Notes Toward A Personal Afrofuturis

Jalen Adams

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Utopias of a Third Kind by Vandana Singh
- Utopia: "Collective dreaming"
- Utopia is a construct created in response to the perceived gap between the current and the ideal
- 3 utopian responses to colonialism
Reactionary: nationalistic response. Depends on the coexistence of dystopias for others
Emulation: Beat them at their own game. Abstaining from precolonial knowledges in favor of modernity
*The colonizer is still the unit of comparison w/ reactionary and emulatory utopia dreaming*
Third Kind: Grounded in the local , located in a planetary context. Comes from the imagination of the oppressed. Questions the paradigms of both the oppressor and one's own culture, and values aspects of both. Not limited to the axis of Colonizer - Colonized, always learning From other cultures and people, always adjusting.

*we are simultaneously local and planetary*
*the examination of possibilities within and beyond the experience of colonization*

Black Marxism: The Roots of Black Radicalism (Cedric Robinson)
"... the development of each (Brit, German, US empires) testified to the characteristic tendency of capitalist societies to amass violence for domination and exploitation and a diminishing return, a dialectic, in its use." (71)
"Black radicalism, consequently, cannot be understood within the particular context of its genesis. It is not a variant of western radicalism whose proponents happen to be Black. Rather, it is a specifically African response to an oppression emerging from the immediate determinants of European development in the modern era and framed by orders of human exploitation woven into the interstices of European Social life from the inception of western civilization.” (73)
The African becomes the more enduring "domestic enemy" in the next imperial stage after the obliteration of the New World's past
The "Negro" was both a negation of African and a unity of opposition to white
The construct of Negro suggested no situatedness in time, that is history, or space, that is ethno - or politico-geography. No civilization, no cultures, no religions, no history, no place, and no humanity that might command consideration.
The need for the Negro was closely associated With the economic, technical, and Financial requirements of western development from the 16th century onward.
"In the more than 3,000 years between the beginnings of the first conception of the "Ethiopian" and the appearance of the "Negro,” the relationship between the African and European had been reversed." (82)
"The obliteration of the African Past from European consciousness was the culmination of a process a thousand years long and one at the root of European historical identity. " (82)

Black Marxism: The Historical archaeology of the Black Radical Tradition(Cedric Robinson)
By denying the historical development of the dominated people, the imperialists also deny their cultural development
The slaves had developed and retained concepts of family and land tenure that contradicted and couldn't be comprehended or controlled by the Dominant class. The concepts varied according to the particular conditions of each colony.
The docility of the slave was a sham
Many historians of the past concluded that black people come to accept the terms of slavery, they "became" slaves. And the subsequent generations of "Native Sons" bore these scars.
African labor only become necessary when Native labor was exhausted and European labor became inadequate
Palenqué communities of the 1500s in Mexico: Communities of escaped slaves. resistance has always been happening

The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto by Martine Syms
"The most likely future is one in which we only have ourselves and this planet."
What imagined possibilities can come about avoiding the traditional tropes of Black Sci-fi?
"We will root our narratives in a critique of normative, white validation. Since "Fact" and
"Science" has been used throughout history to serve white supremacy, we will focus on an emotionally true, vernacular reality."
Our "twoness" is inherently contemporary and futuristic. "If I got a problem, a problem's gotta problem 'fil it's gone." - ODB in response to Dubois (W.e.B.)
Mundane Afrofuturism is the ultimate laboratory for worldbuilding outside of imperialist, capitalist,
White patriarchy.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin
*notes originally from 1/23/23*

Carrier Bag Theory of Human Evolution
• The first cultural device was probably a bag rather than a spear.

The carrier bag theory of fiction
Spear vs. bag, collecting vs. Killing violence

The reduction of narrative to conflict is absurd
Populating the Story with people rather than heroes

The Cinema and the creatively maladjusted by Cauleen Smith
*notes originally from 2/16/23*

-The maladjusted: Those who create images to experience the particular privileges time - based media has to offer. Narrative is incidental to moving image.
The pantry of the filmmaker is in between the space of language
"Narrative is the oppressor of moving image."
"The maladjusted spectator does not expect to be pleased. She expects to be respected."
The form of mundane Afrofuture cinema

An emphasis on the awareness of multiple narratives always concurrently happening, versus one master narrative. A Flattering of importance of Character(s). An understanding that narrative is always in a flux and never fixed. A realization that a film isn't a novel, and that while moving-images aid plot, it is not slave to plot. The mundane afrofuturist Filmmaker realizes that in building better futures, there is no room for macro story-plots with a singular protagonist at the helm. The mundane afrofuturist filmmaker understands the interconnectedness of human life and activity, and reflects that in the Stories they tell.

The content of my mundane Afrofuture Cinema

I am interested in the embodiment or path to the embodiment of ideas such as black marxism, black feminism, black queer theory, pan-africanism, and ecological consciousness looks like on a micro, human to human level; and how an innumerable amount of these stories can create a mosaic for macro revolution. I am interested in the creativity, struggle, and resistance that materializes from the embodiment of these ideas. Criticizing the west; capitalism, imperialism, racism, sexism, religious dogma, Queer phobia, etc.

Mundane Afrofuture film thoughts.
One character's story affects another character’s story, an interconnected web
How do others fill out who we are?
What is the form/aesthetic/content of revolutionary cinema?
What’re the real world examples of my ideas visualized?
What are the aesthetics of the real world revolution?
How can surrealism/absurdity/theatricality be used Within a real world context and still feel real world? How does one make sure it doesn't feel like an alternate universe?

Time in Cinema, Afrofuturism (mundane), and the Black experience, Time in dreams/dream logic
"not knowing where we're going, but knowing we're going somewhere”
How does the medium of film affect time?
How Does the embodiment of mundane afrofuturism affect time?
How does the collective Black experience affect time? (surrealism)
How do dreams and dream logic affect time ?
How does writing & acting affect time?
What Feels like a dream is the reality; and what Feels like reality is a dream

The merging of surreal fronts colliding, making What's real and what isn't indistinguishable
A mythological, surreal odyssey organic to the real world. And dreams that are so mundane
its reality isn't questioned

Dreams and the Temporality of Consciousness by: Katherine Maeduffie and George A. Mashour
Dreaming is a unique state of consciousness that incorporates 3 temporal dimensions: experience Of the present, Processing of the past, and preparation for the future.
In the environment of Sleep, stimuli is internally generated and many of the restrictions associated With waking thought are absent.
In dream consciousness, sensory stimuli is bypassed, and a flexible integration of past experiences / forging of novel connections are possible.
The same neural network is engaged for remembering the past and imagining the future
Prospective thoughts are not novel, rather recombinations of perceptions from previous experiences
Waking thought = internal timeline (chronology), Sleep= converged timeline
REM is a "protoconscious state, providing a a VR Model of the world essential for developing our waking conscious.
Freud: Dreams are wish fulfillments
Freud: secondary revision, the similarity in the acceptance of what is presented in both dream & material reality
*Dreams & epistemology*
The past: 65% of the imagery and context We experience in dream state derive from people and places we've seen before
Memory in dreams are fragmented, never able to recall the complete episodic memory of an event that happened. A mosaic of memories in which no conception of what came before leads to no context of what's currently happening. And we only ever remember a small fraction upon waking uр.
Random but cool: human fetuses spend the majority of their time in REM Sleep
REM Sleep is a key component in neural development
The future: The purpose of REM Sleep is to rehearse how the brain should react and adjust to a threat it might encounter
The salience of dream emotions is evident to all dreamers; often after waking, the emotion of a dream is the only memorable detail
Emotion in dreams provide a continuity that the dream content does not
"Hyperassociation": The retrieval of fragmented memories recombined in bizarre, illogical ways
A dream is a temporal bridge across the past, present, and future, an overlapping window

Films and Dreams by Robert Lung
We must understand dreams more before associating film with dreams
Trivial similarities: The cinematic qualities dreams carry in comparison to real life, the spatio- temporal discontinuities of dreaming sequences are akin to edits in film.
Immediacy and vividness are shared between films and dreams, as well as a display of dramatic form. In recounting both, we tell Stories
Spectatorship & perspective is what differs dream worlds from Film worlds (POV). 2D VS 3D; imagining vs inhabiting
Bi-presence: being in the dream as well as a spectator of the dream
Perhaps the film/dream comparison is most astute in the similar tendency to induce a self-forgetful involvement Within whatever world is being experienced

Surrealist Cinema: Politics, history, and the language of Dreams by Sandy Flitterman - Lewis
Exploring societies social foundations through Cinema's capacity to materially reproduce the structure and logic of dreams
The narrative, experimental, and documentary converge in surrealist cinema
“... (surrealist) cinema could be a means of communication which would bypass the rational distortions of verbal language, a mode whose emphasis on the body could reveal those Truths hidden by the abstraction Of language."

National Liberation and Culture by Amilcar cabral

What is culture? How significant is this force if imperialist bodies Find it necessary to neutralize?
"As with the flower in a plant, it is in culture that you find the capacity (or responsibility) for the production and the fertilizing of the seed Which ensures the continuity of history, ensuring at the same time, the perspectives of the evolution and of the progress of the society in question." What does this mean for revolutionary culture?
"The study of the history of liberation struggles shows that in general, they are preceded by an increase in cultural phenomena which progressively crystallize into an attempt, successful or not, to assert the cultural personality of the oppressed people in an act of rejection of that of the oppressor."
Pg. 6 "It Must be noticed that…(esp the culture)”--utopias of a third kind. The constant adapting of strategy and acknowledgment of complex cultural issues
- Culture is not uniform and does not equally develop across the board.
"The attitude of each social group when faced with the struggle is dictated by its economic interests, but it is also profoundly influenced by its culture. One could even say that it is the differences in The levels of culture which explain the different reactions of individuals in the same socioeconomic group to the liberation movement. And it is here that the full importance of Culture for each person is reached: understanding of, and integration with his environment, identification with the fundamental problems and aspirations of the society, and acceptance of the possibility of change in the direction of progress."
- The liberation movement must base its program on having profound knowledge of the culture of the people. It must also be able to discern the essential from the secondary, the positive from the negative, the progressive from regressive, the strengths from the weaknesses in the total cultural complexity of the people. And converge Various cultural and social categories, transforming it to a single force which acts as the basis and foundation for armed Struggle.

Third Cinema
The identification process is more likened to a political and social experience more so than a dream experience. (in regard to spectator viewership)
The aesthetic of third cinema moves between two poles: one that demands the work to engage in the actual pressing social realities of the day; and two that the film achieves its impression of reality not by simply mirroring, but transforming the given.
Third cinema Semiotics move between, and live on, the ambiguity of signifiers (representation) and referent (the real).

On Walter Benjamin’s Historical Materialism By Alfredo Lucero - Montano
In Benjamin's On the concept of history, he transforms concepts into images
Traditional Historical materialism: Every historical event derives from a linear cause and effect relationship, and all these events together create a progressive, continuous motion.
History has collapsed into a single catastrophe, a pile of debris, wreckage upon wreckage that grows toward the sky. The angel of history must look at this catastrophe, even as they’re carried away from it. (Angelus Novus)
Weak messianic power" - the power of mankind
The historical materialist understands that history has a power which the past has claim to. And So the historical materialist, or angel of history, wants to awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed
The past = what has been, past generations, tradition of the oppressed, that which is dead
The completeness and incompleteness of history. History is not just a science, but also remembrance, which can make the incomplete (happiness) complete, and the complete (suffering) incomplete
What has been lost is not lost for all of time
The historical materialist is aware that the past has a claim on us, and we cannot settle this claim lightly
The materialist thinks by arresting the flow of history to a standstill, and thus the historical event of object confronts the materialist as a monad, immediately present and living
There is a revolutionary chance for the oppressed past/present in the messianic arrest of historical happening
The historical materialist must Wrest tradition away from the ruling class, (and wrest conformism away From tradition)
The messiah (the oppressed) is the redeemer a victor over the anti-christ (ruling class)
Theology guides historical materialism. (Afrofuturism as theology?) But only guides it when historical Materialism enlists its services. This tag-team can be Victorious in the class Struggle
Mankind Should be the objective of progress, not the other way around
The Vulgar - historical materialist vs. the Genteel - historical materialist
The historical materialist Should be critical of the concept of progress. (the vulgar only recognizes the progress of the mastering nature)
The historical materialist is to blast out the continuum of historical succession, and adopt the concept of discontinuity and interruption. leading the past to bring the present to a critical state. Making the concept of progress a Critical interrogation rather than uncritical hypostatization.
The historical discontinuum. The discontinuity of historical time. Historical materialism doesn't reconstruct history by repeating the past, but by constructing interferences. (actualization over progress)

Material Afrofuturism
Material Afrofuturism is the collapsing of historical time. Making the past and future interact with each other in the present to inform their respective domains. As it is understood, afrofuturism is the practice and aesthetic of centering the afro-centric perspective in imagining better futures for Black people among the diaspora. Its prominence in pop culture however has relegated a large sum of the material produced using this framework to speculative escapism of the literary and cinematic variety. Wakanda was built by a white man, and such is the reason why I’m seeking an alternative to the norm. What generative force could be conjured when thinking of afrofuturism in relation to our tangible reality? In Theses on The Philosophy of History, Walter Benjamin pushes against the concept of progress traditionally held by historical materialists. A linear or chronological sequence of events that stack upon each other, creating a “pile of debris.” All of these events piled onto each other are singular, not connected to what precedes or succeeds it; and its life span is dictated by the physicality of time. This idea of history is exercised by the ruling class. In contrast, Benjamin recognizes that history is an act of remembrance, and thus anything historical can never truly die. And in understanding the “past” as the tradition of the oppressed, we remember to survive. Benjamin calls for the historical materialist to arrest the flow of history to a standstill to confront the dead and revive it, thus bringing the historical object to the present in an act of contextualization. Thinking of this, what might the afrofuturist, with all of their cultural baggage and orientation towards the future, be able to imagine using the framework of historical materialism (of the Walter Benjamin variety)?

Though often not stated, history is a practice of futurity and speculation; and afrofuturism is the practice of historical remembrance and interpretation. The documentation of history, especially as told by the ruling class–acts as material for speculation on the desired trajectory of the future the ruling class wish to see. The artistic output of afrofuturism largely deals with recontextualizing historical moments. As I said earlier, these two ideas operate on the same spectrum of speculation. Understanding speculation as an active force in history grounds me, and puts a greater emphasis on what it is I decide to culturally produce as an artist. Thinking of speculation outside of escapist world-building, as a generative tool for tangibly imagining better futures; and also in the nature of being mindful of how might this material be interpreted in the future. When I become a part of the past, will the material I left behind be fruitful for the generations to come, for them to continue the act of speculation?

This is the creation of a new kind of myth making.

Jalen Adams (he/him) is a research-based writer, image artist, designer, and educator from Dover, Delaware. Utilizing moving/still image, installation, text, publication, performance and pedagogy--Adams participates in exercises of world-building under the framework and philosophy of something he calls "Material Afrofuturism." Adams received his BA in English from the University of Delaware, and his MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is currently living and working in Richmond, Virginia.