The My-Stery: The Social Brain, Psionic Ability and Shiftings of Mind, Body and Space

Source: Scientific American

While reading this morning Brainpicking’s, “The Science of Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” the article stood out to me because of its connection between sociality, survival and mindreading:

“[Matthew D. Lieberman] argues that this osmosis of sociality and individuality is an essential aid in our evolutionary development rather than an aberrant defect in it:

Our sociality is woven into a series of bets that evolution has laid down again and again throughout mammalian history. These bets come in the form of adaptations that are selected because they promote survival and reproduction. These adaptations intensify the bonds we feel with those around us and increase our capacity to predict what is going on in the minds of others so that we can better coordinate and cooperate with them. The pain of social loss and the ways that an audience’s laughter can influence us are no accidents. To the extent that we can characterize evolution as designing our modern brains, this is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. These are design features, not flaws. These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth.

The implications of this span across everything from the intimacy of our personal relationships to the intricacy of organizational management and teamwork. But rather than entrusting a single cognitive “social network” with these vital functions, our brains turn out to host many…”

“The Social Brain and Its Superpowers”

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Otherworldly Videos: High Priestesses – Gira Dahnee + Omega Sirius Moon

Love and Death:

Gira Dahnee – “Painted Waltz”

Omega Sirius Moon – “OSM: DESTROY: The Trip to Shaman Rock”

Cosmic Ghost at the Museum: Notes from Kindred Book Club

Here’s the third recap from The Shadows Took Shape exhibition. Today, I am sharing the notes and questions (some thoughts came after the club) from the book club for Octavia Butler’s Kindred with moderators Rasheedah Phillips of The Afrofuturist Affair and artist John Jennings.

First, notes from Rasheedah’s presentation, Time, Memory and Agency

*The  mechanics of the the machine: Who is controlling the time machine: Rufus, Dana or some outside third party? Is it an another ancestor or the books? Does Dana have a choice in going back; does she need to save Rufus, her ancestor? Who is more reliant on who to survive? How does the fear of death connect to a want of freedom as a kind of control button for returning from another time? How does Alice’s death figure into the conversation of death and agency?

*The grandfather paradox works on a sense of linear time, but Kindred seems to subvert the idea. Is it creating alternative realities or futures? Is it based on another construction of time, like Foucault’s “heterotopia of time“? How does African diasporic views of time, which tend to be cyclical and terms like sankofa, sasha, and zamani, fir into the discussion of Kindred? How is the book a dialogue between the and and future, recreating the present? Dana seems to influence the past in some ways and the past influences her relationship with Kevin. How does this apply to how we construct memory, whether cultural, personal, ancestral,  or universal. How does Dana and Kevin remember memories from both the 20th century and the 19th century?

*How does the book make us rethink family and ancestry? We are told to honor the ancestors, but not all of our ancestors are honorable. How do we accept all of the people who came together to make us, no matter how painful? Would we save a character like Rufus, even at our own possible non-existence? What does the book reveal about moral relativity, and the complex web of family and slavery? Would we want to go back and change the past? Do we need it to survive as we are or would we want to create another future?

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Cosmic Ghost at the Museum: The Shadows Took Shape Panel Recap

As Afrofuturism becomes more mainstream, sometimes popular conversations about it become also a bit stagnant, which is why I enjoy local conversations about it and hearing people’s personal relationships to it; I tend to learn a lot more. That’s what I got with this week’s panel discussion at the Studio Museum in Harlem with curators Naima J. Keith and Zoe Whitley, and Alondra Nelson and DJ Spooky.

In the discussion Thursday night, we received a polyphony of responses to the cultural importance of Afrofuturism, from those who were new to it and those who have engaged it for years, as well as an expanded view of all the diaspora threads that make up Afrofuturism.

Nelson gave one view of Afrofuturism as putting a context around and providing analytical value to the intersections of black cultures and technology, while Spooky resisted definition of Afrofuturism, seeing it as a collage or mixtape of various voices and possibilities of black culture that can remix the present into the future.

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Cosmic Ghost at the Museum: The Shadows Took Shape Highlights

From "The Shadows Took Shape" book

To the right is the exhibition book from Naima J. Keith and Zoe Whitley curated exhibition, The Shadows Took Shape. It is a nice-looking book with purple pages and reversed alphabetical order of artists, and it’s royally expensive, too ($50), but it looks worth it. Anyway, here are some of the artists and work that I particularly enjoyed:

* Laylah Ali’s Typology series – These were the only black and white, comic-book-like drawings in the exhibition. I thought the juxtaposition between the elaborate, carnivalesque costuming on these human-like people and their abnormal bodily features and positions (missing limbs,  limbs in strange position, attached to others in various methods, probing each other) and their disturbed facial expressions. It is as if the costumes hide something terrible underneath.

*Kira Lynn Harris‘ “Some Blues” – Things are not as they seem. Like funhouse mirrors to distort your perception of yourself and the pieces of wood on the wall.

*Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallaghar’s “Nothing Is” – Besides the use of Sun Ra’s Nothing Is lyrics, their video installation would be easy to miss if you didn’t recognize the point of its slow and subtle changes over time. Nothing in the video seems to change at first, and then you have a slight change that changes everything.

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What Is Afrofuturism? Part 17: Decentering Cultural Space in Afrofuturism

Afrofuturism as an aesthetic and critical lens is known for its analyses and strategies of decentering and revising norms and stereotypes about race, gender, sexuality and class, but as Afrofuturism is expanding, there are other areas, besides the ones mentioned before, to still be worked on like issues of globalism (“the neoliberal vision of homogenising the planet”).

Is this ratchet/hoodrat stuff or futuristic? Source: Hoodfuturism

Going through the tag on afrofuturism on tumblr, conversations have been brewing about whether there is a need for a label for urban afrofuturism or hoodfuturism (here is one explanation). Some say no because afrofuturism is an all-encompassing term, whereas others say yes because it highlights specific subcultures and specific critical analyses of those cultures that may go unnoticed. In that respect, I have to agree more with later. Although afrofuturism is an umbrella term, much like blackness, there are specific identities and localities of being within it. Depending on where you are or where you come from, afrofuturism may have a different local ethno-cultural aesthetic (and issues of class may come into this as well).

This is not only a problem within afrofuturism, but overall. Dr. Yaba Blay mentioned in an interview with W. Kamau Bell on Totally Biased about the confusion between black and African-American and how Americans immediately conflate black with being specifically U.S. Black American. As a Ghanaian-American, she says, “African-American to me really reflects a type of American narcissism in a particular way.” And she is not disrespecting the label of African-American, she is highlighting a specific ethnic, cultural locality. A lot of members on tumblr have also been in arguments over this kind of American and Western centralism.

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The My-Stery: Why STEM Fields Need an A(rt)…

Picture from boxset of science films of Jean Painlevé

A few days ago I witnessed a twitter battle between astrologist Sam F. Reynolds and Science Nerd/Blogger Rai Elise on November 5th (click on view conversation to read her tweets) over the legitimacy of astrology and the conversation highlighted some important and common conflicts between art fields and science/math/technology fields. Reynolds says some key things in his argument that I wanted to spotlight (I rearranged the tweets):

“Science is only as good as its tools, like everything else…The tools of science have their limits like anything else. People seek astrology for meaning. Science may do that less for ppl.”

“I don’t have a hope of an objective reality. Even with our scientific tools, we see the cosmos as we are…It’s not objective reality we’re talking about. It’s consensual reality…We’re not talking about tools of science, but what inspires them and the net meaning derived from them”

About electricity: “That’s still a consensual use of a force that most of animal kingdom has no use for. Not free of subjectivity”

“You say it’s not true, but do we have independent & known perceptions of things from other species on this planet?”

“Astrology ultimately comments on behavior using planets as references…Astrology isn’t about studying nature, but the study of human nature as symbolized by celestial phenomena…The natural world has its motions, but how we assign meaning is the province of all other arts. Are they less important? …Astrology is poetry applied to celestial events. What’s to prove with poetry?”

Continue reading The My-Stery: Why STEM Fields Need an A(rt)…