The University of Iowa

The Center for Afrofuturist Studies at PS1 launches new digital platform

July 16, 2020

The Center for Afrofuturist Studies at Public Space One launches new digital platform featuring Antoine Williams’ Black Fusionist Society as its inaugural project

The Center for Afrofuturist Studies (CAS) at Public Space One (PS1) has launched a new web platform featuring North Carolina-based artist Antoine Williams’ Black Fusionist Society as its inaugural digital project.

The new site, afrofuturist.center, was designed by Rahul Shinde and collaborator Rush Jackson, and will serve as a robust platform for digital artist projects as well as an archival resource for exploring and supporting artists working towards Black futurity.

“We wanted to launch an online platform to make ways for people to access the work we’re doing from all over the world. We’re growing as an organization and going beyond the traditional residency model. This is an exciting next step on our journey to cement the legacies of Black artists working today,” says CAS curator Anaïs Duplan. Adds PS1 Program Director Kalmia Strong, “This project is part of our efforts over the past year to make the resources of the CAS active and accessible on a year-round basis, which we are also doing through the CAS Reading Room space at PS1’s new permanent physical home.”

Digital projects on the new platform will complement the CAS’s residency program, which brings artists to Iowa City for fully-funded residencies, and other programs, which include exhibitions and public conversations in collaboration with other organizations.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Antoine Williams, an artist, educator, and arts organizer whose whose multidisciplinary work explores “the fluidity of the monstrous through the lens of science fiction and critical race theory,” was scheduled to create work on-site at the Center for Afrofuturist Studies. Instead, his summer 2020 residency is fully virtual and centered around a new transmedia historical fiction project, Black Fusionist Society, hosted on the new CAS platform.

Black Fusionist Society takes the 1898 Wilmington Massacre as the beginning of a new narrative of the lives of a group of Black families who form a belief system based on physics and apotropaic magic that protects them in daily life and works towards an ultimate goal of migrating to a new dimension free of white supremacy. Williams says the project “embodies the aspiration of Afrofuturism and the bleak realism of afro-pessimism.” His artwork will form a framework for the Black Fusionist Society story and invite Black writers and artists to contribute to creating a growing digital mythos.

He says: “My practice explores the fluidity of the monstrous as it is manifested in systems and the effects it has on Black bodies. Pulling from theories such as Monster Theory and Afropessimism, the idea that society deems Black life as nonhuman is a strand that connects Black Fusionist Society and other works in my practice.” While his work typically takes the form of installation, collage, and assemblage, Black Fusionist Society “is divergent in that it is a collaborative digital art piece...that needs the voices and participation of Black creatives online to continue to build this world that I’ve started.”

Williams’ residency, which has been funded in part thanks to relief funding from the VIA Art Fund, will also include a live-streamed virtual conversation on Monday July 13 at 6pm central with cultural organizer LaTanya Autry and scholar/educator Tiffany Holland and a print publication gathering writing generated by the project.

Image Credit:
"Waseme, mythic being of intersectionality," from Antoine Williams' Black Fusionist Society project

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Founded in 2015, The Center for Afrofuturist Studies is an initiative to reimagine the futures of marginalized peoples by generating dynamic working spaces for artists of color. As a part of Public Space One, an artist-led, community-driven, contemporary art center in Iowa City, the CAS hosts community-based and public programs-focused residencies, and produces workshops, exhibitions, screenings, digital projects, and other public engagements in Iowa City and beyond. The CAS at PS1 is generously supported by the and Wagner Foundation through their Incubator Art Fund Grant; the Black Art Futures Fund, a fund of the Brooklyn Community Foundation; and the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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