#981: Worldbuilding with the Guild of Future Architects’ Futurist Writer’s Room: “Traveling the Intersitium with Octavia Butler”

One of my favorite pieces at Sundance New Frontier 2021 this year was a series of four open web experiences created as a part of the piece Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler. Born out of The Guild of Future Architects‘ Futurist Writer Room, lead artists Sophia Nahli Allison, idris brewster, Stephanie Dinkins, Ari Melenciano, and Terence Nance participated in a series of worldbuilding workshops featured on the themes and imagination of Octavia Butler’s body of science fiction work. Their original output were going to be live performances, but with COVID-19, they decided to use open web technologies to distribute their speculative design art pieces. You can see these four immersive web pieces on the website Interstitium.space/.

kamal-sinclair2I had a chance about how this project came about with Kamal Sinclair, Founding Executive Director of Guild of the Future Architects, as well as with Ari Melenciano, a creative technologist & founder of AfroTecTopia. We trace the lineage of these worldbuilding processes that take inspiration from Alex McDowell’s World Building Institute, Afrofuturist designers, Allied Media Projects, AfroTecTopia, NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), Skawennati Fragnito’s Initiative for Indigenous Futures, Afrocentric Design, Processes Centered in Blackness, Janet Wong & Bill T. Jones of New York Live Arts, Future Imagination Summit 2019, as well as Octavia Butler’s body of work.

Ari-MelencianoSinclair and Melenciano talk about how this type of speculative worldbuilding allows Black artists to go beyond deficit-based narratives focused on trauma, and the space to step deeply into “the audacity of bold imaginations of our future” where reconciliation is possible and new potentials are released. They are cultivating a practice of creative & collaborative foresite that’s able to “liberate minds of calcified understandings” and ultimately democratize of the imagination of our future through these creative, worldbuilding processes. Sinclair has become convinced of the power of radical imagination facilitated through these worldbuilding processes, because she has witness multiple times how these imaginal Afrofuturism visions expressed through art have come to pass when given enough resources and community members with the capacity and willingness make it happen.

Each of the four pieces within the Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler have their own speculative designs and take on the future, and you can experience them yourself on the Interstitium.space webite.


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Music: Fatality