Future Art Ecosystems 2 Live: Amelia Bearskin-Winger
Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us tonight. My name is Tamar Clarke-Brown, and I produce and curate projects with the Arts Technologies team and R&D platform here at the Serpentine. Tonight I'm here with artist, technologist and producer Amelia Winger-Bearskin. This is part of our FAE2 Lives series where we speak to contributors from our recently released publication Future Art Ecosystems 2 or FAE2 for short and invite you our audience to gain more insight into their practice and surrounding concerns in constellation with key points from the report.
If you missed our launch event, you can still watch it back on Twitch and YouTube as well. You'll also find our first FAE2 Live with artist Sam Rolfes and our very own Alexander Boyce, Alex Boyce, R&D platform producer, and also the launch of our recent Legal Lab report with Alana Kushnir, Legal Lab's principal investigator Marie Potel-Saville, founder of legal design agency Amurabi. Amurabi, sorry.
And Victoria Ivanova Serpentine R&D Strategic Lead. So Future Art Ecosystems is an annual strategic briefing launched in 2020 that provides concepts, references, language and arguments that can be integrated into operational agendas for the construction of 21st century cultural infrastructure. Future Art Ecosystems: Art x Advanced Technologies FAE1, addressed the implications of artistic engagements with advanced technologies in terms of the infrastructural redesign they enable within and in parallel to existing art ecosystems, Future Art Ecosystems, Art x Metaverse FAE2 focuses on the larger stakes involved in revamping digital strategy at cultural institutions. The advent of the metaverse an always-online ever-present, persistent, spatial, second world represents a fundamental shift in our notion of digital infrastructure and presence requiring new technological and organisational vocabularies in order to understand its implications. In this context, FAE2 outlines a new framework for assessing the challenges and opportunities of the metaverse.
As an emerging cultural infrastructure. So, Amelia, I'm joined today by incredible Native American artist and technologist Amelia Winger-Bearskin who I was lucky enough to record a recent podcast with is out in the world as of July. So do go and have a listen afterwards - the link will be in the chat.
The podcast featured Amelia alongside Andie Nordgren, Ex-Executive Producer of the popular MMORPG, Eve Online. And we were talking about Community- Building, Co-creation and what Amelia has coined as 'antecedent technologies'. Today, we're going to build on and kind of expand on many of these topics.
But as an extra treat, we get to do so visually this time rather than auditorily only. While I'm on introductions, I also want to introduce my fellow Art Technologies team members who are behind the scenes today. These are Ralph Pritchard, Tech Manager who is linking us all up today and also managing the livestream, Eva Jaeger, Associate Curator of Art Technologies, Kay Watson, Head of Art Technologies, who'll be taking your questions in the chat and feeding them through to Amelia towards the end. For wider questions do feel free to drop into the chat, whisper to Kay or drop us a line on email firstname.lastname@example.org, Alex Boyce, Art Technologies, R&D platform producer.
He hosted the live with Sam Rolfes, and Ben Vickers and Victoria Ivanova, R&D Platform Strategic Lead, who are here in spirit. Finally, a hello and thank you to our BSL interpreters, Sarah and Julie, who, by the way, for anyone watching at home, Sarah and Julie will be switching around the 30 minutes mark. A few housekeeping notes before we start. So for those who need closed captions, you need to click the cc option at the bottom right of the Twitch frame. Please do get involved in the chat: comment, put your questions in, let us know your thoughts, and of course, pose beautiful questions.
As a reminder, to participate in the chat, you do need to have a Twitch account, which is very simple and quick to log in and make an account. So do that quickly if you haven't already. It's free. Super easy to sign up. So welcome again, Amelia. I wanted to start with this bio and introduce you properly.
So Amelia Winger-Bearskin is an artist, technologist, Banks Family Pre-eminence, Endowed Chair and Associate Professor of Artificial Intelligence and the Arts at the Digital Worlds Institute at the University of Florida and the host of Wampum.Codes, a podcast which is both an award winning podcast and an ethical framework for software development based on indigenous values of co-creation. It features conversations with indigenous creatives who use technology to make positive change in their communities.
Wampum.Codes was awarded a Mozilla Fellowship and embedded at the MIT Co-Creation Studio from 2019 to 2020 and was also featured in the 2021 imagineNative Festival. Amelia is the inventor of 'Honour Native Sky', a project for the U.S.
Department of Arts and Culture. Honour Native Land initiative she identifies as native Haudenosaunee. Please correct me if I get the pronunciation wrong at all, ever. Iroquois, of the Seneca Cayuga nation of Oklahoma, Dear clan.
Currently, her work is focussed on stewarding ethical dependencies and software development as a means to help grow out of a colonial mindset and craft our technology to better benefit future generations. and, you know, things that are engineered to sustain rather than kind of exploit resources in life with recourse to indigenous infrastructures and pre-existing models, what she calls antecedent technology. She encourages us to take a kind of multigenerational and continuum based view of technology.
that would lead us to think that we didn't have to reinvent the wheel, which we don't. Many things have happened before! So I don't think any of us are techno evangelists, but a lot of the things we're going to be discussing today I'm really interested to hear how Amelia's kind of led, is sort of leading the way on thought in terms of how to sort of help us, help us use technology to sort of solve and sort of get into the to grips of conversations around a lot of the really critical issues that are facing us at the moment. FAE2 and the Serpentine R&D platform are focussed on R&D for a different kind of future production. And so is Amelia, who, as we'll discover in more detail is an incredible representative of an ethical coalition between advanced technology and indigenous wisdom.
So enough from me. How would you describe what you do, Amelia, in your own words for someone that kind of might not be familiar with your work? Thank you so much. You know, first, before I say anything about myself, I want to say more about you. I've had such a fantastic time having conversations with you.
The podcast was incredible. And I'm so happy to be here again, having more conversations with you. I hope this isn't the last one. I hope we continue to have conversations throughout both of our fun and weird and strange adventures in technology and art. So what do I do now? You know, I have a lot of fun mostly, but I always like to say that what I've been doing has been the same throughout my whole career.
And the names around it have changed and shifted. And I think that's really beautiful. I've always made creative things that sometimes people called performance art. Sometimes they called it new opera, sometimes they called it transmedia.
You know, all those different kind of words you say, like emerging emerging media, like it's been emerging for at least 25 years for me anyways. So I like that. Maybe we art and technologists are always in the chrysalis phase. Maybe we never become butterflies. And we're just really cool hanging out in our strange pods, plugged into some kind of butterfly matrix.
I don't know how to continue on with that! But but you know what? I guess what it means is, you know, we code in order to make the future that we want to see in the world. And that is something that artists have always done and scientists and technologists. It's just something that people do because we're so curious.
And we love to solve problems. And oftentimes we make problems in the process. So that's why we have artists to cause problems, fix problems and think about them as well. And you've recently moved from the Bay Area, from the Bay Area to Gainesville, Florida, right. To take up this new role.
And I'm really curious as someone so connected to land and to histories what that may have been like and what the new role is as well? Oh, thank you so much. Yeah. You know, I'm originally from New York. I am from upstate New York. And my tribe, you know, I'm. Haudenosaunee, people know us as the Iroquois, we're six nations.
And we have reservations in upstate New York, in Canada, the Six Nations Reserve. And then we even have one little stray part of us in Oklahoma. That's where my ancestors are from, although all of those are part of my same tribe and where my cousins and ancestors are. So I like to say I'm I'm like a native native New Yorker, but I lived recently in Silicon Valley, where I was working at at a Tech Start-Up.
I had an enormous amount of fun there and got to know, wow, what an incredible vibrant indigenous community in Oakland. And, you know, I think a lot of people may not know that the largest, you know, urban indigenous communities in the United States of America are in California, in Los Angeles, San Francisco area, Oakland area. And it's where a lot of the Indian you know, the AME movement, the American Indian Movement started in that coast, in that region with that urban indigenous population. So it was really wonderful to be part of that community and connect deeply with a lot of the people who are, you know, in Hollywood and L.A. are like these awesome, amazing media film people.
And then in Silicon Valley, getting to meet other technologists who are indigenous as well. And then since I have only been in Gainesville, Florida, for about a month I've already gotten to meet an alligator, which is incredible. And I also got to meet a manatee, which is amazing. Both of these animals are enormous.
They're like so, so much bigger than I could have possibly imagined. Seeing them a couple of feet away from me, really humbled my entire being. And this is. Yeah, and this is beautiful land. You know, we have Timucua land here. And I'm learning from a lot of local historians and activists around some of the land issues.
Amazing creative stories that that have happened in the history here. We have the Seminole Nation, the unconquered in this region, and also to the south that I'm learning about their amazing performance technique that they have perfected, which is alligator wrestling, which is much you know, I come from kind of a mixed performance background. And so I kind of see the alligator wrestling to me as a form of dance because I love dance and I'm kind of more connected to choreography.
But it's a really beautiful tradition. So I'm learning, I'm learning about the land and the places here, but it feels so, so ancient. It's a very beautiful and ancient landscape with beautiful, and enormous and ancient creatures. I don't know if anyone's ever met a manatee or an alligator, but they don't seem very concerned with me.
And I really like that about them. I love them. I don't think I matter at all. I mean, we don't know how everyone's minds work, right? We don't know how alligator minds work and maybe that's something you might find out during the course of your residency there. Perhaps you'll start inventing some kind of technology with an alligator or you know, I think there's a lot of we had a question in one of our other lives about sort of animal intelligences and how that feeds into different technologies. So who knows? Coming up soon, who knows what will happen? That's a great point, you know. Artificial intelligence is my area of expertise when it comes to my my creative practice, especially at the moment.
And it you know, I don't think anyone would be surprised and you definitely would not be surprised to hear that so much research in in building some of the early multi-agent systems and artificial intelligence systems, maybe even before we had this concept of machine learning, really learned so much from the life movement, thinking decision making of animals, of insects, of reptiles. One of the very first autonomous A.I. controlled I mean, you could call it a robot was actually a swimming robot based on the movement of fish. So I think, if we could begin to understand our brethren of the four legged, of the finned, of the winged creatures, that would make us so much more intelligent than anything we could probably artificially intelligence. I'm really curious what's going to come out of your time there, and especially in kind of connection to what we're going to be talking about, which is storytelling, right? So this this conversation is going to we're going to talk about some key ideas as we walkthrough some of your work and your early history, because I think what you do so amazingly in your practice is this kind of fusing of ethics and technology and storytelling.
So in terms of, I suppose, like a key question for this session we're talking about how can we weave ethical and sustainable stories and mythologies into our advancing technologies? And also, what is this thing that you talk about called decentralised storytelling? And how does that play into all of this? And talking about stories you've said, "The seeds of our civilisation, are stories, a framework for a lasting peace, a just democracy and sustainable technological innovations are all kept inside of our stories. Our stories are generational guidance systems where we record the best of us. Stories will change formats in every generation, and our stories have changed formats with technologies of our time. This is how we pass on our values.
Inside the source code of our democracy is the best of us. Sometimes we may feel as though our democracy has got some malware in it. So it's up to us to update and make sure our stories can continue and connect and strengthen our communities and in communion with storytelling. I also want to talk about mythology and doing research for this talk I didn't realise that the word myth comes from the Greek 'mythos', which means 'story of the people' and has, you know, this idea of guiding mankind for millennia. And I find it to be a really strong definition with which to start our conversation, also kind of talking about how myths naturalises events, how myth naturalises the story of things. And technology is itself a kind of a mythology, right? But we are in a storytelling space Twitch.
So I first want to ask you about your relationship to storytelling and relationship to storytelling and technology? Well, thank you so much for that. And that is a beautiful way of thinking and remembering that these stories, our myths are about us, they're by us, they're for us. And it has ebbed and flowed throughout my lifetime of what maybe has been a predominant way of having a message. You know, the generation before mine talked about the broadcast and breaking the singular flow of, you know, from an antenna into our house, from radio and then to TV. People saw this as sort of a perversion of the mythos, no longer was the story between us by the fire or connected to us locally. We started having something that was more nationalised and broadcast.
And I think the generation before us and the before them saw that change in that shift. And we've seen it change in a lot of other ways in our lifetimes. Right. So, you know, in my early days as a young hacker, hacktivists, I don't know decentralisation was...
You've given us some amazing archive footage of you as a a youngbie, I'm going to cycle through them in the background as you're speaking, oh amazing. Well, you know, the hope of my generation when we were we were kind of the early builders, the punks, the first generation of online weirdos. We grew up, as, you know, children, the first children to grow up with the Internet. And the last generation to remember life before. Many of us believed that we could change the way the world worked from behind our glowing screens. And many of us did.
You know, many things have changed, but maybe not in the way that we imagined. The promise was that information would be free. And what we got was that we are the free information, third parties, you know, harvest our data. We were promised and we hoped for democratised media. But what we got was media that threatens democracy.
Let let's say that you were a civil engineer and you wanted to build like here. You know, I'm from New York, so I'm going to say the Brooklyn Bridge. But I know that you also have very famous bridges in the UK. So maybe, you know, maybe the London Bridge. Right. So let's say that I was building that bridge and
a trucking company called me up and said, OK, we need to plan the routes across this new bridge. How many trucks with how many loads can go safely across this mountain, you know, to make sure that we have safety on this bridge and what if I the structural engineer said, hey, look, you know, technology is neutral. I built the bridge, but I don't tell people how to use it. I mean, if someone wants to break the bridge and it falls down it's not my fault.
Right. Well, you know, that would not fly! Well for a software engineer, especially social networks and digital media systems we're perfectly OK with tech companies telling us that the systems that they have designed are neutral. And even if they break, the safety, the democracy, the privacy fraud, or make our children unsafe or are abusive or cause harm to our country.
So if we start to believe that we those builders, those coders, those hackers who build the systems, if we start believing that it's not our responsibility than what we are doing is building systems of harm. We're building bridges and we are not caring about people who are trusted to drive across them. So that's kind of the basis where I when I created Wampum.Codes, started thinking about how do we start having an ethical framework for software development, for building things.
And, you know, a lot of the people that I work with, the teams that I work with who are interested in having ethical frameworks for their software development, are designers, they're UX and UI engineers and designers, they're graphic designers, they're leaders, communication people that are film festival directors, they're artists. It's not just, you know, the people who are building these systems are not just coders, but coders themselves also need to recognise that they are not neutral. Their decision making is not just something that is the right way of coding or the wrong way of coding it has larger implications. So Wampum for me, I use it as this metaphor, because in my tribe, you know, and in the Iroquois Confederacy and some of the other tribes that were surrounding the area that is our ancestral home. We use something called Wampum, and a lot of people have a misconception about Wampum, even back in the day when they first met us, a lot of people thought that it was a currency, but it's actually not a currency.
It's a tool for recording and regulating different political and economic agreements that govern our daily lives. So it was something more like a pre Colombian blockchain. So it encoded not just financial transactions, but also also ethical values. So when I created Wampum.Codes, I wanted to imagine how we could weave ethics back into 21st century technology.
And to do that we needed storytelling. I didn't want this to just be the amalgamation of my own research. I wanted to start talking to other leaders in technology who are indigenous, who are making groundbreaking works in their own fields.
And I believe in open source. I believe in decentralisation. And so open sourcing those conversations through the podcast, I think is key for people to understand what went into the source code of Wampum.Codes and the framework for ethical software dependencies.
So the core concepts are to put an extra step in your weekly sprint cycle or take a few hours a quarter to align your goals and look at the types of the ways in which what you're creating may cause harm. So I think that we can imagine a better future and listen to one another around fears or joys or possibilities or things we want to see in the world. And we can embed these values into code. I like to say that, you know, there was once a time when it was enough to just live by a moral code.
But the time has come for us to code our morals. Definitely. I'm wondering if you what your kind of relationship is to of course, we're talking, we came to you from FAE2, which talks about the metaverse, right? And I'm wondering what your relationship is to the metaverse, I suppose, as a storied universe? Ther's a work that you shared with us in Second Life. I wonder if this is a good work to discuss now. Sure. Sure. Yeah, I think I talked to you a little bit about this on the podcast.
This really great artist, Stelarc and The Yes Men, both performance artists of my generation. And we were invited, all three of us, myself. and, you know, I guess that's like four of us, were invited to an island in Second Life from a university who said, they contacted us and they're like, we would love it if you could all make an artwork on this island. And it was a very complicated process to log in, even though Second Life was somewhat user friendly and easy to just sort of log on.
But they had made their own server and they had their own kind of way of doing it. It took me like three hours to log into this. When we got there, there was an island and on the island there was nothing except all of us.
And we were like, now what do we do? You know? And it wasn't like Minecraft where you have these like items that you can craft or like Fortnite, where you have like, I don't know, some kind of gold. It was just like an island. And they were like, just make art here and record it and we'll put it in this Venice Biennale thing about media something or whatever. And we all just kind of, you know, like there wasn't even voice chat, right? There was just the text that was like, "Hey, what's up, guys?" "Hey, what's up Amelia?" "Wow this is an island. OK, cool, guys." What what? You know, but these are these kind of early spaces.
And we didn't end up doing a whole lot because we just sort of hung around there. But then when the time came for us to actually show this work, I didn't know what to do. So I just I logged into Second Life and I found this it was called the New Berlin a city that someone had made, and it was the German Newbie Centre. And that was the only place I could figure out that I had an artist friend that would like let me come. And if you didn't have money or resources, it was very difficult to kind of do anything.
And but they let me into the German Newbie Centre, and I decided to just do a piece similar to like Vito Acconci or Sophie Calle, where I just followed someone around. And if you see in this video I'm following this poor, you know, avatar. I mean, we don't know I don't know anything about this person. And I just kind of followed them around in Second Life until they teleport away from me. And they never chatted said anything like who are you or why are you following me? But it was interesting to me that the protocols that you might have in the real world, where if you follow someone for a while, they might be like, that's weird. And maybe they make a choice about leaving or something.
I thought that was interesting that those social protocols still worked in this avatar space. And you have to understand, this was kind of before massive multiplayer, online gaming had a lot of graphical interfaces. So you didn't have a lot of game spaces where people could do a lot of real world organising at the time, but later, when I had my first experience in VR chat in Altspace VR, actually, I feel like I had a similar experience where I felt someone's presence and physicality in that space.
And it is odd that even though no matter how rudimentary these these technologies are at their beginnings, the hope that uncovers in it is generally our desire to connect to one another in very deep and meaningful ways. And oftentimes these very open spaces allow us to do that. These metaverse spaces that don't necessarily have I mean, Minecraft is exceptionally dynamic, but a lot of times having even the nothing, the no expectations, the no space, that hybrid, no space many of us called it in the early days is very important to capturing the hopes that we have as a community, as an international community. I'm wondering in that space, is it was was that kind of your an early introduction to because in that work, I suppose this the narrative, if you want to talk about narrative or the story, you're following someone.
So it's almost, you know, your story is connected to their story in a very intimate way, I suppose, even in that piece, right? Yeah. I mean, I wish I knew more about him or her or them. I don't know anything about them. The first time I was in Altspace, I was at the Sundance Institute, which is a film institute and film festival here in the US. And I was at this thing called a lab where they bring artists, filmmakers together and kind of you work on a project with these ventures, and they said you should come into Altspace and that someone had set it up. And all of the people and the mentors are like watching you as you're in VR. So you're in VR in another world.
But outside of you is you're kind of doing a performance. All these people are watching you. And I didn't know how to use Altspace. I was like clicking around a picture of a random room. And there was a man who was just a cookie face, like a very kind of like exceptionally ugly, grotesque, cookie face.
And nothing else. Like no body, just an exploded cookie head and he had this very strong accent and he was very much taller than me. So I have to look up at giant cookie man.
And when he came, he came all the way close to me and like almost touched my avatar. And then he says, "Oh, I'm so sorry." Because he saw how small I was because I'm in VR. And it did a one to one representation of me as the small - I'm very small. So he came up and was like, "Oh, I'm so sorry.
I didn't know you were so small." And he backed up and then he hunched down very low. And he started speaking softer.
"Hi, I am you know, this is my space. And I'm making a small replica of the city of Portland." And I was like. OK. And that seemed really weird to me that he came really close to me. Act up, crouched down, made his voice very small because he was like, "Oh, you're a tiny little person." And I thought, that's very weird. That's never happened to me in an online space before, where I enter a room and someone immediately is like, "Oh, you're a tiny little one."
You know, but usually when I was younger and on online spaces, you know, it's in the chat A/S/L or something in the chat. Like, who are you? And we would always pretend to be other people, you know, especially if you were like me and a 12 year old girl, I'd be like, oh, I'm definitely a dude from California. Not like a small girl from New York. And in my parents' house or whatever, you would just pretend to be someone else so that you could have more interesting conversations.
So I thought that was really interesting how how suddenly my physicality became so real in the digital space with VR. And I'm wondering how that's kind of like this sense of, I suppose one of the we're just going to do a BSL changeover. everyone watching at home. This idea of a space being so kind of like real time and shared with so many people and in itself, I suppose being a decentralised structure is one of the key things we kind of took away in relation to this metaverse space. And I'm wondering if you can tell us, because you're such a kind of perennial learner, you have thousands of degrees but you also love creating with so many different people and sort of providing people with the source code rather than sort of, you know, doing individual projects and, you know, co-creating with people. You really kind of seem to love all things decentralised and communal.
I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about this kind of this history of decentralised storytelling and design and how you kind of go about that. If you could give people any ideas or example projects or kind of tool kits, maybe even? So thank you so much for that question. You know, when I was growing up, my mother is sort of a traditional storyteller of my tribe, where she tells the historical traditional stories of our tribe, which is a role that's something like being a historian, a philosopher or a performer, a writer, a politician, it's kind of like all these things in one, because you need to be responsible and respected in order to be given these stories. But it's also your job to make sure that they're relevant to the generation that you're telling them to.
And in making that story, encoding the values from the previous generations, but making sure that it can continue to stay relevant, it's not something that is static as something that is for the community by the community that contains the source code of the values of the community. And so I like to ask people if you had if you knew how to do something, like you invented something and it was very important for humanity because you invented this thing and maybe it solved all of the problems of your local community, maybe even your whole city. How do I encode this for the next seven generations? OK, and if the thing I invented was like a website that could solve world hunger for my city, like no one in my city, will ever go hungry again. Because of this website, I mean, I wish, but OK, How do I explain? I know, right. That would be incredible. And it's important, right? It's important.
Maybe it's the generational blockchain that connects us to the future, but that's why I think decentralised storytelling is very important, because we've always told stories in ways which we can contain that source information and make it the most relevant to the generations ahead of us. The strategy we use in order to make sure that we understand the values, the scientific discoveries, ways in which we don't starve, all those important things, we've encoded them into stories. So we have a story of the Cornhusk doll. And on the surface, the story of the Cornhusk doll is kind of like, oh, how we make this craft out of the husk of corns.
That's part of it. Oh, it's a story about a woman who comes from the creator to take care of the children, but she's obsessed with her own vanity and the children almost they almost become harmed. And we all learn that that's wrong. You should always care for the children. So on the surface, you think, oh, this story is about vanity. It's about caring for children. But actually, the story is about telling you when to harvest corn, which was such a key scientific discovery when the colonists came to this country.
If they hadn't learnt from us how to harvest and grow they, too, would have not survived. We had to teach them our sacred technology for them to be able to survive winter after winter. And many of them lived in our great cities and learnt from our great scientists and agriculturalists. So we embed them into these stories.
And the stories are told in such a way that they have all these kind of sticky things about them. They have ethical things, they have moral things, they have handicrafts, they have tools, they have songs, they have dances. And all of this is I like to say to someone, what if you invented an incredible technology and the only person that will remember this is the five year old that you talked to last week. How would you make sure that five year old would know what you're talking about? It's the decentralised process of taking those values and putting them in ways in which they can become sticky for generations I'm playing as you speak, your work 'Creation Story', which also features your son. As I found quite a few of your works do actually, and actually some of the most, my favourite stories you've told us, and as we've kind of been going through this process, involve your son and how he likes to troll you and how he will pop up in different conferences and be the troller, tweeter but also the ways that, you know, you've spoken about the ways that he will be, you know, making Minecraft worlds or making, you know using different technologies and he doesn't realise that actually you've built some of the frameworks that he's using or you've contributed to some of the technologies he's using, which I think is so powerful. You know, his generation, they do incredible things with those worlds.
And they're so fluent in those story spaces and understanding the way that those technologies work. My son used to think it was really fun to go into Minecraft servers and figure out how quickly he could take over like the entire world when he was seven years old. Seven year olds like to push limits you know and so he's pushing all these limits.
And I would be like, Tristan, how can you go in there and start a civil war and put this faction against this faction and then you're secretly the newspaper that spawning the revolution, but you're also the banker who's oppressing everyone, but you're also the faction of people who are against you, the leader, so that it all crumbles down and then they give it to you, the revolutionary. You were the person behind all of those things. You know how that's terrifying and terrible. Like that's not what you're supposed to you're supposed to make friends. Be nice to people. You know all these things. Right.
And he would say to me, well, if that's not the way it was designed to be played, how come the rules of the economy are such that that's the way that you win? And I was like, that's so weird. You know, that is very true. Games, to a child, you look at it and you're like, well, that's the way I'm supposed to win is through this disinformation, starting a civil war, owning the the materials that are very rare, inflating the costs and hiding the rest.
You know, all those things that like, you know, just, you know, financial systems, do we embed those same ideals of financial systems into these games? And then I tell him, no, you're supposed to be nice and share with people. And he's like, but that's not how the game was designed. And I'm like, well, I don't think anyone designed it that way.
And it's like, no, they didn't design that that way. They just designed what they knew. And so we reproduce these values into these systems. And you actually have to think.
What if there is a different way that we could design these systems and then simulate them in Minecraft, I try to say that to my son, and he's like, yeah, but that's not how this one was. These are just models of the real world. So you manipulate them the same way you do in the real world.
But, you know, he's a nice person. And I'm wondering how that's like, how is that feeding into your work currently in terms of I know you're working on this on a Native Land initiative, for example , and you work a lot with A.I., but how is that principle of the seventh generation principle and all these things feeding into the work that you're currently developing? Well, you know, I think that certainly my son is very inspirational to me in the way that he sometimes lays, he is able to find exploits in systems that never occurred to me and I think his generation is very good at doing that and understanding how systems have exploits built into them and what that means to a community.
And I think, you know, with my Honour Native Land project, I'm working with the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, Honour Native Land initiative. And I'm working with them because I was very fascinated by this trend to do land acknowledgements.
And I found out about this sort of trend mostly in museum, film festival, artist kind of areas, because that's where I live most of the time. And so kind of going into this, I was just thinking it's all sort of going into this sort of practice, this kind of decolonial practice of acknowledgement, the wider practice? . Yeah. Yeah. And if anyone isn't, you know, familiar with what a land acknowledgement is. I can read you this really nice, I think they have a really good. Just like what is it? Why is it? So I always like to say what they say because I started finding out about this, right? People are saying it.
And most of the time I found out about it because I would get to a talk maybe like this. Not you, you wouldn't do this to me Tamar, but, you know, I would get to like a podcast OK, Amelia I want you to talk about AI and I'm getting ready to talk about AI or or BR or some weird thing. And then they're like, can you do a land acknowledgement? And I was like, um, I don't even know what day it is or what city I'm in because I do a lot of speaker tours. And I got off a plane two minutes ago and I have my talk barely ready for me to go.
And then now I'm asked to do this other thing, like with a spotlight on me. And I'm like, what? And so I started being like, this is weird and also I don't know why I'm being asked to do it, you know, so I got kind of like, what is this thing? And so I started doing a lot of research on it. And I found one of the best resources available was from the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture on their Honour Native Land initiative. And they have this wonderful guide that talks about what is land acknowledgement and more importantly, how to do it.
And I thought, this is great, I need to work with them. So I reached out and I applied to work with them because I thought they really have it right. And I'll just read to you briefly, these little bullet points that they have on their website, but I highly recommend downloading their free pdf.
It's very comprehensive and always better to check about that before you just write a random native person and ask them to spend hours with you to explain what this is. It's like you can actually learn about it yourself. So it says, why introduce the practice of land acknowledgement? Well, it's to offer recognition and respect, counter the doctrine of discovery with the true story of the people who are already here. You create a broader public awareness of the history that has led us to this moment. We can begin to repair our relationships with native communities and with the land.
It's to support larger truth telling and reconciliation efforts. It's to remind people that colonisation is an ongoing process with native land still occupied due to deceptive and broken treaties. It's to take a cue from indigenous protocol, opening up space with reverence and respect and inspire ongoing action and relationship.
And I would add to this that a lot of times, you know, there's a lot of misconceptions around indigenous people. I mean, we don't even want to go into all that in this beautiful Twitch stream because they'll just take like, you know, forever and ever. But I would say one of the most common ones is this idea that these things are just super in the past. So, so, so, so, so, so, so, so far in the past. And yet we have broken treaties and land that was stolen in my family, you know, one generation ago, just one, just people who are still alive who say, I signed this paper, and when I showed up to this land, it had already been sold to someone else. And then I was homeless and I had to move, right? Like one generation ago - we're not talking about people that are even in the next world. Right.
These are people who are still alive. So I like to remember, remind people, because a lot of times people think, one, Native American people, indigenous people aren't alive anymore and that we're doing this to honour some kind of deep past thing. And sometimes it's because they don't understand the Land Back Movement as being something that is even so recent as one generation or is that it's ongoing or is that it's still happening in the United States. Oh, an incredible inspirational woman in my life is Ruby Bridges. She was the first African-American child to go into a segregated school.
And she just. Oh, my gosh, I'm going to say the wrong number, but she's in her 60s, she just had her number of the 60s this week. I don't know if it was 66 or 67. Very young! Right? She's exceptionally young.
And I think a lot of times we have this idea that once something is passed, it's part of history. It's very hard for people to imagine, like, hey, that's younger than your grandmother. You know, that's like the same age as your mother. This is how close these things have happened. You know, I'm not saying that anyone who's listening thinks that way, but I do definitely encounter that pretty commonly.
And I share these things not assuming that anyone in the audience thinks this way, but to empower you when you hear others who may ask you those questions to share this kind of information. Right. For sure, and I feel like you talk about this thing called I'm trying to make a segway here, that I'm not sure is a completely straight segway because I feel like it is related. It's about you talk about ethical dependencies and in terms of building. And to me, when you're talking about acknowledgement that is an ethical dependency, you know, it's acknowledging, you know, if we can talk about, I suppose, like conservation refugees, for example, you know, if you if you remove someone from a land, and you don't understand that relationship, that removing them from a certain land is also, you know, detrimental in sustaining that land, for example. I'm wondering how acknowledging these ethical dependencies acknowledging these people, acknowledging this history, goes into, you know, what do you mean by ethical dependencies? You and also how does that come into play through your relationship to technologies? That's a very beautiful segway. And I think that it's very apt.
I think that. You know, honouring Native land and doing land acknowledgements. It's a beginning step, you know, like you said, I think it's a perfect way of saying it, that it's like an ethical dependency.
There are things that we as humans care about, that we care about our land, we care about the safety of our planet. And, you know, 80 percent of the world's biodiversity is on indigenous lands. And the stewards of that are indigenous people. And it's a beginning step to say that we acknowledge and understand that indigenous people have been the stewards of this biodiversity.
That might be the key to how we can protect our planet for future generations. And I use the metaphor that no one, you know, if someone says you need to go to a doctor and you go to the doctor and you knock on their door and you open the door and you see the doctor there, no one would confuse the door with the doctor. We know that you need the doctor. But you need to walk through the door in order to get care. And I think that's what land acknowledgement really is.
It's a first step and a way of walking through the door and beginning your journey to climate justice and understanding how deeply interconnected indigenous people are in that process. But, you know, a lot of people say land acknowledgement is performative or it's not enough. And that's absolutely correct. It's like if I were to tell you you're sick, you really need this door.
Well, you don't need the door. You need to go through the door so that you can get the help you need. How is that kind of playing out in the way that you're working at the moment? Can you give us some, I feel like I really want to know some different practical tools or ways that you're thinking even with the bot or, you know, other projects as well. I'm going to play in the background while you're speaking a work that talks about Andrew Jackson, if you want to give us a really quick history on him. as we talk about that project. Absolutely.
I'm thinking recently about writing a story about how, writing a thought piece about how once things have been passed, we can use them as material in different and new and strange ways. And it's very true that the truth is stranger than fiction, that the past is so much more complicated and strange than we could ever possibly imagine. For people who are not familiar with Andrew Jackson, he was a president of the United States of America, and he was the architect and engineer of something called the Indian Removal Act. Before then, we had many treaties on the East Coast, which was the primary area where the colonists live. They hadn't made it all the way to the west coast of the United States.
They were concentrated on the East Coast. And at that point, they had treaties and were at peace or at war with many different indigenous tribes. However, Andrew Jackson made this thing where every indigenous person had to leave the East Coast and be forcibly marched to Oklahoma and put on reservations. And over eight million people died in this march.
That was called later the Trail of Tears, something that people may not know about Andrew Jackson. During one of his, you know, they say Creek-Indian War, but it was actually a lot of different tribes, including even the Seminole here in in Florida on the battlefield of one of these Creek wars. His men had killed an entire indigenous family and one young boy who was identified as a Creek infant. He said he saw this child and had an unusual sympathy for it. That's what were his words when he wrote back to his wife, he said, I feel an unusual sympathy for this child.
And he adopted it and he raised it as his own son in his house at the Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was, you know, where he was from, where his wife lived while he was living, you know, as the president. And he even tried to enlist his son into West Point so that he could become a general like him. And he was, they were currently at war with his tribe! And West Point officials said, no, I mean, we're currently at war with this with your son's tribe. It's like treason to have him come to West Point, but that's how much he was considered his son. This is bonkers, right? If we think about the fact that this man architected the genocide of his son's people, but that is the complexities of history. And I think it's very important when we try to understand genocide or racism or the erasure of indigenous people, that we see that the history was not always very black and white and that not everyone who did monstrous things was necessarily considered a monster in their day.
And I think it helps a lot of us have the kind of strength and conviction to stand in the face of continued genocide, to remember that the things that we're speaking against, oftentimes people may say, how can this be that bad? This person has a Creek Indian son, but it was still very bad! these two truths are contained within the world, within the story. And so by telling this story about his son Lyncoya, and we don't we don't know very much about him, he was written about very little in history. I try to use storytelling to eat away at the seams of some of these mythologies that we have about our country, about history. And sometimes when things are passed and they become history, they become a pliable way in which we can start to discuss some of the narratives that are used to uphold the the white supremacist places in our world that are still causing harm.
I feel like there's this notion of you used this phrase non-binary monsters before or yeah, I think you said non-binary monsters. And also just remembering that constellation is so, so critical in anything. Thank you for telling us that story and all of the stories that you've also shared with us across the session. Now, we do have only just under 10 minutes left, so I'm going to open it up for questions. And thank you for the conversation. Thank you so much.
It's always a pleasure to speak with you, and I'll look to the mobile app so that I can see some of the questions, too, but feel free to read them out to me because I can't always see all of them. Amelia, we've got some questions that you can't see Oh, okay, great. I just wanted to say thank you for joining us. It's such a pleasure to listen to you. First question. We had a question around no funding, and I know that's connected to your Stupid Hackathon.
So I was hoping you could tell us a bit about it in more detail for everyone else watching at home. Thank you so much for asking me about that. Yes. If you go to no-funding.com, you can join a weekly zoom call.
Our motto is no striving, no hustling, no funding. It is connected to the Stupid Hackathon. Stupid Hackathon was something that I created that was an in-person hackathon. It's now called the Stupid **** No One Needs and Terrible Ideas Hackathon. And it is now in kind of every city that I travel to in the world. They have a stupid group of people doing the stupid hackathon, and we make things that could have no possible use in the world.
But they really work. They're things that really do the things that people say. I highly recommend you check out Stupid Hackathon for some of the terrible examples from all of the years.
But no striving has, no no funding has a similar ethos in which it's like, what would you do in a world where you didn't care about getting any funding for what you were doing and who would support you through it? And that answer is us. You know, look to the left and to the right of you. The friends that are standing next to you are the ones that will help you make a difference.
And we're looking at a lot of decentralised ways of funding and supporting each other to make, you know, totally weird and stupid things. I think the funding model in the art world can be incredibly depressing. And I really love groups where we are encouraged to to support one another to do the work that I think art does naturally, which is to destabilise what is considered smart.
So please join us, if you would like. I would love to hang out with you if you go to no- funding.com it's very simple.
You fill out a form that just says like your name and your email, and I send you a calendar invite. There's really nothing else. But we talk about a lot of really interesting things that I've learned so much about, what people are thinking and feeling these days. I think our media has become too centralised and it's very hard for me to understand and connect with, like what do we think rather than what the media systems are telling us. Oh, your generation is thinking this. I'm like, that sounds insane to me.
I cannot believe that. And then I talk to people at no-funding and I'm like oh, thank goodness people are dumb, but in the best possible ways. I'm so happy they're not dumb in the ways they're telling us we are. There's hope.
Um, next question, Amelia, you just mentioned the F word Funding. Collective or community based practice is often underfunded or ignored. We just wanted to know, do you have any tips of tricks or can you recommend any good sources for funding co-created work? Thank you so much for that question. You know, when I was a young artist doing my MFA, I was totally obsessed with Adrian Piper, the artist, the performance artist. I just. Every single thing that she made. That she did.
She said. She wrote. She read. I was obsessed. And she came to visit my university and she met with one MFA student and it was me. And that's the exact question that I asked her. And she said to me something that has changed my life. She said: Get a job, you know, and do whatever the hell you want as an artist, but get a job and get a job that has nothing to do with your art and do something you really like. You really love. And then don't worry about it.
You will always be able to make the work that you find valuable. She looked at my work and saw that it was, you know, very indigenous. Very political. You know. Not commercial.
She just said, she's a professor of Philosophy in Berlin and she loves her job. And I I've always done that. I have had jobs where I'm very useful to my teams. I love being a team player and having teams that values what I do and I value what they do.
And I like living and I like working and really like cuddly companies where I'm just like, no, you're great. No, you're the best. Oh, you're the best. Like, I love those kind of teams. And then I just do that and then I make my art. And I don't have to worry as much about funding because I fund it and I fund it through helping people and doing great things. But you know, those jobs have been different jobs throughout the years from anything from being a waitress to being a professor. So, you know.
But I like to have them where people are nice to me and I'm nice. It's collective spaces. Yeah. Good advice. Amelia, I wanted to ask you what are you currently working on at the moment that we might not have discussed here this evening? Just out of interest. Yeah. What's in the works?
What's happening in Amelia's world that we can expect to see shortly? Thank you so much for that question. I'm working, you know, with the Honour Native Land group on a project called Honour Native Sky. And it is a, you know, for lack of a better word, a chat bot that helps you navigate some of these awesome information tools around land acknowledgement to climate action and climate justice.
And I think, you know, one of the big impetuses is like during Indigenous Peoples Month, a lot of us indigenous people get so overwhelmed with people who would like us to do a lot of the labour of understanding like decolonisation or land acknowledgement or things like that. And oftentimes we can't do as many of the free labour that people request so I thought, what if I could create a bot that could kind of help people out? And it's a little bit cheeky. It it pretends like it's going to solve all your problems. But really, it might ask you a couple of questions and let you know some things that you need to do rather than things that other people need to do for you. So I don't know, wouldn't it be cool if we could all just have chat bots that could help us do things that we didn't want to do for people, but they did it Definitely.
so that's Honour Native Sky. What was that? Personalised chatbots? Definitely. Yeah. Yeah, I feel like it's half stupid hackathon project, but have actually like.
No, but it'll really be useful, though. So. We've got one minute left, Amelia. We've got one question left, and I don't know if Kay or Ben had asked you this before, but would you make a multigenerational and maybe a multi-century based video game? Hmm. What was the last part I'm sorry I didn't hear, Would you make a multigenerational or a multi-century video game? Does that sound of interest? Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I think that games that are ideas are some of the most lasting and multigenerational things. I recently met with this incredible scholar of Creek language, and he said when he was first learning Creek, he had all these recordings of of these incredible language keepers in the Creek indigenous nation.
And he listened to them recently and he was like, Oh, my God, I didn't realise they're making fun of me. I felt like when I was just learning that language, I only understood like 5 out of the 20 words they said. And then later I go back to those recordings now that I'm like a fluent speaker.
And I'm like, oh, my God, they were making fun of me. And I thought to myself, that is an intergenerational game. So like, I could teach someone the language while making fun of them. And they don't get the joke for 10 years! Freaking amazing! So I would love to make an intergenerational game, one that would last 100 years. That would be amazing.
Anyone who would like to do that with me. Let's go. Thank you, Amelia. That's all we've got time for. But that was fabulous. Thank you so much. I've just got up in the background just as we say our goodbyes, some of your Wampum.Codes podcast that I really encourage people
to go and have a listen to you speaking more and more and more. There are so many different ideas that came up through the podcast as well. I'm thinking about - I can't remember now who it was now that mentioned wanting to do an indigenous game engine, you talk about indigenous game engines. You talk about naming different technologies, and embedding languages into different technologies to keep them alive and active.
And you also talk about throttlin you also talk about so many different issues that we didn't get to today. But I just, you know, to continue what you're talking about and to kind of continue people listening and really investing in conversation. So I want to say thank you to Amelia. Thank you to everyone that's joined us today. Thank you to Alex, to Ralph Thank you to Judy. Thank you, Sarah. Thank you Kay, thank you to everyone.
Don't forget everyone to sign up to our newsletter at futureartecosystems.org download FAE2 at futureartecosystems.org as well, or visit the Arts Technologies section of a Serpentine website. Here you'll also find our Legal Lab report that was released last week. Our next free live will be on 27th September with Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, followed by Robin of Marshmallow Laser Feast in early October All the links that we've been talking are in the chat for you also.
So for everyone that's joined us, thank you and good night.