Dark Matters: On Race, Capitalism, and the Whiteness of the Screen
American Artist with Zainab Aliyu
Anna Rulloda, Heidi He, Hermann Zschiegner, Hiroyuki Sakamoto, Jenna Murphy, Joanne Magbitang, Kate Yourke, Ladan Bahmani, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Matthis Grunsky, Mauricio Román, Maya Charles, Michelle Chang, Salem Abdulla, Sara K.R., Sara Martinez, Shen-Shen Wu, Thomas (Luca) Bailey and Yadira Sanchez
In this critical theory course, we will reframe the history and future of computation to center its oversights, biases, and errors. Together we will uncover computation’s relationship to colonization, critical race theory, capitalism, incarceration and beyond. We will discuss in small and large groups how we can use computational systems to create the matrix of our dreams while holding these systems accountable to their origins. By reading critical texts, viewing artworks and interacting with professional guests we will learn how these structures are compromised so that we can begin to imagine what an outside to them might look like. This class relies on an expanded notion of study, where we will challenge one another to think outside the box about what learning is and ultimately can be. We will also look at the practices of contemporary artists critiquing (and expanding the imaginary within) technology as examples of how radical imagination can be evoked through artistic practice. By the end of the class we will create a project with contributions from each member of the class.
You are viewing photos related to this program. Read participant testimonials.You are viewing participant testimonials. View photos related to this program.
Course of Study
Week 1: Orientation —
History of SFPC, community agreement, learning objectives, about the final project, meet the participants
Week 2: Transparency —
We will be looking at the origin of computer interfaces and how they obscure reality, compared to a traditional model of ideology.
Week 3: Ground —
This discussion will focus on the origins of settler colonialism in the Western United States and the preface to modern-day Silicon Valley.
Week 4: Interface —
This week begins with a critical reconsideration of computer design, and what a decolonial technology might look like.
Week 5: Watching —
We will begin considering the origins of surveillance technology in the United States, and its roots in racial capitalism.
Week 6: Being —
Building on the previous week, we will unpack how the body as data is related to the legacy of racial slavery.
Week 7: Calculation —
We will learn about the origins of scientific racism as well as the evolution of Ancestral DNA tracing as a commercial phenomenon.
Week 8: Accumulation —
This week’s discussion is an overview of neoliberal economic practices in America, the normalization of debt, and the expansion of policing and incarceration.
Week 9: Prediction —
Building on the previous discussion we will look at how the Military, University, High Tech sector, and Police came together to create a perfect data storm.
Week 10: Graduation —
We will be sharing our work with the community through a Zoom event.
What is expected of me?
Participants are expected to spend time outside of class on readings and doing assignments.
Over the course of the 10 weeks, we will be working on a collaborative publication relating to themes discussed in class, and by the end of the class we will publish this as a digital publication containing original contributions from every member of the class. See past years’ publications
(Fall 2018) and
By taking this class, you can expect to gain the following:
The ability to communicate complex ideas through writing and discussion with peers.
A more conscientious approach to developing new technology and design that reflects our current moment, centering care and longevity rather than efficiency.
A nuanced critical perspective towards technological objects and their generation of power and control in society.
A thorough knowledge of the history of surveillance practices in the United States.
An interdisciplinary understanding of the relationship between art, design, technology, and economics.
Meet the Teachers & Organizers
American Artist makes thought experiments that mine the history of technology, race, and knowledge production, beginning with their legal name change in 2013. Their work engages anti-Black state violence, surveillance, and criminalization, such as predictive policing. Artist is a 2022 Creative Capital and United States Artists grantee, and a recipient of the 2021 LACMA Art & Tech Lab Grant. They have exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art; MoMA PS1; Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Kunsthalle Basel, CH; and Nam June Paik Center, Seoul. They have had solo museum exhibitions at The Queens Museum, New York and The Museum of African Diaspora, California. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, Artforum, and Huffington Post. Artist is a part-time faculty at Parsons, NYU and UCLA and a co-director of the School for Poetic Computation.
Zainab "Zai" Aliyu is an artist and cultural worker whose work is about the material affect of the "immaterial." She contextualizes the cybernetic and temporal entanglement embedded within societal dynamics to understand how all sociotechnological systems of control are interconnected, and how we are all implicated through time. She often dreams, experiments and inquires through built virtual environments, printed matter, video, archives, writing, installation and community-participatory (un)learning. Zai is currently a 2022 fellow at NYU Tisch's Future Imagination Collaboratory, design director for the African Film Festival at the Film at Lincoln Center in NYC, a co-director of the School for Poetic Computation, and is tending to her creative practice at a collective studio warehouse named Soft Surplus.
If you are an artist or designer who wants to know more about computer technology.
If you want to engage with critical theory for the first time, or have experience with it.
If you recently finished a degree program, or are on the fence about whether to enter one.
If you are a coder or tech worker and you want to think more critically about the social and economic impact of computers.
If you are NOT a coder or tech worker but you want a deeper understanding of how code affects everything around us.
If you are a fan of The Matrix (1999).
If this sounds like you, then this class may not be for you:
If you are only interested in coding or getting better at coding.
If you think the economic theorist Adam Smith made a lot of good points.
If you want people to believe that the cloud is in the sky.
Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video.
Online programs are held over Zoom.
Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in
general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any
assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating
learning environment for your needs.
$1200 + Withfriends payment processing fees for 10
Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved.
We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.
I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?
If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can
pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that
we’re able to do so.
We have also started a scholarship fund, and
we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC.
We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered,
disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.
Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers,
pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to
entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer
and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long
term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards
transforming SFPC’s financial model.
How can I help others to attend SFPC?
For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth
redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have
the financial privilege to do so, please
donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of
their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center
of poetry and justice that we know it can be.
What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?
Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
No refunds can be given after the first day of the class
with Sam Lavigne, Omayeli Arenyeka and Ilona Brand
March 15 - May 19, 2022 ·Online (Zoom) ·Applications closed
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