Rasheedah Phillips wanted to create an event like “Space Camp,” the nationally recognized children’s space education program. But Phillips wanted to create a camp for fans of time travel.
“Part of it was my own selfish wanting to nerd out with other people, thinking about time and talking about time,” said Phillips, a 2008 Beasley School of Law alumna. “I love talking about time.”
Her vision came to fruition last weekend as she hosted Time Camp 001, a two-day interactive art installation in the Icebox Project Space in the Crane Arts Building, an art studio co-op on American Street near Master.
More than 40 artists, performers and presenters convened at the event to host workshops and exhibit multimedia art displays that explored the concept of time, particularly through the perspective of people of color. Several Temple alumnae presented at the event.
Time Camp 001 was presented and created by the Black Quantum Futurism Collective, an Afrofuturist collaboration between Phillips and Philadelphia-based artist Camae Ayewa.
The term Afrofuturism was first coined by cultural critic Mark Dery. In his 1994 essay “Black to the Future,” Dery wrote that Afrofuturism describes fiction that “addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth century technoculture.”
The Black Quantum Futurism Collective uses experimental music, essays and community-based events to explore the connections between “futurism, creative media, DIY-aesthetics and activism in marginalized communities,” according to its website.
From May 2016 to May 2017, Phillips, who also works as a housing attorney for the Philadelphia nonprofit Community Legal Services, operated the Community Futures Lab in a space in the Sharswood neighborhood on Ridge Avenue near 22nd Street. Sharswood, a neighborhood west of Main Campus, is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
She used the space to collect oral histories of Sharswood residents for her ethnographic research project, “Community Futurisms: Time & Memory in North Philly.” She asked them about their past memories of the neighborhood and their visions of the future.
While “Community Futurisms” was a geographically specific project, Phillips said Time Camp 001 encompassed many different cultural perspectives.
“There [are] culturally specific modes of time and temporality that are underexplored,” Phillips said. “This is not something that’s exclusive to Western culture, or even Afrofuturistic culture.”
Unlike the Western perception of a distinct past, present and future, Phillips said Afrofuturists perceive time as a circular pattern, an idea rooted in traditional African conceptions of time.
Throughout the weekend, workshop hosts presented several other perspectives on time and the future. In a workshop on Sunday, Sheree Brown and Asia Dorsey — Colorado-based herbalists, or makers of medicinal herbs and food — spoke about the “dreamwork” tradition of the Mexica, the indigenous people of Mexico. In this tradition, people believe that an event occurs only after it’s imagined in a dream. In another workshop, Nathan Fried, a postdoctoral neuroscience fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, scientifically explained how the brain perceives time.
“[We’re] bringing these conversations together, bringing these perspectives together to challenge just the simple idea that time is linear, time is scientific, time is not subjective,” Phillips said. “I think it takes more than just one particular cultural perspective to get at that idea.”
In addition to the series of workshops, the event featured 20 art installations, including paintings, short films, a virtual reality headset and even a tin foil-plastered wall.
In one installation, MFA of film and media arts alumnae Laura Deutch and Katya Gorker placed a tricycle outfitted with a video projector and flashing lights inside a private tent. As blue, green and purple lights flickered at the reflective foil canopy, Deutch and Gorker served participants herbal tea and played them one of four guided meditation soundtracks.
Gorker, who graduated in 2012, described the experience as an “internal time travel,” or a way to break away from life’s constant stimuli.
“I think it’s a way to say, ‘Pause,’” said Deutch, who graduated in 2010.
Jazmyn Burton, the university’s public affairs manager, also focused on meditative practices in her workshop. She led an Egyptian yoga class based on the practice of Muata Ashby, a holistic theologist who believes yoga originated in Africa. In her 90-minute class on Sunday, Burton taught yoga postures rooted in ancient Egyptian traditions, which were intended to help participants align their mind, body and spirit, she said.
“When you meditate, you enter into a space where time doesn’t exist,” Burton said. “Africans in America have a history that goes beyond enslavement. … I like how our future always circles back to the past.”
Burton is an avid fan of Black science fiction and Afrofuturism. She said she finds inspiration in this “generation of creators and thinkers.”
“There are very few Black people in science fiction,” Burton said. “I think it is important for Africans in America to see themselves as part of the future.”
Ian Walker contributed reporting.