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“Just Futures” Opens

February 1, 2022  |  Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery


The Humanities Institute and the Center for Creative Ecologies present Beyond the End of the World Lecture Series.

 Just Futures, a highly anticipated exhibition featuring the works of Arthur Jafa, Martine Syms, and Black Quantum Futurism, curated by Professor T.J. Demos, History of Art and Visual Culture, opens at the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery February 1- March 19, 2022. We are excited to welcome the public back to the Sesnon Art Gallery after a nearly two-year hiatus.

Against the present’s seemingly endless backdrop of deep political unrest, environmental emergency, and racialized injustice, Just Futures highlights poignant creative experiments in futurity and justice, directed at emancipatory worlds-to-come. With artworks by Black Quantum Futurism, Arthur Jafa, and Martine Syms, Just Futures considers how time itself is a site of struggle and a horizon of liberation. The centerpiece of the exhibition, Arthur Jafa’s Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death (2016), was screened simultaneously over 48 hours across art museums in 2020 as an international response to racial justice uprisings and civil unrest. Far from homogenous, inherently progressive, or equitable, dominant time expresses the 24/7 chronologies of capital, long synchronized to racialized, gendered violence and oppression. The seemingly endless meter of production encloses people in temporal holds, defuturing communities, and imposing time-traps of debt and deadlines.

The artworks included in Just Futures powerfully reveal and challenge such temporality, including its seeming fixity and policed regimentation. In doing so, they build on the critical resources of Afrofuturisms of decades past—experiments in sonic and visual futurity that draw together Afro-diasporic cultures of creativity and the chronopolitics of coming liberation. Expanding horizons of the possible, the artists presented in Just Futures reveal new singular experiments in time travel. They cultivate space agency that dismantle the “Master(s) Clock(work Universe)” (Black Quantum Futurism); present a stunning cinematic exploration of African-American image archives opposing police brutality with scenes of freedom dreams and anti-racist struggle (Arthur Jafa); and offer a “Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto” contesting the entire edifice of racial capitalism (Martine Syms). Each inclusion provokes compelling and urgent recalibrations of justice and futurity.

This exhibition forms part of Beyond the End of the World, which comprises a year-long research and exhibition project and public lecture series, directed by T. J. Demos of UCSC’s Center for Creative Ecologies. The project brings leading international thinkers and cultural practitioners to UC Santa Cruz to discuss what lies beyond dystopian catastrophism, and asks how we can cultivate radical futures of social justice and ecological flourishing. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Culture and administered by The Humanities Institute. For more information visit BEYOND.UCSC.EDU

Please note: Exhibition includes violent imagery and content.

Visitors must be in compliance with Covid-19 protocols. Please complete a symptom check before or upon arrival.

Just Futures is sponsored by the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery, Center for Creative Ecologies, and The Humanities Institute. Education programming is developed by Darren Wallace, PhD student in Film and Digital Media.


February 1, 2022