As a speculative and provisional archive, Is Our Future a Thing of the Past? assembles an array of vernacular culture, visual ephemera, publication materials, and select artworks related to Chicanafuturism and Chicanx imaginings of the future. Chicanafuturism, which Catherine Ramirez describes as fictive kin to Afrofuturism, attempts to make sense out of relations of power, science, technology, and the socio-politically disenfranchised. As Ramirez points out, an increasingly key part of this framework is the ability to rethink brown cultural production through the lens of technology. If we read the Chicanx subjectivity as a science fiction state of being, Ramirez asks us to consider the implications of such a reading for the overall “concepts of science, technology, civilization, progress, modernity, and the human.” Central to this ongoing project is Chicano science fiction and cyberpunk writer Ernest Hogan’s early and rare publications, as well as examples of his sketchbook practice, both of which are featured in the speculative archive. Additionally, the archive features ephemera associated with a theatrical production by high school students in Crystal City (1976) under the guidance of educator, playwright, and poet Gregg Barrios. The play, which draws upon David Bowie’s extraterrestrial musical personas, as well as the student’s own experiences of alienation, is represented through various theatrical artifacts and digitized super 8mm film of a rehearsal. Combined with Hogan’s archive and Barrios’s ephemera are other objects and items linked to brown futurity and Chicanx alienation more generally. The project hopes to draw connections between historical imaginings of the future, the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, and the peripatetic and conditional character of the archive and alienation.
Below is documentation of elements of the project arranged at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Blue Star Contemporary and Bemis Center for Contemporary Art as part of the exhibition, Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists in the Path of the Butterfly.
Materials List: various science fiction magazines, novels, collages, framed drawings, and artifacts featuring Ernest Hogan’s writings and illustrations; assorted prints and digitized 8mm film footage derived from the play Stranger in a Strange Land directed by Crystal City, TX., high school students and playwright Gregg Barrios; photographs of anti-Vietnam and anti-deportation protests; Lowrider Arte magazine Flights of Imagination: Taking the Culture into the Future; Victor Payan Keep on Crossin’ patch; Aztec Challenge, a computer program cassette made for 1980s-era video game systems; assorted patches depicting the Aztec calendar; Risograph prints of digitally manipulated glass lantern slides from the University of Chicago; Lysa Rivera quote printed in vinyl; postcard of Crystal City courthouse; David Bowie single Crystal Japan; copy of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report Stranger in One’s Land; take-away publication in handmade wall-mounted literature holder.
As part of their artist residency at Harold Washington College Anthony Romero and Josh Rios curated a set of glass cases on the 8th floor. The publications on display feature the work of Chicano illustrator and sci-fi novelist Ernest Hogan along side other artifacts and media that address ideas of Chicanafuturism in general.
Chicanafuturism, which Catherine Ramirez describes as fictive kin to Afrofuturism, attempts to make sense out of the relationship between the Chicana/o, science, and technology. As Ramirez points out, an increasingly key part of this framework is the ability to rethink brown cultural production through the lens of technology. If we read the Chicana/o as “a science fiction state of being,” which Hogan suggests, Ramirez asks us to consider the implications of such a reading for the overall “concepts of science, technology, civilization, progress, modernity, and the human.”
In addition, Romero and Rios organized a selection of drawings by Ernest Hogan on view on the 11th floor. These drawings feature a variety of situations that celebrate and investigate the role that the Chicana/o has to cyberculture, technology, counterculture, and history. Each drawing is paired with a text, written by Hogan, which both describes the rendered scenes and opens them up to wider spheres of interpretation.
As part of the project Rios and Romero worked with a group of students to imagine various cosmologies used to produce ostensible book covers for novels not yet written. These cosmologies also served as the ground for a collaborative print project between the students and Romero and Rios. Based on their cosmologies, students submitted abstracts of the unwritten books. The abstracts were then superimposed on the back of a pulp novel and printed for display. These images appear in both the glass cases on the 8th floor and on the 11th floor.
The artifacts and elements of this project were reconfigured for a group exhibition curated by Alberto Aguilar. Documentation below.