SO FAR | 1976 | We Work on the Other Side of Time

Saturday, 19 January 2018, 7.30 pm, diffrakt | centre for theoretical periphery

Multi-media conversation with
Henriette Gunkel | Ytasha Womack

In 1976, Sun Ra returns to Earth to lead the African Americans, who have no place in a racist and violent present, into a better future. Against all odds, even kidnapped by NASA, he defeats his opponent, the “Overseer” (who secretly works in the service of white supremacy), at a card game. The African diaspora, afrofuturism old and new claims, has always entertained direct links to the universe. In a conversation with the award-winning afrofuturist Ytasha L. Womack and the researcher Henriette Gunkel, we will explore how and why dark-skinned bodies are read, across literatures, as the first aliens, foreign in a country, separated from their pasts. In Sun Ra’s voyages as well as in those of Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, and Parliament, but also in Ytasha Womack’s books and movies, plenty is yet to be discovered. Their intersecting experiences of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation might, event within a white-coded environment (artistic avant-garde, science fiction, cyberspace), show us how to build on a tradition that makes it possible to read the journey through time as a resistance to a historiography that continues to reproduce oppression. An evening of conversations between the sounds of futuristic jazz and electronics, extraterrestrial myths, and many pioneering ideas…

Henriette Gunkel is a lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work focusses on the politics of time from a decolonizing, queer-feminist perspective. She is working on a monograph on Alien Time that focusses on Africanist science-fictional interventions. She is the author of The Cultural Politics of Female Sexuality in South Africa (2010) and co-editor of many books, including: Futures & Fictions (2017), which was nominated for the 2018 International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award in the Critical Writing and Research category, We travel the Space Ways. Black Imagination, Fragments, and Diffractions (2019), What Can a Body Do? (2012), and Undutiful Daughters. New Directions in Feminist Thought and Practice (2012).

Ytasha L. Womack is a critically acclaimed author, filmmaker, dancer, independent scholar, and champion of humanity and the imagination. Her book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture (2013) is the leading primer on the subject, which bridges science fiction, futurisms, and culture. The book is a 2014 Locus Awards Non-Fiction finalist. She is the author, moreover, of a number of other books, including the Rayla Universe series, a time travel/reincarnation series of which the newest book Eartha 2198 will be published in February, 2019. She has published numerous essays, directed the afrofuturist dance film “A Love Letter to the Ancestors From Chicago”, organized conferences, and dance programmes.

The event is part of the series SO FAR | Science-Fiction(s).

Graphic design: Anna-Luise Lorenz