Last Tuesday, I went to Kodwo Eshun‘s lecture, “In the Hour of the Halogen Wolves,” that was part of the Afrofuturism series and as the the title suggests, it was very dense. This man has a lot to say and he is definitely sesquipedalian (go look it up), but I did learn a lot. So, here is my list of the main topics of the night:
* Eshun presented a framework analysis of his 1997 book, “More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction“, which can be viewed here as a pdf file:
1) the intersections between different fields, organized sound and world-building or story-building in science fiction.
2) Neologism: new word, phrases or terms that are in the process of being incorporated into common use, but are not yet part of mainstream language. Music puts pressure on language to create new language and that language has to catch-up with music. Neologic often precedes concept and is a primal act. Academia and journalism are challenged by this because it rejects rigidity or standardization but an openness to incorporate new thoughts, constant new understanding, and new possibilities.
3) Microsonic dramas (the skit), macrosonic dramas (the conceptual album) and concept-engineering.
4) Code words for a secret public (references hidden in public, open secrecy), or as Tricia Rose calls it, “hidden transcripts,” world-views that only a few would recognize and they must be protected and shared simultaneously.
5) Being plugged into the machine
6) 90s science fiction: probing into or discovering the present that allows one to probe into texts not yet made or not yet clear, the hoodlum scientist, the influence of JG Ballard
7) Traveling at the speed of thought: album or song titles are like theories condensed into a single statement to be unpacked later.
8 ) Marchall Mcluhan’s “Hot and Cold media” chapter in “Understanding Media: The Extension of Man”
9) His table of (dis)contents: a) moving away from Black music as mainly connected to orality or an exaggerated admiration of the voice b) dislike of focus on historical and biographical; instead focus more on parahistorical, ahistorical, analogical, anonymity and mythopoesis/fabulism c) ignorance of electronics d) over-evaluation of Hip-Hop (James Baldwin: the slightest shift in Negro identity, the stars would lose position) e) More emphasis on “unblack,” “unpopular,” and “unculture” and less on this idea of ghetto centricity to give more shine on unknown black composers.
*He spoke about how the electronica group, Drexciya:
1) Name from the myth of the underwater subcontinent populated by the Africans who were either thrown or jumped overboard into the sea during the slave trade.
2) Hydra Decapita: Hercules and the hydra myth in the Puritan history of Christianity and the story’s presence in the fear of ruling classes who feel the need to strictly control lower classes.
3) Aqua Incognita: a) Late November-December 1781– The Zong slave ship massacre in which over 130 slaves were thrown overboard, b) The “Power of Art” short film on JMW Turner’s painting, “The Slave Ship” based on the massacre, c) M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady of the Water prologue, c) the women thrown overboard and their ability to breed underwater, d) mermaids, gill men, e) liquid oxygen and mutating to be able to breath underwater, f) the water in the womb, g) water gods (Mami Wata, Loa Agwe), h) the Black Atlantic narratives, i) the ocean as rebirth and escape from terrestrial terror to ancestral return, j) water as sentient being.
4) Post-human society in which we we are fusing with machines
5) Capital: The Machine of Death; we have become capital bearing machines
6) Cultural mutation and alien abduction as a result of the slave trade
Eshun had another lecture the next day with his Otolith Group, but sadly I was not able to attend. But as you have read, he did give me a lot to think about.
Do you live in New York City? Are you interested in going to a few conferences on Afrofuturism? First, Parsons School of Design, part of The New School, is hosting several lectures over the next few months in Manhattan. Some of the speakers include Alondra Nelson (that one was one Sept. 20), Julie Mehretu (Oct. 4), George Lewis (Oct. 11), Kodwo Eshun (Oct. 25- I am going to this one), Keith and Mendi Obadike (Nov. 15), Nalo Hopkinson (Nov. 29) and Wanuri Kahui (Dec. 6- I might go to this one). All the lectures are at 6 pm at 66 Fifth Avenue.
Also, a few updates on The Festival of the New Black Imagination. Some of the speakers will be Sanford Biggers, A. Sayeeda Clarke, Dominique Morriseau, Toure, Vernon Reid, Greg Tate, Baratunde Thurston, Elon James White. Tickets are on sale now and you have a few days left to show some support by making a donation.