As Anais Duplan watched the Black Lives Matter Movement raise questions about the value of black life and black artists increased their use of online spaces to challenge black visibility in the art world, a question popped into her head: “How does Blackness collide with the future?” To explore the question, Duplan has created The Center for Afrofuturist Studies (CAS) at Public Space One, an Iowa City, Iowa-based residency program that seeks to give artists of color safe workspaces as they work on projects that “re-imagine new futures for marginalized peoples,” according to CAS’ mission statement. The two-year long initiative includes community programming—lectures, workshops, and exhibitions—that examine the intersections between race and technology in the context of the larger African Diaspora.
“The mission of the center is very much tied to increasing the presence of black and POC voices in contemporary art discourse,” Duplan tells The Creators Project. “We focus on doing that both locally, here in Iowa City, but also nationally, which is why we've chosen to host artists from around the country.” She adds, "'Blacks lives matter' is now a phrase that lives inside of contemporary American discourse. This presents an opportunity, I think, to contribute to the nation's collective awareness of black experience. The way we've chosen to do that—by starting an artist residency program—reflects an interest in really creating the time to sit with these ideas.”
The first year of the project brings together artists who are interested in renegotiating singular notions of blackness that have developed over time, to present a more complex identity. CAS’ first group of artists-in-residence includes Kameelah Rasheed, Tiona McClodden, Louis Chude-Sokei, Terrence Nace, Krista Franklin, Alexandria Eregbu, Yulan Grant, and D. Cain. Collectively, according to Duplan, the artists “all invent certain 'futurisms' when choosing their modes of presentation. Their work is both interdisciplinary and multimodal.” The group of artists uses an array of media, from performance to video, to comment on blackness in a variety of ways will create works that explore avenues for representing black futures.
“Terrance Nance's Brooklyn is Masquerading as the World series and D.Cain's lycosa tarantula: doin it do death both speak to an interest in movement: black movement, black bodies dancing through time,” notes Duplan. “Other residents work more often in two dimensions. Krista Franklin will work on a wall drawing titled …to take root among the stars during her September residency.” Duplan says artist-archivist Kameelah Janan Rasheed will utilize CAS’ print shop to further her interest in mining black histories for future use.
“My hope for the future of the center is that we would reach a certain level of 'normalcy' around discussing black lives and their futurity,” explains Duplan. “I want to create the space that makes it possible for people to talk about blackness(es) together, safely but adventurously.”
To learn more about The Center for Afrofuturist Studies residency program, click here.