The exhibition “Voyage into Afrofuturism” is a stimulating journey
Black fills your immediate vision, the entrance spanned by solid painted walls. Visual sensory deprivation forces participants to focus on the soundscape that confuses natural and primal sounds, turning time and space into meaningless constructs. It is the mark of a new era.
Through Feb. 27, the Oakland Museum of California, or OMCA, is presenting a special exhibit called “Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism.” Concerned not only with elevating black American communities as leaders of global society, but also with glorifying the beauty of everyday traditions, the exhibition excels in reimagining the contemporary world where black people are pioneers in technology and culture.
With the compelling aesthetic of a sci-fi fantasy world in a theme with hopeful reimagining, the Afrofuturism exhibition facilitates a deep dive into the agents of change in black communities. The focus on inclusiveness was particularly noteworthy. Building on the inherent flaws of today’s world, many works of art follow an escapist model, envisioning society as “ruined” and imagining more agency for black people in a sci-fi or fantasy setting. .
Touching on nearly every aspect of black American culture, the exhibit takes visitors on a journey through key elements from different eras. The first section of the exhibit guides viewers through the origins of cultural stories and celebrates tradition with symbolic chalk drawings reminiscent of early rock art. Then, the viewer is grounded in the pain and suffering that many black people endured during the African Diaspora and times of slavery.
In an attempt to move beyond this suffering, the third section shines a light on black leadership at the forefront of science, culture, and novelty, empowering them. The exhibition merges reality and imagination in fantastic ways, uplifting black communities while advocating for needed change. Finally, viewers are brought down to earth with a reminder of the many accomplishments and advancements made by Black Americans today, encouraging all to plant the seeds for a brighter future.
Offering a cornucopia of artistic mediums, the OMCA’s “Mothership” uniquely combines film, collages, comics, movie props, science and more to please every visitor. By including accessible and diverse types of art, every viewer can find a way to build a personal connection with art and movement. Independently, the pieces are not media or category specific; the eclectic exhibition represents an amalgamation of artifacts from a revisionist world that defies traditional norms.
Grounded in a new sense of identity, the exhibition resists stereotypes and instead depicts the dawning of a new era of thought and representation. For example, Wangechi Mutu’s painting “Misplaced Unforgivable Little Hierarchies” depicts humanoid forms filled with a compilation of human and animal characteristics in an almost disorienting way. Defying convention, the intentional confusion caused by the work reflects the artist’s refusal to be subject to modern prejudice.
Following the exhibition’s visionary themes, Parliament-Funkadelic’s music created an analogous version of “Star Trek” with only black characters, peppered with depictions in the album. Mothership Connection. By both placing black Americans as leaders in advances in space technology and elevating their culture, P-Funk illustrates how a reimagined world is needed for those hopes of fulfilled representation and positivity to be realized.
While the exhibition as a whole excels at introducing visitors to a new movement and taking them through the profound impact it has had across time and mediums, the multitude of artworks included in the exposure makes it quite a long experience. At times, the variation in media began to strain the analytical eye, as each new piece required renewed attention to fully understand and appreciate the work.
Regardless of the length of the exhibit, stepping aboard the “Mothership” will take visitors on an unforgettable journey through the past, present and alternate futures, helping them think about how they can help build a future that uplifts black communities.
“Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism” will be presented at the OMCA until February 27, 2022.
Contact Sejal Krishnan at [email protected].