School of Art, Media, and Technology

Transdisciplinary Seminar on Afrofuturism Lecture Series

Written by:


The Transdisciplinary Seminar on Afrofuturism will explore how representations of science, technology and social engineering intersect with visual cultural expressions of the African diaspora. Science fiction is the organizing trope that will unite all the guest presentations and works under consideration. Visiting artists and cultural theorists will lecture on the role of futuristic projection in African diasporic art, liteature, film and music. The expediency of science fiction as both a fractured mirror of historical experience and a projection of the collective desires of a displaced people will be discussed throughout the semester.

The Transdisciplinary Seminar on Afrofuturism features seven public lectures by guest artists and cultural theorists in the fall of 2011. These lectures are open to the public and will take place on Tuesdays at 6pm. The public lectures that are part of this seminar are produced with support from The Robert Lehman Foundation.


September 20: Alondra Nelson
Location: Kellen Auditorium, Lobby 66 5th Avenue

Alondra Nelson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University, where she also holds an appointment in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. An interdisciplinary social scientist, Nelson writes about the intersections of science, technology, medicine and African American experience. Nelson is the author of Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination , the co-editor of Technicolor: Race, Technology and Everyday Life, and the editor of Social Text’s special issue on Afrofuturism. Nelson’s essays, reviews and commentary have appeared in a variety of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Guardian and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her publications also include essays and articles on race and digital culture; “scientism” in Black Power politics; and the use of racial categories in medicine.

October 4: Julie Mehretu
Location: Kellen Auditorium, Lobby 66 5th Avenue

Julie Mehretu is an artist who was born in Ethiopia and currently lives in New York. She studied at University Cheik Anta Diop, Dakar (1990–91), earning a BA from Kalamazoo College, Michigan (1992), and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (1997). She was a resident of the CORE Program, Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1997-98) and the AIR Program at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001). Mehretu’s paintings and drawings refer to elements of mapping and architecture, achieving a calligraphic complexity that resembles turbulent atmospheres and dense social networks. Architectural renderings and aerial views of urban grids enter the work as fragments, losing their real-world specificity and challenging narrow geographic and cultural readings. Among Mehretu’s awards are the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin; a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award and the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

October 11: George Lewis
Location: Kellen Auditorium, Lobby 66 5th Avenue

George E. Lewis is a trombone player, composer, and scholar in the fields of jazz and experimental music. He has been a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, and is a pioneer of computer music. In 2002 Lewis received a MacArthur Fellowship. Lewis has long been active in creating and performing with interactive computer systems, most notably his software called Voyager, which “listens to” and reacts to live performers. Between 1988 and 1990, Lewis collaborated with video artist Don Ritter to create performances of interactive music and interactive video controlled by Lewis’s improvised trombone. Lewis is the author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music.

October 25: Kodwo Eshun
Location: Kellen Auditorium, Lobby 66 5th Avenue

Kodwo Eshun is a British-Ghanaian writer, theorist and film-maker. He studied English Literature at Oxford University. He is currently course leader of the MA in Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College. Eshun’s writing deals with cyberculture, science fiction and music with a particular focus on where these ideas intersect with the African Diaspora. He has contributed to a wide-range of publications including The Guardian, The Face, The Wire, i-D, Melody Maker, Spin, Arena, Frieze, CR: The New Centennial Review and 032c. Eshun’s book More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (1998) explores the intersection of black music and science fiction from an afrofuturist viewpoint. In 2002 Eshun co-founded The Otolith Group with Anjalika Sagar. The group’s work engages with archival materials, with futurity and with the histories of transnationality. The group was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2010.

November 15: Keith and Mendi Obadike
LoLocation: Kellen Auditorium, Lobby 66 5th Avenue

Mendi + Keith Obadike make music, art and literature. Their works include The Sour Thunder, an Internet opera (Bridge Records), Crosstalk : American Speech Music (Bridge Records), Big House / Disclosure, a 200 hour public sound installation (Northwestern University), and a poetry collection, Armor and Flesh. Their honors include a Rockefeller New Media Arts Fellowship , Pick Laudati Award for Digital Art, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a Vectors Fellowship from USC. Their intermedia work has been commissioned by Whitechapel Art Gallery and The Whitney Museum of Art. Keith received an MFA in Sound Design from Yale University. Mendi received a PhD in Literature from Duke University. Mendi + Keith are currently developing a sound installation series African Metropole / Sonic City, an intermedia suite entitled American Cypher, and a new series of performance works including Four Electric Ghosts, an opera-masquerade (mmanwu) commissioned by the Kitchen.

November 29: Nalo Hopkinson
Location: Kellen Auditorium, Lobby 66 5th Avenue

Nalo Hopkinson is an internationally acclaimed science fiction writer. She often draws on Caribbean history, folklore and idiolects in the construction of her speculative fictions. She is the author of four novels and a short story collection (Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber, The Salt Roads, The New Moon’s Arms, Skin Folk). She is the editor of fiction anthologies Whispers From the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction, and Mojo: Conjure Stories. She is the co-editor of fiction anthologies So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction (with Uppinder Mehan) and Tesseracts Nine (with Geoff Ryman). She is a recipient of the Warner Aspect First Novel Award, the Ontario Arts Council Foundation Award for emerging writers, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Locus Award for Best New Writer, the World Fantasy Award, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, the Aurora Award, and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award.

December 6: Wanuri Kahui
Location: Kellen Auditorium, Lobby 66 5th Avenue

Wanuri Kahiu is a Kenyan film director. She has received several awards and nominations for the films that she directed, including the awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2009. Kahiu was born in Nairobi, Kenya. After graduating from the University of Warwick in 2001 with a BSc degree in Management Science, she enrolled for a Master’s Degree at the ‘Masters of Fine Arts’ program in directing at the School of Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her movie From a Whisper received a total of twelve nominations and earned five awards at the 5th African Movie Academy Awards in 2009.

All Rights Reserved © 2024. Parsons School of Design.