One of the most seductive things about Science Fiction writing is that it is inherently political. Offering a speculative foil to the lived reality of the present/future, Science Fiction challenged cultural, technological, and political discourses. What’s more is Science Fiction’s ability to tease out the anxieties of the present moment, especially as it takes on a xenogenic bodily form. In creating an “other,” science fiction can hold up a mirror against the fears of a culture or group of people.
In our class discussions about xenogenic aliens, the body, and materiality, I’ve grown increasingly interested in the way in which the intersection of alien and othering presents problematic outcomes. I have also become increasingly interested in the way in which matter is transformed (seemingly into evil) through innately feminine actions (such as “birthing” and “hosting”), for example, in Bloodchild. It seems as if these literary moments point at innate anxieties about the female body, particularly the “othered” female body. I’ve also followed this discourse inwardly, thinking about ways my own body can be “alien.”
Throughout the class, I’ve reflected on texts and works in the arts that embody the ethos of Science Fiction. Specifically, in Williams’ Utopia and Science Fiction, in which the author unpacks various versions of utopia and dystopia in science fiction writing, I was reminded of Etel Adnan’s “the Arab Apocalypse.” The Arab Apocalypse, a poetry book written by the Palestinian/Lebanese artist, is a fantastical account of the Lebanese war. The seminal text, peppered with coded visuals and dizzying syntax, approaches the themes of trauma and dystopia in a particularly resonant way. Adnan’s likening of war to physical and metaphysical occurrences is most interesting. In one part of the text, she writes:
Caroline Seymour-Jorn writes of Etel’s work: “Adnan clearly uses the strength and intensity of the sun as a metaphor for colonial powers … [while the] sea, moon, earth and various specific groups of people, such as the Hopi and the Palestinians, variously represent the brutalized, colonial subject. … At other times, the sun seems to be a more general symbol for the violent potential of human beings. … However, Adnan’s sun also appears at several points … as wounded, deteriorating, or even dead. … Finally, Adnan’s sun sometimes seems merely to be an element of a larger universe that follows its cycles and is completely indifferent to the travails of human beings on earth.” And yet, while Adnan’s work is dizzying and beautiful, it reveals an inherently complicated relationship between the MENA region and science fiction writing because of the long withstanding history of colonization. Campbell argues that Arab SciFi participates in double estrangement, writing both towards colonial past and current social conditions, including the colonial gaze. Through this framework, I will consider how utopia is an inherently western byproduct of the technological era.
Building on my existing research in Channel 18, an ongoing research project exploring the aesthetics of memory, its preservation, and its afterlife. Having learned that a portion of the 1976-1977 Bahrain Television Archives was burned in the 90s, I began an alternative socio-political exploration of this absence. In 2021, I produced a multimedia, site-specific installation presented as an abandoned national television control room that includes; video, sound, photography, collage, and text. Using the footage collected from the (non-destroyed) archive, I will construct an experimental film that documents the disappearance of a girl, Adhari. The name refers to a myth of a girl who, upon being approached by a man in a palm tree grove, alchemizes into an ever-flowing spring. (A Folktale of Bahrain) By viewing science fiction through a decolonial feminist lens, I will unpack the tropes of “transformation” and “alchemy” in SF as it relates to the female body. With sensitivity to the feminist discourse in Etel’s work and Le Guin’s writing, I will experiment with the physical manifestation of transformation through experimental film and sculpture. My final product will be a film that documents the transformation of substance in ways that can be amorphous, jarring, and psychological. By juxtaposing made-footage with archival footage, I hope to arrive at a visual nexus of materiality, unfamiliarity, and introspection.
For Prof Keramidas, Please refer to doc link below for full proposal: