DEPOSITS OF THE FUTURE

Deposits of the Future through Times and Spaces: African/Diasporic Safe Knowledge

“[I]t it is our visions which sustain us. Do not neglect nor shortchange them. Do not treat your dreams lightly. They point the way toward a future made possible by our belief in them and our labors in their name, which is also ours. There is a world in which we all wish to live. That world is not attained lightly. We call it future.”

 –Audre Lorde, I Am Your Sister.

My ideas are drawn from my work on digital Diasporic spaces, which mostly is theoretical and discursive. I work a lot with images, which I see as a carrier of collective knowledge translated into (a) different language/s to travel and re/connect with agents who weren’t present at the particularly moment. The translation part is multi complex, because it is drawing from and feeding into a constantly growing archive of collective knowledge. This body of symbols, codes and references, spread and re/negotiated through different media, academic and art representations as music, sound, pictures (in contrast to ‘images’), poetry, biographies, and various genres of fiction create/d a net of texts. I like to think of this archive as a map of our connected Diasporic experience, which probably manifests itself the best now in the digital representation. The archive of knowledge is passed on through generations of African/Diasporic people through times but also through geographic spaces, enlarging this map, which itself became part of the archive. As ways and modes of transfer may vary and academic scholarship usually just peaks into small ‘spaces’ of it looking for aspects relatable to their disciplinary embedded subject-matter, I believe that it is such an archive of knowledge where our key concepts i.e. future – and with that history and present –, time and, narration are informed by and re/negotiated through. Especially Western academic scholarship might not always find their research connected to this notion. The dynamics developing from such disconnect are in every research results embedded. Questions like, who’s story is been told?, which story is not been told?, do have a larger impact then just being references to the power of contribution. They rather go to the heart of that what is not communicated, what is held back. It is in this context the assertion that one is silent toward a certain mode of knowledge production is a valid (intellectual) intervention. This silence manifests itself in manifold ways and is highly consequential to everybody’s work. While most white scholars are not actively aware of it, it does mirror itself in their work as the void I discussed earlier. A work of void/s that will be passed on by citations and transformations as pioneering. It can be argued that the politics of knowledge (-production) are nowhere else so urgently present as in the left-out traces of lived realities of the other. But, while silence in all cases contains a certain kind of transgression, it can be read as a paradoxical performance, as a realm of the subversive. In any case that which often finds its way as a ‘void’ in normative research can be seen as a trace of resistance, a rupture within, so to speak. The silence of a self-authorized (collective) subject contains both, critique and crisis. Empirical research with/in an arguably very small pool of ‘informants’ often lives from human networks scholars are able to built. Those human networks aren’t necessarily able to translate or even be part of the collective experience behind the ‘void.’ To understand that the question, Whose story is being told?, is not just a variant of the question, Who can speak?, but points to the danger of a normalizing academic discourse where that which is being told is that which can be made intelligible and comprehensible to a certain knowledge is here ultimately important. Furthermore, assuming that all experiences can be analyzed by everybody ultimately leads to appropriations of collective experiences (see above). Chimamanda Adichie already warned us how entangled histories can nonetheless present parallel lives.

As the past has to become present or better a piece of the present in order to become history and as with access to the past comes access to the future, there is a lot at stake for African/Diasporic perspectives in the endeavor of re/searching African/ Diasporic futures. I do understand my work also in and as a response to a tendency of the commoditization of such ‘African futures’, which do use or operate on commodifying representations of Blackness in general. It is in this context that I first experienced kara lych’s work on Black imagination, time and spaces. Her speculative installation work is based on and embedded in many of the archival connections of collective memory. It speaks to me in a way that combines theory and artistic practice. As kara’s work is investigating notions of space in and through time/s I was trying to connect the idea of using an existing safe in the place of the exhibition (Iwalewahaus) as a safe space and a space that manifests voids, and exclusion at the same time. As we all work on new knowledge productions in the field of future conceptualizations in Africa and its Diaspora our work ultimately also paves the way for future past-memories. Thus our works, now here communicated (and translated) to a broader public point first and foremost to different imaginations and envisionings of the future. However, the value of multiple and even contested perspectives of Future Africa lies also in a disclosure of strategies of engagement and processes of this future past-memory-production. As memories are constructed so might be also our futures. This may open a way of actualizing our futures – as Audre Lorde once suggested –, where we negotiate and subvert conceptions of history and develop different conceptions of time and history, making a radically different future easier to imagine.

The very space of a walk-in safe can not only symbolize this but also make it physically tangible. Although the space itself is visible as there is a little room on the level of the main exhibition that lead to the stairs to get down to the safe, visitors do need some hints, symbols and codes of motivation get stimulated to explore this space on the margin. This speaks directly to the selective processes we executing everyday to ‘go’ or search for something or not: the ‘choice’ behind searching for knowledge will so be more physically tangible and the void of not doing so hopefully also be emotionally more accessible. This space – as a walk-in safe – will demonstrate both, the physical and intellectual consequences of knowledge on the margin, a knowledge (and by that, a history and future) that is – literary – left in the basement as well as the very fact that these spaces are always shaped and developed as safe spaces for African/Diasporic lives and stories. Because in the collective experience of African/ Diasporic histories and futures we live our theories, work and praxis not as some distant dream, but as something that can and will happen, that is happening right now. We should here look to and borrow from the discussions on the African continent, which right now are reclaiming these Futures. As Achille Mbembe pointed out: “So we wanted to recapture that category of the future and see to what extent it could be remobilized in the attempt at critiquing the present, and reopening up a space not only for imagination, but also for the politics of possibility.”

Written by Peggy Piesche

RECORDS OF AFRICAN BLACK QUEER (TIMES)

The Invisible Color of (V)Si(o)lence – Analogue Differences and Future Presences ‘n the Image is the third line of this project’s title. The collages are problematizing different strings of queerness that overlap, intersect and assemblage.  The photos narrate stories that make an other normality sound. They are about the normality of queerness and blackness. They are about ‘being-Muslim’ as culturalized ‘race’ and about ‘being not-Muslim’ and about African (Diasporic) gazes. The images are about all the things in-between where meaning always lingers and then vanishes away into its other sublime physical states in specific times, mo(ve)ments and about what all that means: a range of entirely different possibilities, living next to each other, raising out from each other. The photographs invite us to look at doors in the background. Doors which can be understood as spaces that one has left behind or wants to enter. Doors that can be regarded as visas and borderlines into (one)other(s) wor(l)ds, doors that one has left behind or about to open or long ago has been excluded from entering. And yet, they seem to suggest that there is an other world over there that cannot be touched by our gazes, by the world, from this site of the image. The Photo-graphs silently also depict ‘religion’ as item, fetish and geopoliticized ‘culture’ and the possibilities of understanding. They are about spaces, gazes, about capabilities and matterings that linger in the future that we cannot know.

The photos graph from this future, gazing here at us, reminding us of what here is – a whole range of miss-possibilites that cry out for a materialized ethical turn, in the face of borders, wrongs and violence to which we are compliant, that we must reframe in order to get there. In a way these photos are archives of heterotopias of human imagination and how it (may) materialize(s) – hopefully.

Mariam Popal

KARA LYNCH

kara lynch is a time-based artist living en exilio in Brooklyn, NY. Born in the auspicious year of 1968. Ambivalent towards hyper-visual culture, she is curious about duration, embodiment, and aural experience ; and through collective practice and social intervention lynch explores aesthetic/political relationships between time + space. Her work is vigilantly raced, classed, and gendered – Black, queer and feminist. kara is a member of Interdiciplinario, La Linea, a feminist artist collective on the Tijuana/San Ysidro border. She completed her MFA in Visual Arts at UCSD, a Permaculture Design Certification from the Center for Bioregional Living, and and has been a research fellow in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, University of Texas, Austin and the Academy for Advanced African Studies at Bayreuth University in Germany. She currently earns a living as an Associate Professor of Video and Critical Studies at Hampshire College in Amhest, MA.

Major projects include: ‘Invisible’ – an episodic, speculative installation and performance project; ‘Mouhawala Oula’ – a trio performance for oriental dance, live video and saxophone, ‘Black Russians’ – a feature-length documentary; and ‘The Outing’ – a video travelogue. Awards for her video and performance work include iFilms and PlanetOut and Individual artist grants from Lila Wallace, NYFA, NYSCA, Paul Robeson Foundation, and Franklin Furnace. She has participated in various artist residencies: Arts International Residency in Moscow; the Banff Centre for the Arts; el Laboratorio Fronterizo de Escritores/Writing Lab on the Border; and the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy. She is published in XCP Streetnotes, Ulbandus Review, BFM, contributed audio to Cabinet Magazine, video to PocketMyths, and drawings/writings to the Encyclopedia Project v.II F-K. lynch is currently co-editing the forthcoming anthology: We Travelled the Spaceways Black Imagination, Fragments and Diffractions.

EMEKA ALAMS

Emeka Alams was born in Nigeria and his name has a strong meaning: God has done something wonderful
He has spent his life between western Africa, Europe and the States. He feels like a semi-homeless person, and can’t help but feel nostalgic about Africa from New York, city where he currently lives and works. The strong feeling of belonging to the continent fills his spirit and the one of Gold Coast Trading, the brand he has created.
Emeka sets a date in the story of his journey Live from the coast for when it all began, it’s 1444, the same year in which European colonists began the deportation of the first Africans. The first breaking point with a cultural world filled with suggestion that the African continent is trying hard to defend today and that those that have grown in the States or in Europe are loosing.

– See more at: http://www.vogue.it/en/vogue-black/the-black-blog/2011/04/gold-coast-trading#sthash.N3eK3Oxv.dpuf

picture: Amber French

FABIO VANIN

Fabio Vanin is an architect and urban designer, holding a PhD in Urbanism from University Iuav of Venice, completed in 2008 with the thesis “Maputo Open City – Investigations on an African Capital City”. He worked as project leader for several strategic plans in Europe (Antwerp, Gent, Gorzow, Poznan) and Africa (Nairobi), and as research assistant at TU Eindhoven and at University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. In 2009 he co-founded LATITUDE – Platform for Urban Research and Design, where he is currently involved in an international comparative research on water based urbanism, “Floating Urbanism”. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Landscape Urbanism at the Vrjie Univrsiteit Brussel.

Bibliography:

F. Vanin et al., “Prototypes Beautopia” in P. Pellegrini, P. Viganò (eds.), Comment vivre ensemble: prototypes of hidrorhithmical conglomerates and shared spaces, Officina Editori, Rome 2006. F. Vanin, “Multiculturalism in Maputo: from society to physical spaces”, in Planning for the risk society. Dealing with uncertainty, challenging the future, XXI AESOP (Association of European School of Planning) International Conference, Naples 2007. P. Guedes, Vitruvius Mozambicanus, ed. by F. Vanin, DODO, Venice 2011

ABDI OSMAN

Abdi Osman is a Somali-Canadian multidisplinary artist whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities. Osman’s video and photography work has been shown in Canada and internationally in both group and solo exhibitions. He holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and B.A. in African Studies from the University of Toronto. Previous work has been supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. His photographs are also in private collections and the Art Bank of the Canada Council for the Arts. Some of his work was in the year-long group show DiaporaArt: Strategy and Seduction by Canadian Artists from Culturally Diverse Communities at Rideau Hall. Abdi was a 2010 artist-in-resident at the McColl Centre for Visual Arts in Charlotte North Carolina. Most recently in 2012, he was a fellow at The Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Creativity (ICCC) at the University of Saskatchewan.

CONCEPTS OF FUTURE IN MEDIASPACES OF AFRICA AND ITS DIASPORAS

Our sub-project is dedicated to fictional conceptualisations of the future in the intersection and overlapping of internet, imagination and Africa and its diasporas.

Description

The sub-project “Concepts of Future in Mediaspaces of Africa and its Diasporas” is dedicated to fictional conceptualizations of ‘Future’ in the intersecting trans-spaces of Internet, Fiction, and Africa/n Diasporas. In doing so, literary studies are mobilized as transcultural and transmedial “life science” (Ottmar Ette).

Terms

Diasporas constitute societal spaces that perform entangled (hi)stories and generate transcultural futures, promising creative solutions for global challenges. Fiction does not exist in a vacuum; rather, given constellations of knowledge, power and visions are negotiated polyphonously—affirmed, and/or subverted. Diasporas transgress borders between languages and nations just as much as fiction transgresses conventional boundaries of genres and media. The Internet has become a haven and home for these kinds of intersections and interactions of both Africa and its diasporas as well as media and genres. Weblogs, informational as well as social fora (to mention just the most obvious), are mediaspaces that are informed by given geopolitical power constellations and yet offer scopes of intellectual and aesthetic mobility that transgress them. Here, a poetics arises that (re)invents itself for the future, coping with history and negotiating the present.

Methodology and Theory

Literary Studies facing transmedial and transcultural fiction has to reinvent itself and resituate its structures, concepts and agendas. The various projects will rely on an expertise in African and African-diasporic Literatures, English and Anglophone Literatures, as well as German and Romance Literatures. Yet, conventional pigeonholes such as national literatures and one-language-one-nation-only frames of literary studies are likewise transgressed. As a result, the project performs Transcultural Literary Studies, relying on postcolonial theory and critical whiteness studies, Diaspora studies, gender and sexuality studies, and queer studies.

Questions

1. How are visions of ‘Future’ mediated via the Internet?

2. Which visions and projections of ,Future’—with particular reference to Africa/n diasporas, Europe, and the USA—are negotiated in fiction, above all in Afrofuturism, Africanist Science Fiction and African-diasporic Net-Art?

3. How have Afrofuturism, Africanist SF and African-diasporic Net-Art intervened and generated visions of histories that remember into futures? (How) do they influence conceptualizations of the future and intervene in contemporary processes? What are the implications of such interventions?

4. What are the impacts of visions of ‘Future’ on global archives of knowledge, on transcultural dialogicity, and on local and translocal conceptions of ‘Future’ in Europe, Africa and the USA?

5. (How) Does the Internet influence other media? Does it open specific potentials for future-oriented, transcultural and transmedial forms of expression, as well as, e.g., new economic and ethical formats of ‘intellectual property’? How do various genres interact, how are their stakeholders and/or agencies cross-linked on the local and/or transregional levels, and how do their literary-aesthetical visions of ‘Future’ influence political activism in ‘real’ (local) settings, especially in urban agglomerations—understood as contact spaces between Africa-/Europe/Northern America/Asia, and Africa/Diaspora(s)—, respectively?

6. Different Web formats (blogs, artists’ websites, publications in social fora, etc.) will be compared in order to address the following questions: To what extent do new aesthetic genres, especially those of particular relevance for the development and/or presentation of visions of ‘Future’ in/for Africa, emerge from and through the Internet? In a comparative perspective, Internet literature of the African Diaspora(s) can be analyzed in relation to other, ‘classical’ literary media (publishers, booksellers, literary cafés, academia, etc.), and the relevance of the Internet for different regional spaces shall be considered. Insomuch as Web-based aesthetic production presents itself as polyphonic genre-crossing, prose and Spoken Word Performances will be compared with genres such as fine (visual) arts, photography, music, and theatre/film production in/of African Diaspora(s).

7. (How) Can research on new literary representations of future (e.g. ‘Afrofuturism’, SF, African-diasporic Net-Art) determine coordinates for the future of a ‘Literary Study in Motion’ (Ottmar Ette), contribute to new paradigms and mappings, and thereby result in the advancement of both literature and literary studies?