The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto

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Martine Syms, film still produced for the cover of Most Days (2014). LP. Mixed Media Recordings, Brooklyn.

The undersigned, being alternately pissed off and bored, need a means of speculation and asserting a different set of values with which to re-imagine the future. In looking for a new framework for black diasporic artistic production, we are temporarily united in the following actions.

***The Mundane Afrofuturists recognize that:***

We did not originate in the cosmos.

The connection between Middle Passage and space travel is tenuous at best.

Out of five hundred thirty-four space travelers, fourteen have been black. An all-black crew is unlikely.

Magic interstellar travel and/or the wondrous communication grid can lead to an illusion of outer space and cyberspace as egalitarian.

This dream of utopia can encourage us to forget that outer space will not save us from injustice and that cyberspace was prefigured upon a "master/slave" relationship.

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Cyborg Humanism: Wangechi Mutu at Brooklyn Museum

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Wangechi Mutu, A'gave you (2008). Mixed media collage on mylar, 93" x 54".

The violent and ambiguous encounter depicted in A'gave you (2008) encapsulates the force and intent of Wangechi Mutu's collages, the highlight of her ongoing retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. A blue, thick-rooted, and out-sized version of the New World monocot bends to a violated female pseudo-cyborg. Her eyes, cheap black speckled pearls, are replicated in the plant's ovary. The kneeling figure's torso, head, and left arm are thrown back in disinterested submission; her right arm is lost to perspective and/or trauma. Gold sparkle and blood explodes from her chest as she births, or pisses, a long, fat strand of bright yellow-orange which forms a new root-system beneath both her and the plant.

Mutu's strangely lucid mixed-media mylar pieces contort the sexualization of black women in consumer society into glittering, gorgeous grotesques. The twin pieces 100 Lavish Months of Bushwhack (2004) and Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies (2005) feature female figures hobbled with hippo hands, faces stitched together from pornographic images, golden skin, and exploding motorcycle high-heels. They also depict differing levels of power among multiple exploited figures. The End of Eating Everything (2013), Mutu's first foray into film, features the head of Santigold gnashing a gyring flock of black birds with bloody chompers. Slowly, the plane Santigold exists on expands to reveal that her face leads a massive she-planetoid, comprising writhing limbs and embedded, useless machinery, powered by her/its own gaseous effluent. The piece is truly disconcerting and accentuates Mutu's often overlooked theme of ecological disaster.

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An Illustrated History of Afrofuturism

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Adrienne Crew is writing a series on Afrofuturism for HiLobrow, with special consideration of Pedro Bell's cover designs. From her third post on alien iconography:

 

Parliament was also one of the first creators to introduce into mainstream pop culture the narrative that aliens jump-started Egyptian, and by extension African, civilization. Many had been captivated by Erich von Däniken’s 1968 book, Chariot of the Gods, but P-Funk took the idea further and pushed a more Afrocentric agenda than Däniken.

Aliens and alienation are key features of Afrofuturism. [Pedro] Bell’s aliens were not alienated from their place in the world. Funk offered the promise of feeling at peace with the universe; a condition that often eludes African Americans.

Her second post considers "transportation—especially ships—as both a danger, and a vehicle for escape from danger."

 

[Bell's] Dali-esque cover for Standing on the Verge of Getting On features an actual chariot, manned by a Greek hero ready to fight space aliens. There’s even a detailed rendering of a Space Needle on the cover of Tales of Kidd Funkedelic.

 

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