Rah Eleh
Xenofuturism: A Proposal for a Liminal Futurism

What theoretical and performative tools are available to betwixt subjects whose desire leads to a sense of spatiality, temporality and futurity outside of nationalism? What new geographical dimensions and theoretical frameworks can hybrid subjects introduce to the discourse of ethnic futurism, nationalism and technoculture? My doctoral research, performance and digital artworks will examine these issues and contribute to greater social knowledge, awareness, and cultural discourses surrounding ethnic futurism, ethnonationalism and technoculture.

Many historians purport that nationalism is a product of modernity and in the early 20th century, nationalist ideology begins to permeate cultural production. In 1909, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote the “Manifesto of Futurism” repudiating cultural traditions and promulgating the Machine Age. Contemporary ethnic futurisms peddle a similar narrative and are anchored in cultural and ethnic nationalism. Similar to their Italian predecessors, ethnic futurist artworks fetishize technological determinism and project grandiose illusions of the future (Smith, 2013). Albeit, the Italian futurists were ultraconservative, championing patriarchy, misogyny and fascism; contemporary racialized futuristic proposals are reacting to a systematic and cancelled future.

My doctoral research will provide an interdisciplinary analysis of ethnic futurist artworks that maintain an aesthetic and ideology centred around national identity and iconography. The existing scholarship about futurism disproportionality focuses on Italian futurism. There has been moderate scholarship written about non-European futurisms that address racial and spatiotemporal concerns in the context of 20th century technoculture (Berghaus, 2000; Dery, 1994; Parikka, 2018). Building on these pathbreaking works, there is now space to examine the aesthetic repertoire of ethnic futurisms from an anti-nationalist and “xenofuturist” framework.

Supervisor: Bouchra Khalili

Rah Eleh, Xenofuturist Portal, 10x10x15 foot structure, photo credit Scott Lee, 2019-2021.