Cauleen Smith

In 1989, Cauleen Smith produced an experimental biography (Chronicles of A Lying Spirit By Kelly Gabron) in which marginal representations of black female identity are transposed upon images and locations spanning vast spaces, places, and time. Time travel became narrative metaphor for a diasporic identity in search of itself.

In 1995, the cultural critic Mark Dery published his essay, “Black To The Future,” in which he coined the term “Afrofuturism” to describe the phenomenon of African American artists using the strategies, metaphors, and aesthetics of science, technology, cosmology, and physics to frame and structure their music (Sun Ra, Lee Scratch Perry), visual art (John Biggers, Eldzier Cortor), and narratives (Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler). This label has served to realign artists and intellectuals of the past with contemporary cultural producers into a continuum in which race itself becomes a technology that permits the exploration of inner spaces, outer spaces, and structures for intimacy, freedom, and social utility that are unsanctioned by mundane (non-speculative) narratives.

The short experimental films and videos of Cauleen Smith which combine formalist film strategies and speculative narrative strategies have been assembled into two volumes; MCASD presents Volume 1. The Afro-futurist films of Cauleen Smith span nineteen years of experimental time-based media practice. As Smith’s critical engagement with sci-fi deepens, she better understands the fact that it is quite a natural genre for a person who is very interested in history, memory, and cognitive estrangement.

Text by Kelly Gabron