Black Futures for Black History Month

My practice-research phd project is on Mundane Counterfuturisms. Counterfuturisms are a multiplicity of heterogeneous futurisms from oppressed/marginalized communities and groups, my definition is adapted from Jussi Parikka, a new media theorist. For my purposes mundane means the everyday, between extremes, but not necessarily boring.

The forebearer of most, if not all, these counterfuturisms is Afrofuturism. So for Black History Month I’m going to try and talk about a few creatives who are loosely in that field and the expanded/related fields of Black Quantum Futures, Africanfuturism, Black Speculative Arts, Caribbean Futurism, etc. Nomenclature on this is important but always in flux and intersectional. Someone can think of themselves in multiple of these overall futurisms (or none but still be working in similar themes).

The first artist I want to talk about is Lee Blalock. I was lucky enough to see a talk that Lee gave as part of the opening of the virtual exhibition at NYUAD Art Gallery on January 20th. The exhibition, not in, of, along, or relating to a line was curated by Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Maya Allison. It is designed to be viewed on a phone or other digital only device, not as a virtual representation of a physical space but designed for the device more directly.

person wearing a light up gas mask while painting nails

Screenshot from Ev3ryd4y Cyb0rg TV Episode 2: Gr00mL1ght

 

(side bar) Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, Hesam Rahmanian (RRH!) are also in the show with work that features their studio space and table that I miss so much from our experiences when they were the mentor artists for a show I was in in Dubai, Ishara.

RRH's Studio-House in Dubai with a group of artists and curators around the table discussing a project

RRH’s studio-house during our discussions for Ishara

(/side bar)

Lee also makes work under the moniker of L[3]^2. Lee is faculty at SAIC in the Art and Technology Studies Department with a BS from Spelman College and a MFA from SAIC.

Ev3ryd4y Cyb0rg TV is an experimental web tv project combining the media and creative computation practices of L[3]^2 with the mundane actions of everyday being. The Everyday Cyborg does normal tasks such as painting nails or working on a computer, all while wearing elaborate gas mask devices that ring bells, inflate balloons, or flash lightbulbs, The gas masks and the all indoor action really fit in today’s day to day life for all of us during a pandemic but predate this current environment by years. Maybe Lee was already foretelling the future the rest of us didn’t expect.

 

Everyday Cyborg wearing a gas mask device with bells

Screenshot of Ev3ryd4y Cyb0rg TV Episode 3: L0-F1 Loop

 

Three people wearing custom wearable instruments made of gas masks

Instr/augment. Custom wearable instruments. sy5z3n_3 debuted at Elastic Arts as part of the WE Series on August 28, 2018.

 

Most citations are the links, so follow them! Otherwise:

Parikka, J. (2018) “Middle East and other futurisms: imaginary temporalities in contemporary art and visual culture,” Culture, Theory and Critique. Routledge, 59(1), pp. 40–58.

Except the RRH image, I do not own the rights to these images, they are from Lee Blalock’s website.

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