I’ve started brainstorming a new art project based on my interest in “genetics & the digital body” which comes from my interest in the largely unexplored ‘psychogeography’ (and visual culture) of Afrofuturism. Mark Dery (who coined the term Afrofuturism) wrotes about “b-boy bricolage” (see my previous post re: Doze Green’s “wild style”) which is evident in RAMM:ELL:ZEE’s Gothic Futurist aesthetic. I agree with others’ assertions about the experience of the Black Atlantic (as a culture and movement) bringing in the figurative from the beginning.
How could it have survived otherwise? . . . Black people have always been masters of the figurative: saying one thing to mean something quite other has been basic to black survival in oppressive Western cultures. . . . “Reading,” in this sense, was not play; it was an essential aspect of the “literacy” training of a child. This “metaphorical” literacy, the learning to decipher complex codes, is just about the blackest aspect of the black tradition. (Dery/Gates:pg. 185)
Dery interviews speculative/sci-fi fiction writer Samuel R. Delany who explicates the historical reasons black people have been impoverished in terms of future images. He asserts (and I agree) that the answer lies in the fact that we, as a group, were systematically forbidden any images of our past. I have no idea where, in Africa, my black ancestors come from. The Human Genome Project has made it possible to answer the question of where we come from but what of it? I am more interested in how our awareness, the sociocultural landscape, or ecology of the dispersion of black people throughout the planet has created an episteme.
Contemporary philosopher Michel Foucault used the term épistémè in a highly specialized and non-standard sense in his work The Order of Things to mean the historical a priori that grounds knowledge and its discourses and thus represents the condition of their possibility within a particular epoch. In subsequent writings, he made it clear that several epistemes may co-exist and interact at the same time, being parts of various power-knowledge systems.
The last book we have to read in my Culture and Cognition course (this fall) is Epistemic Cultures. I’ll get to this soon but right now this is in the background. What is emerging is the art and my proposal that will address the theme of Anti-Anti Utopia: Art, Technology and Hope, among other proposals on similar topics that are due at the same time. Former Linden Lab evangelist Pathfinder (John Lester) once passed out little white cubes to SIGGRAPH (Boston 2006) attendees.
I think I still have mine. As soon as this weekend my Second Life art space is about to become a prototyping lab for my art proposal. While constructing the exhibition for the SLACTIONS conference I got pinged by a friend who used to do fabrications for companies such as CBS. I told her what I was working on and she sent me to the Shapeways website where I found the Microcubology gallery. I realized just now that it is very feasible for me to fabricate my Second Life experiments via Shapeways and the GVU Prototyping Lab.
Which brings me back to the genome map and the double helix tower as a place to explore real and virtual bricolage, as Afrofuturism.
Or my love of art, technology, science, or science fiction. Or my interest in paradoxical art. Or African / black culture. Or all of the ABOVE!