CCA: Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow
Creative Lab Residency
Craig Mulholland & Mother Tongue
July/August 2013

YOU WANTED IN TIME SQUARE AND LESS

The literary critic and novelist Samuel “Chip” Delany was born in 1942 and raised in Harlem. His output - encompassing science fiction, fantasy, autobiography, creative nonfiction, erotic literature and literary criticism – has led him to be considered as a seminal influence on the conceptualisation of Afrofuturism. Furthermore, his writing has made significant contributions to the larger net of science fiction, particularly through his incorporation of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender] themes in his writing and his speculative stance on the future role of social class. Notable examples of his writing in terms of Afrofuturist themes are Babel-17 and The Ballad of Beta-2, whilst those which incorporate sexual and pornographic content include Dhalgren, The Mad Man and Phallos.

Both Craig Mulholland and ourselves have arrived at an interest in the work of Delany, but from very different avenues of enquiry, which we will outline here so as to explicate the origin of the residencyʼs purpose. That we have separately reached this juncture does not denote an end point, instead acting as the initial point of departure for the cross-over of each othersʼ fields of interest and knowledge base to the othersʼ framework. At this point in the proposal we would like to emphasise that the overlaps are not purely theoretical, but also encompass aesthetic comparisons (for example, the use of kaleidoscopic imagery) or aspects of music (such as the prominence of the spoken word).

Our research in this area originates from periods of investigation in Northern Scandinavia and West Africa, during which notions of ethnicity, post-colonialism and cultural heritage were central. This has expanded - over a prolonged period and always in line with tangential projects – to a consideration of the representation of the African continent (in terms of its socio-economic and political conditions) as the ultimate dystopia, the enduring memory of slavery and the reverberations of the Black Power movement in the Blaxpoitation film genre. With this foundation, the assertion from Toni Morrison that African slaves and their descendants were the first to experience the founding conditions of modernity – identified by Nietzsche as homelessness, alienation and abduction – clearly articulates both the link between the concept of Afrofuturism and the conditions that necessitate it. It is therefore essential as a speculative tool to modify the manner in which we think of historical and contemporary black cultural production, and this ongoing enquiry created the framework for our most recent project Afrofuturism: Revisions Towards A Place in Modernity, in collaboration with the Africa in Motion Film Festival 2012 and CCA Glasgow. Inversely, it is impossible to consider the concept of Afrofuturism without referencing the intersection between science fiction and whiteness, and the manner in which science fiction – rather than offer radical, imaginative futures completely disjointed from the present – in actual fact solely offers a reworking, adjusted version of the present.

The artist Craig Mulholland has developed a considerable body of work, spanning performance, videowork, installation and sculpture that is concerned with issues surrounding posthumanism, queer theory, futurism, technology and cyborgism. Recent works such as Grandes et Petites Machines [2008] and Fragments of Machines [2010] have examined the coercive role of technology in presenting us with ideas of progress, entropy and their socio- cultural impact, with particular reference to Foucauldian theories of power. The sheen of glossy enamel coatings juxtaposed with the cold metallic surfaces of the futuristic forms portrayed in his sculpture and installation appear to erase all form of human intervention. The masculine connotations of the hard-lined, geometric forms of his work are undercut by accompanying camp musical scores and outmoded forms. These have led to new areas of investigation, namely queer theory, Afrofuturism and consumer culture via the sex industry, to be worked in to a non-chronological film work and musical performance, with the working title You Wanted in Time Square and Less. It is Craigʼsʼ intention that this new work will be composed entirely of texts, signs and body parts (such as walking feet and shoes) without ever representing full human agency or characters, and will allude in its structure to the Kino music video from Cabaret Voltaire [1985]. Saccharine corporate sound effects, Walt Disney film soundtracks and Times Square advertising jingles will, as the soundtrack, inform the viewerʼs perception of the content and subject-matter.

All images Craig Mulholland