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What is the link between ancient Aboriginal knowledge systems, biometric data, the direction of the wind, satellite surveillance, AI and a very old sacred wirra (tree) deep in Adnyamathanha Country?
The link runs through Adam Goodes and his deep ancestral connections. For the past four years, Adam Goodes, Angie Abdilla & Baden Pailthorpe have been slowly and consciously working with Adnyamathana Custodians and Yarta (Country) in an effort to navigate some of the most complex questions of our time.
Every AFL game Adam Goodes played, his body was tracked 10 times per second via a global network of satellites and a small device on his back. Whilst this surveillance is standard for all AFL players, the historical and ongoing surveillance of Aboriginal people in Australia means that the tracking of Aboriginal footballers has a vexed cultural and political significance.
The entanglement of Adam’s biometric data within the metaphysics of Aboriginal knowledge systems has remained invisible, until now.
This exhibit is on Kaurna Country. We acknowledge Kaurna Elders past and present and thank them for hosting this exhibition of artworks that include Adnyamathanha Kinship, Country and Language.
This exhibit is a window into Adnyamathanha Country. Before you enter this space, please listen to the welcome by Adnyamathanha Elder Aunty Glenise Coulthard AM. This recording in Yura Ngwarla was recorded on Adnyamathanha Yarta.
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Every AFL game Adam Goodes played, his body was tracked 10 times per second via a global network of satellites and a small device on his back.
Adam’s phenomenal spatial awareness and ability to see and predict patterns within time and space is derived from an alternate world view.
This is expressed through a relational interconnection with Country and different ways of seeing, being, knowing, sensing, and presencing which directly linked Adam to his ancestral connections when playing at his best.
As such, Adam’s vast AFL dataset is culturally significant. Yet this significance has remained invisible until now…
This exhibition reveals the cultural significance of Adam’s data through the Adnyamathanha kinship system. This system is based on two Moieties (blood groups) with specific characteristics: Ararru (North Wind) and Mathari (South Wind). Adam belongs to the Ararru Moiety.
The Ararru (North Wind) and Mathari (South Wind) you hear in this exhibition space were recorded on Adnyamathanha Yarta as they swirled around the Wirra (tree). The wind moves through this space via speakers on the North and South side.
Inside the Wirra, Adnyamathanha Elder Uncle Terrence Coulthard tells the Adnyamathana
Muda of Ikara (Wilpena Pound) in the Adnyamathanha Yura Ngwarla (language). You can also hear the voice of Adam Goodes echoing key sections of this Muda in Ngwarla (language), with footage of Adnyamathanha Yarta (Country) playing on two screens.
We used machine learning to translate this key Adnyamathanha Murda into the sound of the Ararru (North Wind) and Mathari (South Wind) by programming their characteristics into an algorithm. This materialises the connection between Country and Kinship systems through an embodied experience.
In order to symbolically return Adam’s AFL data to Country, he chose (and was chosen by) a significant Wirra (tree – pronounced ‘widda’) on Adnyamathanha Yarta (Country).
Both Adam’s AFL data and the 3D scan of the Wirra have a three-dimensional form called a point cloud.
In our artwork, Adam’s data sits underneath and around the Wirra. Both are animated with a wind that simulates the Ararru (North Wind) and Mathari (South Wind) of the Adnyamathanha Kinship system.
The Wirra in this artwork is at least 500 years old. The age of this tree escapes western techniques of dating – very old Red River Gums like this one hollow out from the inside, so the oldest wood can’t be used to estimate age. This tree represents a physical connection to Adam’s Adnyamathanha ancestors who lived the old way next to this Wirra until approximately 1930.
This artwork shows the interconnection and interrelationship of Yarta (Country) and Kinship systems developed over millennia.
It invites you to experience Adnyamathanha culture with your body, it asks you to listen to the lyrical beauty of Adnyamathanha Ngawarla (language) and the sound of the wind, and it asks you to consider how Aboriginal Traditional Knowledges are a form of sophisticated technology.
- Tracker Data Project site
- Hear more about the Tracker Data Project
- What is Indigenous cultural intellectual property and copyright and how can I respect it?
- The AFL’s plan for data
- Where is Adnyamathanha Country?
- Insights from “Indigenous Ontologies”: Stepping Inside the Wirra
- Getting ahead of the game: athlete data in professional sport
- Adam Goodes’s AFL data, its entanglement with Aboriginal knowledge systems, and the sacred Wirra that’s protecting it
- Adam Goodes Tracker Data Project
- Angie Abdilla Tracker Data Project
- Baden Pailthorpe Tracker Data Project