Field notes — “Black Metropolis: 30 Years of Afrofuturism”

Opening night of “Black Metropolis: 30 Years of Afrofuturism, Comics, Music, Animation, Decapitated Chickens, Heroes, Villains and Negroes” took place at the Hammonds House Museum on Friday October 12, 2018. That evening Afrofuturist and visual artist, Tim Fielder, engaged in an artist talk.

Pictured above are a few notes taken during Tim Fielder’s artist talk. I will get back to this shortly, but first I want to offer a few thoughts developed after examining the Black Metropolis exhibit.

In the brochure pictured on the right, Tim Fielder provides an exhibit manifesto. He describes BLACK METROPOLIS as an “emotional ideal, not necessarily the physical construct…where Black people can be anything or anyone they choose.”

Fielder has developed a series of Black sci-fi superheroes to convey stories of empowerment or as Fielder expressed in his artist talk – “BLACK Ben Hurs”. Fielder considers himself an afroturism visual artist. His graphic designs and excerpts from his written work are currently on display at the Hammonds House Museum.

For me, the most interesting part of the exhibit is the context described on the exhibit labels. Fielder describes the highs and lows of his career. Examples of this includes the time he produced visuals and a story for the now defunct Marvel Music. Dr. Dre: Man With a Cold Heart featured rap pioneer Dr. Dre. When Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy the material was never published. Luckily, visitors can view this work at the Hammonds House museum.

Tim Fielder completed studies in New York at The School of Visual Arts. During that time he worked as a freelance editorial cartoonist for Village Voice. He also produced promotional material for entertainment venues.

A booklet titled Death Comes in Fours hangs near the “Alternative Cartooning” exhibit label. The last few pages are dedicated to advertisements. There you will see that members of the Fielder family once had a business operation in Georgia’s South DeKalb Mall.

Death Comes in Fours features characters inspired by Yoruba diety.

BLACK METROPOLIS exhibits 30 years of Tim Fielder’s work. In many ways, Fielder’s artist talk was something like an Afrofuturism 101. Below are a few notes taken during that discussion:

  • Terminology used within the Afrofuturism community include “DieselFunk” and “SteamFunk”
  • Tim Fielder and his brother Jim have a “Glog” which is similar to a video blog but with graphics. Diesel Funk
  • Tim suggests Octavia Butler’s “Wildseed” as a go-to book for first time science fiction readers
  • Octavia Butler, a black woman, was the first sci-fi writer to win a MacArthur Fellowship
  • Octavia Butler and others are featured in a documentary entitled “Black Sci-Fi”
  • Pedro Bell produced Afrofuturistic styled album covers for George Clinton and Funkadelic
  • Tim Fielder feels LaBelle, Brothers Johnson, Earth Wind and Fire embodied Afrofuturism – Sun-RA? Not so much.
  • Janelle Monae recently talked about Afrofuturism on Stephen Colbert. That’s major!
  • Ryan Coogler and his work on Black Panther has influenced financial opportunities for afrofuturism visual artists
  • Netflix has democratized how film media is manufactured, published and consumed. Creating a greater opportunity for visual artists to get their work out there.
  • Tim Fielder was a guest on the Afrofuturist podcast. Although I do not see where that episode has been uploaded, check out this interview with Nyame Brown. Brown does a great job of contextualizing what Afrofuturism is and what it can be.

Field notes and review prepared by TheHistorian528 for The Merging Lane Project

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