Thursday, December 16, 2010

Janelle Monae's The Archandroid Makes Another Top 10 List

From the Music Room's "Top 10 Albums of the Year":

#5 The Archandroid: Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae’s ambitious debut album The Archandroid is a thing of true beauty, part rap, part folk, part rock, part disco, an epic record full of ambition and with 18 tracks and at 70 minutes long, it’s nothing short of a journey. Like all great concept albums The Archandroid follows a series of ideas, in this case Monae explores elements of science fiction and Afrofuturism. Doubtless to listening to any song as a standalone track is almost criminal, this is an album to be experienced in one sitting.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Research Note: Sun Ra & Afrofuturism

"[Sun] Ra's interest in science fiction was also linked to his belief that African Americans, because they had been virtually written out of history, should be prepared to write themselves into the future. He thus stressed the importance of becoming proficient in a range of new technologies so that African Americans could play a part in engineering their own futures, rather than letting whites construct them."

Jamie Sexton, "A Cult Film By Proxy: Space is the Place and the Sun Ra Mythos", New Review of Film & Television Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3, December 2006, page 200.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Research Note: Afrofuturism

"S. Craig Watkin's Representing: Hip Hop Culture and the Production of Black Cinema and Kodo Eshun's More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction expand both the parameters of Hip Hop and the discourses about and around it, albeit in radically different ways. The cultural heft of Hip Hop informs Watkins's exploration of the rise of African American independent and mainstream cinema in the late eighties and early nineties, and Eshun concentrates on particular musical provenances of Hip Hop in order to interface the genre with other post-WWII black musical practices, including Jazz, Techno, and Jungle, to construct a narrative about a hidden history of black sonic musical experimentation and science fiction. Where Watkins grounds Hip Hop and black cinema squarely in social reality, Eshun does his best to escape the social altogether, focusing instead on the music and the ephemera surrounding it, such as album covers and marginalia etched into the grooves of vinyl. Consequently, their writing styles could not be more different: Watkins constructs his arguments in fairly tradition sociological terms, while Eshun's musings are marked by hyperbole, digressions, and, at times, seemingly stream-of-consciousness vocalizations. Watkins represents 'Afro-realism' where Eshun envisions 'Afrofuturism.'"

Alexander Weheliye. "Keepin' It (Un) Real: Perusing the Boundaries of Hip Hop Culture," CR: The New Centennial Review - Volume 1, Number 2, Fall 2001, pp. 292-293.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Research Note: Italian Futurism

"The Futurist Manifesto first appeared in Le Figaro for 20 February 1909. Its author was an Italian, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who, though making his mark first of all in Paris, had also been active in Milan since 1905 as editor of Poesia, one of the aims of which was the publicizing of the works of the French Symbolists in Italy. (Later, Marinetti was also to claim Zola, Whitman, George Kahn and Veraeren among his predecessors -- in an article characteristically entitled 'We deny our Symbolist Masters, the last Moon-Lovers.') In this, the first of his many Manifestos, Marinetti declared: 'It is from Italy that we broadcast this manifesto of ours to the whole world... because we want to free this country from the stinking gangrene of its professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antique dealers.' Italy had been a junk shop for too long, he insisted; now it was time to burn her libraries, flood her museums and galleries, and tear down her sacred cities."

Judy Ransom. "Italian Futurism," Modernism 1890 - 1930, Pelican guides to European literature,. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Research Note: Afrofuturism

Taking in contemporary music and sf, [Mark] Sinker positions hip-hop in “the grand syncretic tradition of bebop, not ashamed to acknowledge that technological means and initial building material are always simply what falls to hand: but that meaning is nonetheless a matter of energetic and visionary redeployment, not who first owned or made this or that fragment” (“Loving the Alien”). Although cyberpunk has typically been discussed in terms of European avant-garde detournement or Burroughsian cut-up, its parallels and affinities with bebop and hip-hop have generally gone unacknowledged. Sinker does more than merely point to this omission, however. Just as Thomas Foster argues that cyberpunk “didn’t so much die as experience a sea change into a more generalized cultural formation,” so Sinker suggests that the black, urban, proletarian experience central to the development of these musical forms speaks directly to the experience of the global underclass created by the intertwined logics of capital, Empire, and race: more-or-less concomitant with the growth of hip-hop, cyberpunk, the “radical leading edge” of “white SF,” was “arguing that the planet, already turned Black, must embrace rather than resist this [relationship to technology]: that. . . only ways of technological interaction inherited from the jazz and now the rap avant-garde can reintegrate humanity with the runaway machine age.”

Mark Bould. "The Ships Landed Long Ago: Afrofuturism and Black SF."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Research Note: Afrofuturism

"Engaging with new technology, possibilities of alien life-forms, and the future as a spatial-temporal location is a common practice among any class of people who might call themselves 'futurists': science-fiction (sci-fi) and speculative-fiction (spec-fic) writers, cosmologists, certain religious leaders, and so forth. As many similarities as there are among futurists, there are an equivalent amount of differences: stylistics, themes, utopian/dystopian results, particularities, etc. For as long as they have been producing literature, art, and music Blacks have had some share in creating the futurist canon in, but certainly not limited to, the United States. A recent group of academics have, in the last couple of decades, begun arguing that a distinct Black essence has run through the long lineage of Black futurist artists. This 'Afrofuturism' came into prominence in the 1970s and has continued as a relatively popular aesthetic genre to the present day, inspiring a slew of critics to ponder what social conditions led to its rapid increase in popularity and production and what this futuristic bent means for Africana Studies and other fields of cultural studies."

Chuck Galli, "Hip-Hop Futurism: Remixing Afrofuturism and the Hermeneutics of Identity," page 26.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nicky Manaj: A Retro Robot From a Weirdo Future

"[Nicky Minaj] was a retro robot from a weirdo future, pre-programmed with Queens, Cockney and Caribbean accents, a vision of femininity as if conjured by Rammellzee and Dr. Funkenstein, a Negro Devo diva. She promised to be a Technicolor extension of Outkast, a fragmentation of the spectrum of De La Soul and Flavor Flav, Missy Elliot and Foxy Brown."

Kurt Gottschalk, Burning Ambulance, December 8, 2010.

Research Note: Afrofuturism

"In the early 1990's, Mark Dery argued that 'African Americans, in a very real sense, are the descendants of alien abductees; they inhabit a sci-fi nightmare in which unseen but no less impassable force fields of intolerance frustrate their movements' (Dery 1994, p. 180)."

Jamie Sexton, "A Cult Film By Proxy: Space is the Place and the Sun Ra Mythos", New Review of Film & Television Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3, December 2006, pp. 197-215.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Research Note: Afrofuturism

[...T]he digital divide [is] a phrase that has been used to describe gaps in technological access that fall along lines of race, gender, region, and ability but has mostly become a code word for the tech inequities that exist between blacks and whites. Forecasts of a utopian (to some) race-free future and pronouncements of the dystopian digital divide are the predominant discourses of blackness and technology in the public sphere. What matters is less a choice between these two narratives, which fall into conventional libertarian and conservative frameworks, and more what they have in common: namely, the assumption that race is a liability in the twenty-first century—is either negligible or evidence of negligence. In these politics of the future, supposedly novel paradigms for understanding technology smack of old racial ideologies. In each scenario, racial identity, and blackness in particular, is the anti-avatar of digital life. Blackness gets constructed as always oppositional to technologically driven chronicles of progress.

Alondra Nelson. "Introduction: Future Texts," Social Text 71, Vol. 20, No. 2, Summer 2002.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Research Note: Afrofuturism

"Whereas black American identities have often been based upon a recognition of the past (focusing on slavery and dehumanization), they are increasingly being established with reference to the future, in order to counter assumptions that blackness equals opposition to progress (Yasek 2005, pp. 302-303). Interest in black science fiction has grown in tandem with these cultural shifts, a process often referred to as 'Afrofuturism.' Kodwo Eshun has argued that Afrofuturist thinking is concerned with the 'unreality principle,' in contrast to many previous stereotypical notions of blackness, which often equated the black body with nature, or with the urban location of 'the street' (Eshun 1988, p. 4)."

Jamie Sexton, "A Cult Film By Proxy: Space is the Place and the Sun Ra Mythos", New Review of Film & Television Studies, Vol. 4, No. 3, December 2006, pp. 197-215.