A Carrier Bag Theory of Friction and Other Haptic Dramas: On the Films of Maryam Tafakory (2022)

♦  Hoda Kashiha’s Paintings Evoke the Space of the Screen (2022)

♦  The Moving Matter of Film (2022)

[review] Archived Opposition: “Art for the Future” at Tufts University Art Galleries (2022)

♦  Documentation, Speculation, and Pattern Recognition: Toward a Media History of Modern and Contemporary Art (2021)

♦  Ethnofuturity and the Many Ends of (World) History (2021)

♦  An Introduction to Ethnofuturisms (2021)

♦  The Geopolitical Ontology of the Post-Optical Image: Notes on The Otolith Group’s Sovereign Sisters (2021)

♦  Earthbound: Notes on Sahej Rahal’s Bashinda (2021)

Fucking with the Human Outline: Notes on Zach Blas’s SANCTUM (2021)

♦  Notes on the Hungarofuturist Manifesto (2020)

♦  Letters against Separation (2020)

♦  Notes on Class, Labor, and the Moving Image (2020)

♦  Toward a Comparative Futurism (2019)

♦  National Identity Meets Digital Nativity: Memes, Counter-Strike, and Black Metal in the Works of Shabahang Tayyari (2019)

♦  On the Installation Shots of Contemporary Art Exhibitions (2019)

[review] Shilpa Gupta and Zarina: Altered Inheritances at Ishara Art Foundation (2019)

♦  On the Works of Morteza Ahmadvand, Ghazaleh Hedayat, and Sahand Hesamiyan (2019)

♦  Ethics of Time Travel: Toward a Comparative Futurism (2019) 

♦  CAD Conspiracy: Pattern Recognition in Contemporary Art (2019)

♦  Peer Pressuring the Past, Future-Fictioning the Present: On the Films of Bahar Noorizadeh (2018)

♦  “What Was Gulf Futurism” (2018)

♦  A Butterfly Effect Across the Chronosphere (2018)

♦  Ethnofuturisms (Merve Verlag: 2018)

♦  Notes From the Attic: Displaying the Material History of the CIA (2018)

♦  EXIT: A Postcard from Tehran (2018)

♦  Tehran Behind the Screen (2018)

♦  “Post-Capitalist Desire”: An Introduction (2017)

♦  The Exhibition Whisperer: Auto-Italia South East and Image-Sharing Technologies (2017)

♦  Instrumental Xenotation (2017)

♦  Objective Hyperreality vs. Hyperobjective Reality (2017)

♦  Despotic Ophidiophobia (2017)

♦  This Is the Sea, Isn’t It? (2017)

♦  August 3, 2016: After Pak Sheung-Chuen (2016)

♦  Trans-Temporal Perspectives (2016)

♦  An Alternative Entry in Five Moves (2016)


Toward a Comparative Futurism

Reality, Contrary, and Special Effects of Ethnofuturisms …

Earlier versions of this essay were published in the accompanying publication to Cosmological Arrows, an exhibition at Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm, August 2019, and presented at The Twilight Symposium: Science Fiction Inside Colonialism organized by e-flux journal in collaboration with La Colonie in Paris, February 2019. It has been republished on The Whole Life platform, an online project by Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, May 2022.

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Image: Sam Raimi, Spider-Man, 2002; Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko, 2001.



. . . the rebirth of a non-neologism, a heretical transvaluation . . .

Realized in collaboration with Armen Avanessian and published by Merve Verlag, this volume includes contributions by Fatima Al Qadiri, Monira Al Qadiri, Sophia Al-Maria, Aria Dean, Kodwo Eshun, Steve Goodman, Anna Greenspan, and Karen Orton. It also includes the introductory essay Ethnofuturisms: Findings in Common and Conflicting Futures.

This anthology should by no means be considered exhaustive, but only a first step toward a new field of research that might once be called Comparative Futurism.

Toward A Comparative Futurism

The Geopolitical Ontology of the Post-Optical Image: Notes on The Otolith Group’s Sovereign Sisters

This essay was published in Xenogenesis, a comprehensive catalogue raisonné and collection of essays on the works of The Otolith Group (Kodwo Eshun + Anjalika Sagar) co-published by Archive Books and the Irish Museum of Modern Art on the occasion of their touring retrospectives in 2021-2022.

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Reflecting on a silent, black-and-white, digital animation titled Sovereign Sisters (2014), the essay examines the political aesthetics of the international infrastructures of connectivity in various historical contexts since the late 19th century, and explores how imaging technologies relate to the different and differential states of being and being human.

Earthbound: Notes on Sahej Rahal’s Bashinda

An abridged version of this article appeared in frieze issue 216.

Bashinda (2020)– commissioned for the now-postponed 13th Gwangju Biennale – is the fourth in a series of virtual biomes, or digital mythomorphic soundscapes, created by Mumbai-based artist Sahej Rahal. Complicating easy designations of a medium or format, Bashinda is a game that will be mainly experienced as a film – less of a recording of a game previously played and more of a game played live by an AI – the automated screening of possible gaming scenarios. Bashinda, the Hindi-Urdu word for inhabitant, is named after its main character: a terrestrial cephalopod with twelve limbs holding up a faceless torso-head that looks like some kind of rock formation or mineral aggregate. All shapes are crudely contoured, almost sans any texture as such, by a crisp yet primal aesthetic that extends to the creature’s surroundings as well.

Like most third-person perspective games, the landscape would not come into view unless trodden by Bashinda, draggin along the virtual camera hovering behind it. However, clearcut figurge-ground relations are technically untenable, although visually maintained, in this simulated environment, which is covered in wavering patches of grass, dotted with ever blossoming trees and ground-grown cubic forms, and also populated by other cephalopodic creatures with confrontational and interactive tendencies. Bashinda’s movement, as a mobile locus of all that moves around it, is a function of an ambient mood, a whirlpool of contingencies that as much draw on so-called user input as are conditioned, contextually, by some sort of common algorithmic denominator between different responses scripted in the program’s behaviour. The layers of reciprocity that are programmed into Bashinda move the notion of programmable automation away from its normative mimicry of life-as-labor-as-capital and situate it as an evolving apparatus among others, whether cultural, biological, or technological. An instrument turns into a collaborator.

Two pieces of technical specification are key in understanding the way in which Bashinda attempts to interface processes of different kind and the beings that evolve, iteratively and not teleologically, from such processes with each other. Firstly, Bashinda’s brain power, so to speak, is diffused among the limbs, which respond to stimuli semi-autonomously, rendering each move a matter of negotiation between several kinetic agencies. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, an audio sensorium lies at the core of how the program, its temperamental kinetics, and its environmental rendering are interfaced with where and when the program is put into play. Within this mechanism, sound functions as the driving force and moving motor of the image, where sound is often noise and image is at once gestural and evolutionary. In fact, the speed by which the program’s behaviour and environmental mood evolve is repeatedly, almost temperamentally, disrupted and changed by changes in the tempo, frequency, volume, and rhythm of actual atmospheric noise, background music, or conversations that might be going on where and when the work is exhibited.

Rahal’s design for such more or less deep mediation of an imaginary elsewhere in fact lays the ground for a commentary on India’s current sociopolitical landscape, where a legislative double-state of exemption and exclusion has been recently grafted onto age-old structures of religious and ethnic discrimination. The word bashinda similarly implies the tension that lies in how residence/inhabitance flickers between citizenship and denizenship. The newly introduced Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens together produce a surplus outcast from within the actually existing population, dispossessing “resident Indian” Muslim communities, among some other minorities, of the right to the future liveability of their historical habitat by displacing their pasts onto an isolated, imaginary elsewhere. 

Along with its juridical engineerings, Hindu supremacism functions as a reductive myth monopoly. Much like other atavistic ethnonationalisms of the age of global capital, it banks on the injected liquidity of retrofitted narratives of heritage and belonging, which preserve the metaphysics of caste as the core anatomy of Indian society. In fact, canonical fictions of innate hierarchy have been historically anthropomorphized in the body of Manu (the archetypal saviour and progenitor of earthbound humanity in Hindu mythology), whose head represents the highest classes and whose limbs, given their distance from the assumed seat of intellect and consciousness, represent the lowest.

In this sense, Rahal’s art gestures toward a mythotechnical aesthetic. It employs time-based audiovisual media to render multi-environmental temporalities sensible. Through Bashinda, the anthropic coordinates of concrete experience are abstracted without entirely abandoning its materiality, approximating a posthuman condition. On the other hand, and similar to Rahal’s other virtual biomes, Bashinda exhibits a critical exercise in ethnofuturist worldmaking, insofar as it wonders what environments might emerge, what beings might rise, and what myths could be told if the inherited distances that maintain monopolies of cultural imagination were to collapse.

reprinted in Magic: Documents of Contemporary Art (Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press, 2021)

Notes on Class, Labor, and the Moving Image

This essay was published in Not Working: Reader, which accompanied the exhibition “Not Working: Artistic Production and Matters of Class” at Kunstverein München (September–November 2020).

“… to draw out some relationships between… the topical decline of class in contemporary art; the increasing rise of the moving image in contemporary art; the digital turn of the experience economy, and how it plays into contemporary impressions of labor by obscuring expressions of class; the historical role of the filmic medium in the management of labor; as well as attempts at toying with how these relationships are upheld in a highly self-centered image of the status quo.”

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