“Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention”: visions of Afrofuturism at Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund

Image: Cristina De Middel, ‘Jambo’ from “The Afronauts”, 2012, 6 photographs, various formats. Image courtesy the artist and Hartware MedienKunstVerein. © Cristina De Middel.**


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By Megan Miller

“With 32 participating artists and 12 coinciding ‘tech projects’, “Afro-tech and the Future of Re-Invention” takes over Dortmund’s Hartware MedienKunstVerein in an exhibition that is both aesthetically and ideologically immersive. The multimedia show looks at speculative visions of the future and current developments in the field of digital technology by artists and inventors from Africa and the African diaspora through an international group show and programme series. The exposition focuses on the exploration of science-fiction narratives and concepts of technology that function according to their own rules rather than following dominant western narratives.

The project was thrust into motion after Inke Arns‘ research trip to various African countries in 2014, a journey which drew the curator’s attention to the rapid development of technological devices, apps and software solutions that have made great strides in the continent’s digitisation. Many of Arns’ encounters included visits with activist-inventors who address infrastructural problems by educating and activating a community of tech-savvy users. Several of the projects function according to principles of general accessibility and open sourcing, which allow changes in design, repurposing and continuing development. They thus represent an alternative to the dominant technological monocultures and open the arena of technological development to startup professionals and creatives.

The exhibition at HMKV exemplifies this, meaning the presented artworks and inventions appear as proofs of an already initiated technological development that could lead to a future not limited to the narrative of modernity and progress of the West – a future that is already shown in excerpts by the artistic works in the exhibition. Videos, installations, photography, drawings, records, software, sculptures and comics are considered equally-advantageous media to communicate their nonfictional and Afrofuturist aims.”

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“‘Afrofuturism’, a term that is thrown about in art history and theory, is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology set against the African-American community’s historical experience of racism and discrimination. The term was conceived a quarter-century ago by author Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future” (1994), which looks at speculative fiction within the African diaspora (PDF Download)

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Wangechi Mutu, The End of Eating Everything, 2013
Wangechi Mutu, ‘The End of Eating Everything’, 2013, animated video, colour, sound, 8m:10s. Commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. © Wangechi Mutu. Image courtesy the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

 

Simon Rittmeier, „DREXCIYA“, 2012, Still, Courtesy of the artist © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
Simon Rittmeier, ‘DREXCIYA’, 2012, video still. Image courtesy the artist. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. See more here

 

Ausstellung „Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention“
Design for the exhibition “Afro-Tech and the Future of Re-Invention“, 21 October 2017 – 22 April 2018, HMKV in Dortmund. Design: KoeperHerfurth. Image courtesy HMKV.

 

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