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Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination

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Mind Blown
"Mind Blown" by  Manzel Bowman, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015

Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination is a visual exploration of complex narratives on the esoteric black speculative imagination. Through an analysis of visual culture surrounding Afrofuturism, science fiction, horror, comics, magical realism, and fantasy, the exhibition examines the power that creativity wields in the struggle for various freedoms of expression and the politics of resistance. Unveiling Visions applies a global lens to the black imagination and brings this context to a wide survey of contemporary works.

Unveiling Visions showcases illustrations, graphic design, literature, posters, and mixed-media digital and analog artworks by 87 emerging, mid-career and acclaimed artists. The collection of visual materials on view serves as a creative, experimental and educational impetus to analyze the growing corpus of work surrounding the nexus between S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and contemporary artistic production.


Images | Bibliography | Artists 

 

THE LIVING ARKIVE

“The Offering” by Paul Lewin, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015
“The Offering” by Paul Lewin, acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015

The archive, or as our curators call it, the ARKive, is a constantly shifting space that allows for a great deal of flexibility on how artwork is shown and represented within the gallery space. It allows us to travel through the objects on display. The ARKive is a space of discovery, interaction, and constant growth. Each day, a new aspect of our culture is discovered, created, and re-contextualized. Unveiling Visions treats the arts and design as part of an ever-evolving discourse between the past, present, and future.

 

 




FINDING SHADOW OBJECTS

“Sun Shepardess” by Julie Dillon, Digital Media, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015

In his award-winning book, "The Grey Album," poet and scholar Kevin Young poses a theoretical construct he refers to as "The Shadow Book." The Shadow Book is a publication that has never actually happened, but it constantly "haunts" the existence of an actual text, has been lost, or should be created. Ralph Ellison’s second novel, which was never written, is a prime example of this concept. Its non-existence inhabits the memory of this great scholar and asks questions that will never be answered. The curators began to think that these books emanated from a "shadow world" filled with "shadow objects": Books and their never-designed covers, songs without lyrics, and objects without their designed schematics. Designer and futurist Bruce Sterling calls these “diegetic prototypes” that use narratives to create designs that ultimately become spaces of inquiry and contention around what has and could transpire. Unveiling Visions blurs the line between fiction and reality by stealthily including shadow objects throughout the collection of works on view.

 








THE DATA THIEF

Vigilism  X Ikire Jones, Digital Media, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015
"Vigilism  X Ikire Jones", Digital Media, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015

In his 1995 documentary, The Last Angel of History, artist/filmmaker John Akomfrah introduces the concept of a “Data Thief,” a fictional time-travelling archaeologist that is charged with piecing together black creative history. The Data Thief digs through the detritus of time and space to seek connections between various points in history and formulate a cohesive narrative. It’s within the spirit of this avatar that the curators are operating. Their method is not a direct representation, but rather a critical interpretation through the lens of black speculative cultural production. The thread that joins these objectsboth real and imaginedtogether is in fact the notion of storytelling. The Data Thief is a story that represents what many people are seeking today: a history, a purpose, and a connection to the past that informs our collective future.



THE PANTECHNOLOGICAL IMPULSE

“Mind of My Mind” by John Jude Palencar, oil on canvas, copyright 2016, all rights reserved; Z-5

Much of the story of Afrofuturism is told in relation to black bodies and technological prosthetics. However, technology does not have to be an object. It also refers to systems, processes, planning methods, applied knowledge and any designed aspect of a culture that can be used by mankind for various tasks. Therefore, race, religion, literacy, and other cultural constructions can also be seen as a technology. Our curators believe that most Afrofuturists, whether or not it’s intentional, imagine their experiences through a pantechnological perspective. It is through this lens that they are able to metaphorically hack into various situations and overcome adversity by understanding that all problems are systemic in nature. It is this hacker mentality that has served people of African descent for generations. These practices permeate all black cultural production from music to art and from literature to dance.

 

 

 

MATERIAL CULTURE, BOTH REAL AND IMAGINED

“Do Androids Dream of How People Are Sheep? by Krista Franklin, mixed media collage, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015

The ARKive is a house of material culture. Records, sketches, posters, and books are vital to understanding this culture. To truly delve into black speculative culture, the curators constructed a narrative through the consumable objects of popular Afrofuturism in order to uncover deeper meanings for why these types of dialogues are useful spaces of resistance, and how we can learn from them through use in our everyday lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGMENTED REALITY THROUGH “THE VEIL”

 “Brave New World” by Damon Davis, Digital Media, courtesy of the artist, copyright 2015

W.E.B. Dubois’s concept of “The Veil” has been scrutinized by scholars and artists alike since he first used the phrase in his seminal book, “The Souls of Black Folk,” at the beginning of the 20th century. The Veil was a literary and philosophical translation of the lives of people of African descent in the Americas. It operated as a second sight, and it still functions as a psychological lens through which African peoples in the Americas express anxiety, hopes, fears, and knowledge of the other. But this exhibition examines what The Veil often hid from the oppressive other in the creative expression of African peoples. The curators expose what happens when there is a successful fusion within The Veil that is not concerned with American assimilation or acceptance, and instead pursues an autonomous creative reality. This choice illuminates how these cultural creative expressions are connected to Afrofuturism, black speculative thought, magical realism, fantasy, and Diasporan culture production. Merging within The Veil, these concepts function as an enhanced lens for critical interpretation, a space to create alternate realities that re-imagine phenomena for African peoples. This creative space does not ask for permission to identify alternate realities. It envisions the world they want and actually creates it.


 

 

Bibliography


Baraka, Amiri. Blues People, New York : W. Morrow, 1963.

Barr, Marleen S. Afro Future Females, Columbus : Ohio State University Press, 2008.

Due, Tananarive. The Good House, New York : Atria Books, 2003.

Durham, David Anthony. Acacia, New York: Doubleday, 2007.

Green, Martin I. Voodoo Child, New York : Penguin Group, 1995.

Hopkinson, Nalo. Sister Mine, New York, NY : Grand Central Publishing, 2013.

Mosley, Walter. The Tempest Tales, Baltimore : Black Classic Press, 2008.

Peterson, Gilles and Stuart Baker, Eds. Freedom, Rhythm & Sound, London : SJR Pub. : In association with Soul Jazz Record, 2009.

Schroeder, Patricia R. Robert Johnson. Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture, Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Thomas, Sheree R., Ed. Dark Matter, New York : Warner Books, 2000.

Thomas, Sheree R., Ed. Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, New York : Aspect/Warner Books, 2004.

Wester, Maisha L. African American Gothis: Screams from Shadowed Places, New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

 

Artists

Jiba Molei Anderson
Julie Anderson
K.F. Anderson
Shawn Alleyne
Dawud Anyabwile
Lalo Alcaraz
Gil Ashby
Alex Batchelor
Eric Battle*
Geneva "GD Bee" Benton
Rivenis Black
Manzel Bowman
Stanford Carpenter
Matthew Clarke
Chuck Collins
Denys Cowan
Dave Crosland
Jennifer Cruté
Sharon L. DeLa Cruz
Andrew Dalhouse
Andre Leroy Davis
Damon Davis
Mike and Mark Davis
Paul Deo
Duane Deterville
Julie Dillon
Pierre Droal
Damian Duffy
James Eugene
Tim Fielder
Krista Franklin
Craig Fusco
Nettrice Gaskins
Charlie Goubile
Kari Gunther
Shomari Harrington
N. Steven Harris
Micheline Hess
Alex Huchiwood
Ariel Jackson
John Jennings
Art Jones
Vigilism X Ikire Jones
Bizhan Khodabandeh
Black Kirby
Mshindo Kuumba I
Paul Lewin
James Lewis
Shawn Martinbrough
James Mason
Sheeba Maya
Brian McGee
Miranda Meeks
Richard Meril
Goni Montes
Edison Moody
Jon Moody
Bryan Christopher Moss
Maurice Mosqua
Tim Okamura
Eric Orr
Brandon Palas
John Jude Palencar
Ken Patterson
Ben Passmore
Cedric Peyravernay
Tony Puryear
Jason Reeves
Afua Richardson
Tristan Roach
Stacey Robinson
Adam Roush
Vincent Sammy
Mathieu Saunier
Craig "C Flux" Singleton
Kevin Sipp
Maya Smith
Tansie Stephens
Marque Strickland
Ron Wimberly Toujour
Obi Ud
Quentin Vercetty
Dave White
Eric Wilkerson
Loic Zimmermann