailey “Hōkū '' Schurz

Schurz is a mixed-Native born and raised on Akimel O’odham lands, known as Phoenix, Arizona. She is of the Akimel O’odham and Ihanktonwan Dakota Nations on her paternal side and is Native Hawaiian and Irish from her maternal side. Growing up, she spent much of her time at the Salt River-Pima Maricopa Indian Community. Her paternal grandmother and family taught her O’odham and Dakota teachings, traditional dance, and crafts such as beadwork and an attempt at sewing traditional dresses. After graduating from Xavier College Preparatory in 2017, Hōkū' attended Hawai’i Pacific University on O’ahu, majoring in International Studies and Minoring in Psychology. She opted out of attending HPU but she chose to remain in Hawai’i, and now resides in Waimanalo, O’ahu. While maintaining her connection to her Akimel O’odham heritage, she has spent the last four years creating a similar connection with her Native Hawaiian heritage. During this time, her mother gifted her a new name, Hōkūlele, meaning ‘shooting star,’ a personal milestone in decolonizing the self. Life continues to be a learning experience in which every aspect of her being has become the most important tool for education. Her art for PAWS inspired by her Native heritages, and display traditional-contemporary garb.


Pocket Worlds

Ciel Caudle: Pocket Worlds

This resource was put together during the COVID-19 pandemic when many artists and art institutions struggled with connecting with their audiences during the lockdown. As many offices and organizations shifted to Zoom or other online forms of communication, artists and galleries were challenged to consider digital environments for art presentation. And further, how and where could art be presented in ways that wouldn’t contribute to Zoom fatigue?

Virtual Programming

PAWS Artists in Conversation

PAWS Artists in Conversation

Friday, March 5, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. CT

Facilitated on Zoom and livestreaming on the School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba YouTube channel

PAWS artists will  speak to their experiences in activism and self-care as they relate to Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the community that has sprung up around this popular game. Moderated by curator, Ciel Noel. Panel will be ASL interpreted, recorded, and uploaded to YouTube.

PAWS: Protest, Activism, Whimsy and Self Care in Animal Crossing

PAWS Curatorial Tour and Pattern Jam Workshop

Saturday, March 13, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. CT

Facilitated on Zoom

Join us for a curatorial talk and tour with PAWS curator Ciel Noel followed by an afternoon of learning how to make custom prints. Noel will discuss the visuals and process of curating an exhibition in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Attendees will then be guided through the steps of making custom patterns so they can customize their island with their own art

The curatorial tour will be ASL interpreted, recorded, and uploaded to YouTube.

Visit the gallery

School of Art Gallery
255 ARTlab
180 Dafoe Road
University of Manitoba (Fort Garry campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm
CLOSED all statutory holidays