Beatriz Cortez, Chitra Ganesh, Cauleen Smith, Stacy Lynn Waddell and Saya Woolfalk
Future Texts

SJ Weiler Fund

September 25–December 18, 2020
October 14, 2020

A project of Ten at Seven curated by Candice Madey

Ten at Seven is an annual curatorial project hosted by the SJ Weiler Fund, a foundation supporting the visual and performing arts. Presenting contemporary and historic artworks by artists of culturally diverse backgrounds who engage with history, politics, and social issues, the project comprises an exhibition, a publication, and gatherings hosted by collector Susan Weiler in her West Village home. This year, the installation will be available for viewing online and in a forthcoming publication.

Ten at Seven’s second exhibition, Future Texts, presents Beatriz Cortez, Chitra Ganesh, Cauleen Smith, Stacy Lynn Waddell and Saya Woolfalk, and is inspired by sociologist Alondra Nelson’s eponymously titled essay exploring the social and racial biases embedded in the systems of science and technology. Written in 2002, around the advent of Web 2.0, Nelson’s essay critiques theoretical frameworks of a networked world—such as Marshall McLuhan’s concept of the “global village” and oversimplified views of the “digital divide”—which she believes present technological progress as oppositional to black culture. She further probes the racially coded visual cues of science fiction, futurism, and so-called primitivism, and examines how these narratives relate to systematic racism inscribed in broader American history and culture.

Nelson advocates for a new futurism in which more diverse voices express their histories and reclaim programmatic power of their technologies and their tools. She finds inspiration in Ishmael Reed’s 1972 novel Mumbo Jumbo, in which Reed questions who owns the right to determine the knowledge systems of the future, insisting that, “We will make our own Future Text.”

In this spirit, Future Texts explores notions of progress and technology as defined by artists and their processes. The exhibiting artists are equally grounded in their unique cultural traditions, proposing personal visions of the future that redress history and expose and revoke the cultural and gendered biases of outmoded techno-narratives.

A related zoom conversation, "FUTURE TEXTS: Imagining Utopia in a Time of Crisis and Change," took place in June. Moderated by Dr. Saisha Grayson (Curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum) with participants Chitra Ganesh, Dr. Alondra Nelson, Cauleen Smith, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Saya Woolfalk, the conversation asked: How can artists, writers and thinkers engage and provoke radical new ideas for our world? What lessons can we learn from our predecessors to guide us in reinventing a more equitable future for all?