Within time and space, the celebration of Black people has been critical to the possibility of Black life. In 1994, Mark Dery provisionally defined Afrofuturism as "speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture—and more generally, African American signification that appropriates images of technology and a prosthetically enhanced future." As Kara Keeling details in Queer Times, Black Futures, Afrofuturism has pushed cultural logics and production, political investments, and radical imagination, specifically in cinema and culture. In Chapter 2 of her book, "Yet Still: Queer Temporality, Black Political Possibilities, and Poetry from the Future," Keeling begins with a reference to Karl Marx's notion of "poetry from the future" that "... can effect a radical break with the past, a break in which 'Black liberation' still might be located—a rupture from within history that also breaks from history … "
In this duo exhibition of two emerging contemporary Black women artists, there is a generative connection to Marx's "poetry about the future" to renowned Black poet Lucille Clifton's poem "wont you celebrate with me” that speaks to a racial and gendered self and the shaping of lives to these experiences.
The interdisciplinary work of SHAN Wallace and Erin Leann Mitchell involves a radical imagination and engagement with existing contemporary art to construct new modes of being, that to which Clifton proclaims. This show explores nonlinear or queer time and memory that Black women and femmes perform to survive. Together their work presents a new constellation between space, time, and the possibilities of the impossible. The discourse presented through SHAN and Erin's artwork ruptures the notion of normative time itself by showing work that displays Black femme subjectivity constituted, literally and figuratively, beyond the stars and beyond the grasp of others constructing their bodies and their realities. wont you celebrate with me challenges and unsettles the realities that exist to threaten and destroy them.
For artists like SHAN and Erin to imagine and create these narratives is otherworldly and begs the question: how and where can they exist and live in time and space? The antiphonal poetics of the Black diaspora exceeds its expression and points to a different epistemological, ontological, and empirical formation.
Their work feels much more like an aesthetic anecdote to the atypical depictions of Black femme and queer life that often are created and presented by non-Black people. The paintings, collages, and photographs exhibited move us toward a reimagination of how we can intentionally live to preserve Black life, both in the now and then—but, in a different interpretation of time. It is a moment that does not begin or end but includes the possibility of the impossible.
Looking into the future has become a platform for Black creatives to thrive, be in their element, and build community through their practices.
For SHAN, a photographer by trade, her work depicts Black queer subjects in queer-specific community spaces. As having grown up in the ballroom scene, her work in this exhibition presents the movements of bodies in spaces designated for black queer lives to thrive. SHAN has worked to show a body of work that builds imagery into discourse and narratives of Black queer lives. Erin, a painter and arts educator, has made a name for herself as an artist that transcends artistic mediums, building a portfolio of Black representation and life in the South through her textile and fibers work. Her figurative work speaks to an Afro-Furturistic sensibility that jumps off of a quilting tradition that has held African American women quilting circles together going back centuries. The coupling of past and future in her practice is an act of survival in the present.
Together, they tell a story of transcendence, of futurity, of practicality ... of life. Black queer and femme performances in the every day are often basked in masculinity apertures. In honor of the anthology "Black Futures" by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, wont you celebrate with me, is about the power created in imagining Black women Black LGBTQ+ peoples in time and space both in the past and into the future. This exhibition is both about the illusion of time that deposits into Black life. There is no one moment where joy lives or grief hangs on—but it is through these works where life happens.