Hey everybody! Welcome to the first installment of my Space:Queens segment, where I explore afrofuturistic art, culture and influencers in my home borough of Queens, NY!
First up is Yvonne Shortt, who is the creative director ofRPGA Studio, Inc., and is the curator for Queens Art Initiative, where she works on several community-based art and technology projects in the borough. Enjoy!
1) Tell the readers a little bit about yourself and and what inspired your love of technology and math.
I’m an an artist, mathematician, African American female, technologist, and mother. My inspiration came from my uncle who started a company to help the deaf communicate with others and my mom who bought me my first computer, a Commodore 64. Also my aunt, her belief that hard work makes all possible shaped me.
2) How do you see Queens as a place of possibility and speculative/futuristic exploration?
We have so many people from so many countries and this diversity is an amazing power to draw from. It reminds me to use diversity in my work in my exploration – diversity including art, design, technology, education… This is what makes my work important and relevant I think.
Louis Chude-Sokei, the author of The Last ‘Darky‘: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora, will be releasing a new book, The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics.
Chude-Sokei, as he has done in his previous work, explores the complexities of race and ethnicity through a Caribbean lens. As someone who calls myself Afro-Caribbean-American, I realize how sometimes I don’t neatly fit into a dominant idea of blackness, which is usually centered around U.S. America black cultures. Because of that, I often notice how Black people from all over the world often have to adjust their ethnic identities by putting on, by playing with, by expanding the definitions of blackness.
In his first book, The Last Darky, Chude-Sokei examines the life of Bert Williams, who was from the Bahamas, and how minstrelsy weirdly became a technology Williams used to complicate blackness, to explore and break from the boundaries of the stereotypes of blackness. It explores how someone who was an immigrant, who had a different ethno-cultural identity, but was also considered superficially black, related to and navigated the world of blackness in America. It explores the intersections between, carnival/playing mas, masquerade, blackface and creation of identity.
In The Sound Culture, Chude-Sokei continues his exploration of the intersections of music, race, ethnicity, masquerade/carnival, minstrelsy, science fiction, and technology/machinery in the modern world through the lens of Caribbean creolity or hybridity.
Below are the table of contents for the book to pique your interest:
Ever since my mother received her smart phone, she has constantly been coming to me with numerous questions about how to use it. She has such a difficult time adapting to how it works no matter how many times I show her. No matter how much she uses the smart phone, I don’t think she fully connects or pays attention to it in order to learn. She cannot learn how to use the smart phone if she does not open herself to learning how to use it. Half the time when I am showing her what to do, I am not exactly sure what I am doing myself; I am figuring it out as I go along based on a set of knowledge I have learned already from smart phones and just playing around with it. I try to work with the phone based on how it might move or based on the signs it gives.
Sometimes, I think she sees technology as a magic device that will just do for her and she doesn’t want to take the energy to work with it, to move with it. Sometimes, I think that she thinks of God in that way, too. God is somewhat detached from herself as much as the technology is and she lets it remain that way. This experience with my mother stirred my thoughts on our interaction with God (or higher spirit) and technology. Maybe we should see God (or higher spirit) much like the character Lauren Olamina does in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. If “God Is Change,” I have to learn its fundamentals and adapt with it. I have to interconnect with it as if it is a part of me, as if we are extensions of each other, that I have to attach it to me and bend it to my image to survive and grow as much as it bends and changes my image. As for technology, it should be looked at in a similar fashion. It adapts to you as much as you adapt to it.
We all know that humans use technology as a tool for our own advancement, but what about when technology becomes a trap to our own destruction? How do we as humans rationalize it all when technology does not help but is controlling us and leading us to chaos?
This is one of the themes explored in Kevin Jarvis’ satirical documentary-styled apocalyptic film. A Dangerous Cure. The film essentially consists of several interviews about Savia Jones, a media personality who was making a film about a zombie virus epidemic at first for fame, but then gets in too deep. As is already known, apocalyptic films, shows and books are a major part of our current culture, but this one gives a slightly different feel with its old school documentary style and closer-to-reality plot. It feels as if the film could happen right now, but also, with its timeless feel, seems as if it already happened.
Below are some news stories and opinion pieces that I collected over the week. Since Facebook is changing up its system of how posts are viewed and is fishy with what it considers as “violating community guidelines,” I will post the articles I come across during the week on Sunday along with posting them there throughout the week.
* Storify post of mine and other attendees’ tweets from the Black Comic Books Festival panels.
* Rich Johnston’s “An Oncoming Storm” (about the possibility of the X-Men character Storm’s monthly comic book and wishing artist Afua Richardson would draw it) on Bleeding Cool.
genius and insanity. But what is the case when reality and fantasy stumble upon one another, uniting the ultimate contrasts? Perhaps, creativity? In all my adventures and stumbles upon wonderful artists, I’ve never came across any like photographer, Fabiola jean-Louis. Somehow she’s found a connection between the Victorian era and whimsical urban legends like unicorns and Black fairies. Oddly enough, the two unique cultures mesh well together; not to mention the beautiful people she uses as her subjects to create what I like to call, Afro Magic, her being the Alchemist. In our interview below, Fabiola gives me a deeper understanding of her creative process and provision. Get ready to dive into a an exotic and beautiful mind!”
* Daniel Jose Older’s “12 Fundamentals of Writing ‘The Other’ (And The Self)” (I especially thought the part about American Horror Story: Coven was interesting. Why is it religions outside of the Abrahamic religions don’t receive as much respect and are thought of as fantasy. I don’t see the mainstream religions treated the same way; for example, the talking snake is probably not real.)
*Net Neutrality Ruling Will Affect Communities of Color: Truth Out Article 1 and The Root Article 2.
* Saul Williams Tribute to Amiri Baraka: ” Amiri Baraka: Poet Laureate:” “The real power of influence occurs when you influence people who don’t even realize that they’ve been influenced by you. They may not even know who you are. This mainly happens when your art is so deeply embedded with love and your desire to see change in the world that the message becomes detached from the author and travels on its own. From heart to heart. We felt Amiri Baraka. I wasn’t even born yet and I felt him. I felt my mamma feeling him. He was part of the reason my mom turned to my dad, after having already birthed two mid-complexioned daughters, and said, “I just want a dark, dark boy with curly, curly hair.” Presto. Black Magic.”
“Reading culture as containing multiple tracks of data”
“Digital culture and reading strategies”
“Multi-Format Caribbean Cyberculture”.
The rationale, presented by Prof Best, for proposing such a theory is both enlightening as well as incandescent. That is, the evorevolutionary spaces, which give rise to commercialized space-aged technologies, namely, the World Wide Web, makes it virtually impossible for emerging 21st century (metropolitan cultures) not to emit and mimic the efflorescence of digital cyberspace transmissions. A trivial example of one such matrix giving rise to another can be viewed in the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Televised (wireless sound-images from the moon) of Neil Armstrong, US astronaut, becoming the first man to set foot on the moon (July 20, 1969) may have given rise to the popularized Michael Jackson moonwalk dance, mimicking the characteristic weightless motion of walking on the moon. In short, we have no choice but to go with the flow; tick with the tock; track with the trek! Wherever the technologists lead us, we must follow (even reluctantly so). It is a real-world phenomenon that the emerging, burgeoning digital culture is baptizing the ultra-orthodox, proselytized, barbarian, educated, differently educated, bond and free into the same murky river of multi-format cybercultures.
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?”