alisha b. wormsley
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Children of Nan

(a work in progress) is a metaphor for the survival and power of black women. Children of NAN uses science fiction tropes, historical and anthropological narrative, and origin mythology of race, mysticism and gender. It’s really my survival guide through a history of storytelling, myth and historical narrative about black women in America or the lack of that has always felt oppressive, disempowering and incorrect.

This work is very much informed by Octavia Butler, Zora Neale Hurston, La Jetee by Chris Marker, The Phoenix Papers by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing and the ancient li- braries of Timbouctou.

The plot tells of a distant post apocalyptical future where there are only two groups left on the planet: a group of black women called the Abassi which were the original hu- mans and a group of white men led by the “scientist” who turns out to be the albino son of one of the Abassi, outcast from Africa sent to live in the caves of Europe. Working laterally with history these groups have been at war since the beginning of humanity.

The protagonist of the story is Aditi 34, a woman who was made in a lab by the “scien- tist” using kidnapped Abassi, Nan. Aditi 34 has 3 sisters, Aditi 35, 36 and 37. One by one her sisters disappear and she leaves the lab, goes above ground, to find them. Led by a mysterious guide who is a portal through time she goes a discovery to find NAN.

 

39 minute version of film available for screening please inquire ...

Written about Children of NAN by Alexandro Segade

"Like many science fiction stories, Alisha Wormsley’s “Children of Nan” is an epic (and I mean this in the classical and brechtian sense) .  The filmmaker plays with time travel, dystopia, cloning, and psychic phenomena, deconstructing these symbolic motifs while re-assembling conventions of experimental film via internet conspiracy video.  An assemblage that goes from poor jpeg to lush hand-held tableau, Wormsley references Chris Marker, Julie Dash, Sun Ra, Elaine Brown and Alfonso Cuarón, among many others, while deeply indebted to writers such as Zora Neal Hurston and Octavia Butler.  In its telling of a young black mother’s experience — including the existential threat posed by our racist police state and the legacies of white supremacy — Wormsley’s protagonist, Aditi 34, finds self-care to be a way to care for her community, which in turn takes care of her.  The film itself is a product of such a community.  

Lauren Olamina, the main character in Butler’s Parable of the Sower, comes to understand that, as she puts it, “God is change,” and thus, as she warns: “A victim of God may, Through learning and adaption, Become a partner of God, A victim of God may, Through forethought and planning, Become a shaper of God.”  Aditi 34, an archivist, comes to understand her own way of shaping change, and surviving, through constructing an image world in which her own subjectivity occupies a space in the center.  Through her kaleidoscopic lens, Wormsley multiplies this subjectivity into a collective consciousness, rooted in a black American women’s shared experiences, recurring and refracting across the screen.

It has been a pleasure and honor to work with Alisha these three years as she toiled on what we are about to see, “Children of Nan.”"

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For the past month The Last Billboard has been exhibiting Alisha Wormsley’s text “There are Black People in the Future.“ Alisha is a celebrated Pittsburgh-based artist and cultural producer (winner of the 2016 City of Pittsburgh Mayor’s Award for Public Art) whose work explores collective memory and the synchronicity of time, specifically through the stories of women of color. Alisha’s text for the billboard comes from her ongoing art practice, particularly her interest in Afrofuturism.

Last week, The Last Billboard’s landlord, We Do Property, forced Alisha’s text to be taken down over objections to the content (through a never-before evoked clause in the lease that gives the landlord the right to approve text). 

I believe in the power, poetry, and relevance of Alisha’s text and see absolutely no reason it should have been taken down. I find it tragically ironic, given East Liberty’s history and recent gentrification, that a text by an African American artist affirming a place in the future for black people is seen as unacceptable in the present.

The artist will be part of a public panel discussion about the text and its removal hosted by the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in the next few weeks. More information to come.

- Jon Rubin, Founder and Curator of The Last Billboard

Response From ARtist

It started out as a black nerd sci-fi joke. A response to the absence of non-white faces in science fiction films and TV. Very much a response to many Afrofuturist writings, like Florence Oyeke’s: “After all, to quote musician Gabriel Teodros: “If we don’t write ourselves into the future, we get written out of tomorrow as well.”  — Afrofuturism dares to suggest that not only will black people exist in the future, but that we will be makers and shapers of it, too.”

This phrase became my mantra.

The work has become an archive of information, histories and myths that continue the diaspora’s apocalyptic narrative. I choose the term “apocalyptic” consciously, as it is informed by the slow demise of Black American neighborhoods. (And Still We Thrive). This body of work has already taken many forms: video, installation, street art, performance and now the billboard.

I knew what it could mean in that East Liberty the moment Jon asked. It’s what it could mean in this city, country, world. What conversations could arise, what PTSD could be addressed, and just seeing something so obvious stated in this social climate is reassuring to some–to me. It becomes magical, as fantastic as a prophecy.  

I am deeply saddened by it’s removal. And yet I am comforted by how my Pittsburgh has stood up! I think we all know what it is to have discomfort. Let’s begin to work on methods to constructively investigate that discomfort without using power over anyone or anything else.  It is not my calling to lead people in any given direction. An artist who inspires me told me, “Your job is to promote thought, not to tell people how to think. To provoke feeling, not to tell people how to feel.” However you might feel, whatever you might think, THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE.      

Finally, this text is a sentence I do not own, it is for anyone who wants to use it. Please. Take it.

 

 

There Are Black People In The Future

While in residence in the Homewood Artist Residency, supported by the Andy Warhol Museum, I developed a series of montage driven short films titled, Children of NAN. From this series came the title of the current project, "There Are Black People In The Future." Working in Homewood, I started connecting my work with the community by investigating the joys, triumphs, and LEGACY of this region. I also began to uncover and directly connect the developments in my studio with the challenges, fabricated perceptions, stereotypical prophecies, mental madness, localized mythology, and institutional obstacles readily occurring outside my window. With a collaborative spirit, I began collecting discarded and found objects, some, donated by students and elders in the community. The ritualistic actions of casting and printing on these objects that ensued was directly entwined with Homewood’s existence and survival. And mine...  

SEE VIDEO BELOW Images

 

 

There Are Black People In The Future - Sound Objects

Video - Alisha B. Wormsley

Sound - Field Recording and Composition - Sonarcheology Studios 

 

"The events were led by artists and practitioners who had past, personal and professional experience in Homewood and who were deeply invested in the community and its residents. Although most of the events were open to the public, they were created primarily to uplift and celebrate the community’s people and places, and provide spaces of critical reflection on the neighborhood’s past, present, and future. In addition, the programs were sensitively embedded within the neighborhood, accessibly sited in open spaces within walking distance of one another, and connected to community anchor points such as the House of Manna, an African-American centered and multi-ethnic faith community.  Although the commission was initially intended as a platform for Ms. Wormsley’s voice as an artist, she brilliantly amplified and extended this platform by using it as a foundation for the voices of her collaborators, many of whom have provided essential services to Homewood residents through their art and practice for years."  

Divya Rao Heffley, Phd, Senior Program Manager, Hillman Photography Initiative, Carnegie Museum of Art

 

 

 

***This programming was intended for the community.  However, one way to participate and experience the project is through social media.  

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the people are the light - series of photographs imagining the past present and future of homewood...