America is different than the rest of the countries in the world because it’s the only country I think that’s based upon the idea of team sport. Other countries are based on race, religion, tribe. The United States is the only country in the world that’s based on the idea of a team. Because there’s all these diverse different people, and we all work together for a goal. The problem is that America, because it is a team, its main objective is to win.
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This idea of (re)performing the posthuman was pretty much based on a desire to talk about the cyborg ten years after, or fifteen years, twenty years after the Cyborg Manifesto and Katherine Hayles’ book became famous. And to really—yeah, to talk about maybe the normal cyborg, the normal technologized body. You know, technology in the everyday and its implications for the way we perceive and experience our bodies.
So then I thought right, what happens with an artist who draws the body, who deals with the body all the time? I know, they have affairs with the life model, don’t they? They have their muse. So I thought right, let’s take this, let’s look at technology, let’s have an affair with this tech. Let’s try and put the sex into it. Let’s sex up the technology.
AR mixed reality has more potential, I think. With virtual reality, you’re just somewhere else altogether, right? And VR is all the rage right now. But in terms of disseminating information, in terms of keeping us in touch still with physical, you know. I mean, it’s all real life now. I don’t even distinguish IRL/URL now. I mean it’s all real life. But like, how do we maintain a foot in both simultaneously? Both the virtual and the physical.
I came with the intention of speaking about my experience at RISD and wishing President Somerson a good tenure here, but all I could write on my sketchbook page was “blank page.” I wrote “tabula rasa.” I wrote “a clean slate.” And I wrote those words several times, and I realized as I was writing them that that’s how I arrived at RISD.
The exhibition Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention puts Afrofuturism in dialogue with alternative technological solutions and imaginations.
In America now, you can defend the humanities but only on economic grounds. So a theater improves a neighborhood. Or many people who study English become McKinsey consultants. But the fact is that you do it for itself, intrinsically, and you do it for the cultivation of the person and the cultivation of the citizen. Which should be reward enough.
Irony is like sentimentality, a kind of violence to the form, to the narrative. And in a sense, these days we probably need a new term because irony is insufficient. It is the post-ironic moment. It is very hard in a vocabulary that has been so mediated and coopted by marketing, it is very hard for people to not be ironic, to not be snarky and sarcastic.
To have the hunter tell it, Africa is full of meek stories about desperation and despair. So when artists like myself offer an alternate vision, often we’re asked to defend our imagination. Why do we feel we have the luxury to create? Shouldn’t we be dealing with more important issues like corruption, or war, or AIDS, or poverty?
The Center, one of our core goals, our mission statement, is to get people thinking more creatively and ambitiously about the future. What I mean when I talk about that is that we need to come up with better stories about the future. If you want to build a better world you have to imagine that world first.