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5 October 2018

Visionary Fictions at ONCA

A gallery space contains a white floor mat covered in objects and texts, surrounded by door mats with texts including 'Already Too Late' and 'How Can I Give Hope to a Child?'

We Almost Didn't Make It by Beverly Naidus

Supported by a project grant from Arts Council England and part of Season for Change, ONCA in Brighton has been hosting a series of sci-fi inspired workshops, talks and installations collectively called Visionary Fictions in summer and autumn 2018.

Visionary Fictions is a term coined by American writer Walidah Imarisha to describe speculative fictions that envision and fight for social justice. It’s consistent with multi-species theorist Donna Haraway’s notion of ‘staying with the trouble’. Inspired by these two contemporary approaches, ONCA’s programme aims to challenge mainstream climate change narratives, generate empowering visions of the future, and support audiences and participants to differently imagine futures and create visions for just and habitable worlds.

Artist-led events on the positive power of science fiction with HOAX theatre company, decolonial artist Jacob Joyce, writer/director Karla Sweet, socially engaged artist Beverly Naidus, digital artist Irene Fubara-Manuel and others offer alternatives to dystopia, and celebrate new creative approaches to addressing difficult issues.

Experimental collaborative writing workshops contributed to the creation of the programme and culminated in a Collaborative Future Fictions symposium in July, with activities ranging from interspecies collaborative poetry writing to clown performance. Karla Sweet led a sci-fi writing workshop where participants took inspiration from objects that had been made in an earlier eco-scenography workshop with Andrea Carr and HOAX.

A fern is held in place on top of a piece of a paper while somebody draws around it with a pen
Collaborative Interspecies Writing Workshop by Clare Whistler & Kay Syrad
Several sheets of paper are held together by tape and covered in a large drawing of a face and tentacles and small excerpts of text. We see two hands as someone adds to the drawing
Jacob V Joyce drawing
We are looking over the heads and shoulders of other applauding audience members at a project image of a smiling speaker
Skype session with Walidah Imarisha

Beverly Naidus brought her interactive piece ‘We Almost Didn’t Make It’ to the gallery in September, making space for audiences to contribute to and shape the evolving installation by imagining the world in 150 years’ time and invoking things that they want to still exist then. The installation addressed the uncertainties faced by humanity as climate change and ongoing ecocide and environmental injustice affect many populations around the world and offered ways for audiences to imagine the lives of their descendants, transforming painful emotions into fuel for creative activism, fostering dialogue about ways to move past dystopic thinking and support resilient activism.

We are looking through a plastic sheet carrying the words "be dead before I'm". Behind we can see several figures standing in a small white room and objects on the floor and walls.
We Almost Didn’t Make It by Beverly Naidus
A white cloth is laid on the floor covered in objects and small texts.
Portal of Possibilities by Beverly Naidus
A hanging translucent plastic curtain carries the text "Everything Extracted and Consumed"
Everything Extracted by Beverly Naidus

Irene Fubara Manuel’s immersive digital installation plunges the viewer inside a sci-fi computer game that simulates and subverts the biometric tests at international border controls. Building from the artist’s real experiences at the UK Border, video games, moving images, and 3D printed objects link these supposedly race-neutral biometric technologies to their colonial and racist histories, subverting them in ways that grant mobility – however virtual or fictional – to black migrants.

The image shows a dark room which appears to have grids of purple lights on the wall. In the centre of the image is a silhouette of a human figure with arms outstretched.
Dreams of Disguise by Irene Fubara Manuel

Check out ONCA’s current open call for artists to create new work about biodiversity, racial justice and environmental justice. The deadline for applications is 14 October.