Spring '19 Artist Statement

Grounding myself as a conceptual installation artist, I have pushed myself to create more site-specific works. Last summer, I began creating word maps based on questions as they relate to systems of order and chaos within ecosystems and organized religions. This spawned into studying biomimicry and recurring visual patterns—most of which led me to concentric paths and spirals. During this time I also searched for stories in the Qur’an that involved general science, animals/insects, and celestial bodies. I landed on a story featuring Prophet Sulaiman (or Solomon, son of King David), a man who could understand and speak to animals, about human-insect respect and understanding. He heard an ant warning its peers to go underground during war, a crisis Sulaiman acknowledged and responded to by halting travel so the ants could be safe. It is stories like these that challenge anthropocentrism and provide a new course of thought in our day-to-day interactions with those unlike us, and stories unlike ours.

A culmination of my findings led me to a final design that uses ant stamps to create massive images that resemble the movement of galaxies, ant death spirals, tawaf, hurricanes, moving atoms, planetary orbit, tree rings, etc. A Speck in the Cosmos (2019) is a collaborative installation piece that allows others to stamp into the vast mass that is our world as one little speck of change; a role that ants play here on Earth and that we play in the larger universe.

My work is driven by a deep, untapped interest in science fiction and the desire to take hold of the narratives nearest to me. Partnering with Adetola Abdulkadir, a bio-engineer, writer and friend, this semester I’ve consumed myself in the pre-production stages of OBSIDIAN; A speculative fiction podcast based in Afrofuturism. Tackling issues from surveillance to artificial intelligence, this anthology series will exist to examine the many facets of the Black experience through immersive soundscapes and storytelling. Uninterested in hearing myself talk, each 10-15 minute episode will drop you into a new alternative reality narrated by different actors casted for each role.

From Other Planes to The Afrofuturist Podcast to Blacktastic—some of the few (rather outdated) afrofuturist podcasts on the market—hardly any tell narrative short stories similar to the ones we hear on LifeAfter/The Message and Welcome to Night Vale. Currently reading W.E.B. Dubois’ recently published afrofuturist short story, The Princess Steel (1908-1910), we are interested in narratives that provide encounters between Black people, technology and science. We see them as an opportunity to reflect on current social constructs and the present state of our society. As obsidian does itself, this podcast will act as a reflexive, thought-provoking and audibly tangible matter on our state of being in this world, and worlds to come. Through these projects, I am on a mission to learn and share stories that require me to step out of my usual mindframe and encourage others to join along for the ride.

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I recently received and accepted an internship to work at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. The position, beginning in February 2020—the onset of Black History