Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction

Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction


Luis Dourado, Untitled. Courtesy of the artist.

April 30, 2012

Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction at Arnolfini
João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva,
Kiluanji Kia Henda, Luis Dourado,
Mark Aerial Waller, Neïl Beloufa,
Neill Blomkamp, Omer Fast, Paweł Althamer,
The ARPANET Dialogues, Wanuri Kahiu

5 May–1 July 2012

16 Narrow Quay
Bristol, BS1 4QA, U.K

0044 (0) 117 917 2300
info [​at​]
Twitter: @ArnolfiniArts

Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction surveys the recent tendency for artists and filmmakers to apply the forms and concerns of science fiction to narratives situated in the African continent. It considers the complex undercurrents for this occurrence in art today, and posits other and possible realities existing simultaneously, via careful re-orientations of tense; elevating the need for vigilance towards the present and future over a concern for the past.

Africa has had a rare yet distinct place in popular science-fiction, from the opening scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey, depicting the mysterious appearance of a black monolith in the cradle of civilization, to the recent success of Neill Blomkamp’s debut movie District 9, a multi-layered allegory on South Africa’s recent internal and external tensions. Imagining a new space-time to the typical “third worldist” representations of the African continent, caught in a perpetual state of crisis, the works in Superpower project an alternative landscape of possibilities.

Works include Neïl Beloufa’s compelling video installation Kempinski (2007), a “science fiction documentary” presenting a series of short monologues given by inhabitants across Mali who describe their visions of the future—from telepathic communication to teleportation—as if they were present realities. Turning the monuments and mausoleums of a failed communism into spaceships, Kiluanji Kia Henda’s series of photographs Icarus 13 (2006) document the preparations for the first ever expedition to the sun led by the Angolan government. Wanuri Kahiu’s film Pumzi (2010), set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, follows a scientist’s quest to regenerate biological life literally underneath a repressive subterranean Nairobi culture.

João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva film the world as if for the first time, producing an “alien theory” of moments in 16mm, while Mark Aerial Waller’s Superpower – Dakar Chapter (2004), colliding points in time and video formats, uses TV soap actors from the Senegalese capital as astronomers awaiting a future event. The exhibition also includes garlanded South African movie director Neill Blomkamp’s early short films and Omer Fast’s three-part installation Nostalgia (2009), which reconfigures document and dramatization, past and future. Superpower will be reflexive of the ever-ubiquitous exhibition format of the regional or national showcase, foregrounding modes of representation rather than considering the artist as a regional representative.

Whilst holding up a mirror to Eurocentrism in the contemporary world, more significantly here, the model of science fiction offers speculative viewpoints on Africa that supersede the necessity of recourse to essentialisms and history. Also avoiding such genres as Afro-futurism, which specifically located the means of producing the future amongst the African diaspora. Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction presents works by artists based across the European and African continents that raise a number of questions around the position of Africa in the collective conscience and are actively participating in the battle to represent the future.

Exhibition curated by Nav Haq and Al Cameron.

Discussion Event
Space into Time: Africa in Science Fiction
2pm, Saturday 5 May, Free

Exhibition curators Nav Haq and Al Cameron will discuss ideas related to Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction with exhibiting artists including Mark Aerial Waller and Kiluanji Kia Henda. This discussion will consider the different reasons and methodologies employed by artists in the exhibition, and will dissect what it is that the science fiction genre offers to the debate about representations of Africa.

A Parallel Universe – alternative realities and co-existing worlds
Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction is part of A Parallel Universe, a year long series of exhibitions, film, music, talks, performance and special events taking place at Arnolfini in 2012.

Superpower: Africa in Science Fiction at Arnolfini
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April 30, 2012

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