Indigenous Futurisms and AI

Art Installation from Cybernetic Imagination Resident Dr Ambelin Kwaymullina


Installation view, Indigenous Futurism and AI, Ambelin Kwaymullina, 2024. Photo Credit: Brent McGeachie
Installation view, Indigenous Futurism and AI, Ambelin Kwaymullina, 2024. Photo Credit: Brent McGeachie

“This painting represents my vision of decolonising pathways where Aboriginal knowledge-ways can join with other knowledge-ways to create sustainable technologies for sustainable futures”

-Ambelin Kwaymullina

Dr Ambelin Kwaymullina is a 2023-24 Cybernetic Imagination Resident at the ANU School of Cybernetics. Ambelin comes from the Palyku people of the eastern Pilbara region of Western Australia.

As a First Nations creative practitioner and academic Ambelin shares stories as a writer, poet, illustrator, educator and scholar. Her works traverse and connect a range of forms, including speculative fiction novels, picture books, articles, essays, verse, short fiction, illustration and visual art.

During her time as a Cybernetic Imagination Resident Ambelin wanted to amplify Indigenous Futurisms a term first coined by Anishinaabe academic Grace Dillon. Considering many pathways of expression, such as a paper, journal article, or textbook, Ambelin gravitated towards visual art.

“My project was to apply Indigenous futurist thinking to what is sometimes termed ‘artificial’ intelligence through the medium of visual art (acrylic on canvas). I began with a point that has been made by Indigenous peoples the world over – that in Indigenous systems, there is probably not such a thing as ‘artificial’ intelligence.”

-Ambelin Kwaymullina

The stunning series of five acrylic on canvas paintings are now on display at the School of Cybernetics on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country, on Level 3 of the award-winning Birch Building, ANU campus, Canberra, until December 2024

Installation view, Indigenous Futurism and AI, Ambelin Kwaymullina, 2022. Photo credit: Brent McGeachie
Installation View, Indigenous Futurism and AI, Ambelin Kwaymullina, 2024. Photo Credit: Brent McGeachie

Cybernetic Imagination Residency Lead Andrew Meares said: “We are delighted that throughout her residency Ambelin has encouraged our School community to re-evaluate our pasts and ourselves. This process actively questions and shapes our present and, therefore, future practice. The residency program is designed to encourage meaningful change through reflection and respectful action we call critical thinking and critical doing. Ambelin’s works show us how effective this can be, inviting us to think about how we are defining and shaping Australian Cybernetics to create hopeful futures.”

“I explore non-linear time; the nature of knowing in Aboriginal worldviews; and the processes by which true futures can be reached in the form of nurturing relationships that do not embody the unequal dealings that have marked the past.”

-Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ambelin’s artwork was delivered as part of her residency with the School, which included educational training for teaching staff. Her artworks are in dialogue with her book Living on Stolen Land (Magabala Books, 2020), shortlisted in the 2021 Australian Book Industry Awards for small publishers adult book of the year.

Ambelin’s residency has enabled important conversations, learning, and thinking, particularly as we, as a School and a community, imagine, design, build, maintain, and decommission emerging and legacy technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), that are profoundly social and cultural.

“Like all stories, art embodies energy and is part of creating new energies when the storyteller (the art) interacts with an audience. I hope the energy these images carry of a future where ancient Indigenous systems and voices are respected and where from this respect flows a true two-way understanding between peoples that informs sustainable futures that nurture life.”

-Ambelin Kwaymullina

You can view Ambelins artworks during business hours, School of Cybernetics, Level 3 of the Birch Building, 35 Science Road, ANU, until December 2024.

Find out more about Ambelin and her Cybernetic Imagination Residency work on her project page.

Find out more about the Cybernetic Imagination Residency Program here.

You are on Aboriginal land.

The Australian National University acknowledges, celebrates and pays our respects to the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people of the Canberra region and to all First Nations Australians on whose traditional lands we meet and work, and whose cultures are among the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

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