Artwork by Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker
Stories & Ideas

Tue 05 Mar 2024

Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker
Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker

Technologist, writer & digital rights activist

Go on a journey through the rivers and tributaries of airways, roots and knowledge systems.

Through our stories of country, we know how closely related and interconnected we are, not only to each other but to everything else in the continuous cycles of life. We are taught resilience through the stories of regeneration that have ensured the survival of our culture – a culture that has always remained central in our sovereignty of mind.

Alexis Wright, The Inward Migration in Apocalyptic Times

The first part of a poem, which reads: 
it begins
in breath
in particles and Perlin noise
pathways woven from body to root
to become the
of red and white cells
branching through bone
through veins and

When the voice of Cate Blanchett in Evolver: Deep Listening Meditation says "our breath" I reach for my N95 mask and play a word association game: 'pathogens', 'airborne', 'distancing'. Nobody wants to make a pandemic piece, but all our art is these days. It is difficult to pretend that breath is a harmless thing. But there are no pathogens in virtual reality. There are also no microbes, no seed or soil, no mycorrhizae weaving relationships between fungi and root. Nowhere to seek light or germinate. If we have the power to create a new reality from 1s and 0s, why would we code pathogens or microbes or irregularities? What, then, is lost?

In creating a virtual space where we may imagine the invisible structures that support all life, we must step inside a space that feels unnaturally inert. In this space, we are invited to consider the blurred boundaries of the body and the continuous pathways that connect the human with our non-human kin. We see the "rivers and tributaries" of the Earth reflected in the arteries and veins of our cardiovascular system, and the underground root system of trees dissolves into particles that make their way through the air and into our lungs. The digital particles flow effortlessly, but my own breathing is a little laboured. Since catching COVID for Christmas, I carry an inhaler in my pocket, and I imagine what my own bronchioles would look like inside this virtual universe; are they weak or inflamed or struggling?

Artwork by Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker

At the end of the exhibition, a footnote hidden behind a sequoia tree approaches truth: "Modern science is helping to reveal something Indigenous knowledge has always held to be true – that what is outside of us is not separate from us." We have systems of interconnectedness, kept strong through stories and the archive of Country. Stories that are sung across time and space, generations and mountains. These layers of story form a technology stack that connects soil, seed, water and breath; an interconnected framework that maintains the integrity of culture and has known the importance of relationality and reciprocity for millennia.

Even in virtual reality, the space we walk through is never inert; we walk on Country wherever we are, with particles of Country embedded in the technologies that power the machines that collect, compute and project. Even in simulation, the trees we capture hold memories and must be cared for.

A poem which reads:
in cavity chest
past pulsing heart
gravitational waves

Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker is a Nyungar technologist, writer, digital rights activist living on Whadjuk Noongar boodjar. They have spent the last decade working in the tech industry, focusing on custodial approaches to data management, analysing systems of surveillance and the impacts of digital colonialism. Their creative practice explores the intersection of activism, science-fiction, and technology in imagining radical futures and ushering them into existence. Kat's work has appeared in Cordite, Running Dog, Red Room Poetry, Best of Australian Poems 2023, and the blak speculative fiction anthology This All Come Back Now.

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