Tuning into the Quantum: A Vibrational Exchange Between Karen Barad and Black Quantum Futurism

Green and black Studio Quantum design on a grey background. Text at the centre in bold, black letters: Tuning into the Quantum: A Vibrational Exchange Between Karen Barad and Black Quantum Futurism © Eps51 22 NOVEMBER 2023, 7:00PM, GRAY AREA, SAN FRANCISCO

Interdisciplinary theorist Prof. Karen Barad was joined by visionary artists, Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa of Black Quantum Futurism, for an evening of conversation and sound exploring material quantum temporalities.

Through the lens of their practice and in celebration of shared points of convergence, Rasheedah and Karen reclaimed the radical potential contained within quantum physics. In doing so they troubled the dominant narratives and violence shaping the present, from the next iteration of quantum technologies to Black experience and life more broadly. Accompanied by sound created by Camae, Karen and Rasheedah highlighted the im/possibility for erasure and how the past and future can be redeemed within the present.

Prof. Karen Barad Prof. Karen Barad is standing behind a lecturn with microphones and speaking to an audience © Karen Barad

Karen Barad is Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies, Philosophy, and History of Consciousness at the University of California at Santa Cruz. They are also an affiliate in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. Barad’s Ph.D. is in theoretical particle physics and quantum field theory. They held a tenured appointment in a physics department before moving into more interdisciplinary spaces. Barad’s research focuses on the relationship between science and questions of justice.They are the author of Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Duke University Press, 2007) and numerous other works in the fields of physics, philosophy, political theory, science studies, decolonial studies, and feminist, queer, and trans theory. Their research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. Barad is a co-founder of the UCSC Science & Justice Research Center and the Science & Justice Graduate Training Program.

Black Quantum Futurism Black Quantum Futurism (Rasheedah Philips and Camae Ayewa) are photographed standing. They are looking into the camera with neutral facial expressions. © Ebru Yildiz

Black Quantum Futurism (BQF) is an interdisciplinary practice founded by Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips that synthesizes quantum physics with Afrodiasporic principles and ontologies of time, space, ritual, text, and sound, yielding an innovative framework for the creation of counterhistories and alternate futures. Rooted in a commitment to challenge mainstream narratives, BQF actively confronts exclusionary perspectives of history and the future, offering critical alternatives that uplift Black experiences and possibilities. The collective has been instrumental in the conceptualization and execution of an array of community-based projects, performances, experimental music projects, immersive installations, educational workshops, published books, short films, and a diverse range of zines. Two seminal initiatives by Black Quantum Futurism include the award-winning Community Futures Lab, which serves as an interactive platform for communal storytelling and speculative planning, and the Black Women Temporal Portal, aimed at amplifying the often-overlooked narratives of Black women through a variety of media. Black Quantum Futurism's art, writing, and music have been nationally and internationally recognized. They were honored as 2022 Creative Capital Fellows, while also receiving the distinction of being 2020 CERN Artist Residents. Additional fellowships and grants include the 2021 Knight Art + Tech Fellowship, the 2018 Velocity Fund Grant, and the 2017 Center for Emerging Visual Artists Fellowship, among others. BQF was further acknowledged as a 2017 Pew Fellow, reflecting their sustained impact in the artistic community. The reach of BQF's work extends to prestigious global platforms where they have presented, exhibited, and performed. These include REDCAT, Counterpublic 2023, Red Bull Arts NY,  Chicago Architecture Biennial, Village of Arts and Humanities, ApexArt NYC, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. International showcases also feature prominently, with installations at documenta fifteen, Manifesta 13, ICA London and more.

This event was curated by Lucy Rose Sollitt and commissioned by the Goethe-Institut in San Francisco, Ireland (Dublin), London and Beijing. It takes place with the generous partnership of Gray Area. Tuning into the Quantum was the last event of the Living in a Quantum State programme which in 2023 transitioned into “Studio Quantum” - A new international events and artist-in-residence programme from the Goethe-Institut, exploring emerging quantum technologies through the lens of art.


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