01 - Family Portrait
02 - Self Portrait
03 - Ghost Portrait
04 - Sleep Portrait
05 - Family Portrait?
06 - Self Portrait II
07 - Wedding Portrait
08 - Ghost Portrait II
09 - Self Portrait III
10 - Battle Uniform for an Always Apocalyptic America
dreaming in the garden
there lies a hallowed den
gleaming through the forest
as sunshine dances in
swallows dart and glide
o’er its exalted air
fauna hop to and fro
for fear of prancing there
while golden glimmers beckon
and sun holds day’s reign
darkened shadows dare
night prowlers nay visit again
- poem by adia weaver
I came into this project with a lot of ambitions. I set out to examine how the Internet complicates modern Black identity-
As the pandemic continued on, my lofty vision began to crumble, and so too did my once carefully crafted identity.
WHO THE FUCK AM I?
WHO THE FUCK
My family members are now my closest collaborators. My home has grown to resemble the carefully curated idylls of #aesthetic Instas and Pins. For practical, even utilitarian purposes, but also like, why not? I live in darkness, in light, in morning, in night. The new normal is virtual, physical, and somewhere in between.
And so are we.
LOOK UNDER YOUR CHAIRS!
This project probes the construction and degradation of collective identities.
WHEN WERE WE
AND WHO WILL WE NOW BE?
We Wear the Mask
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Everyday, I wake up and become a cyborg yet again. Between the iPhone that I use incessantly, AirPods which stay in my ears from sunrise to midnight, my smartwatch, and my laptop, I am in some ways fully interdependent with a number of technological tools that I use to optimize my productivity and stay connected with the world around me. I am not alone in these practices; in this 21st-century age of social distancing and telecommunications, I think we have all found ourselves interfacing with screens more and more on a daily basis. On one level, I am just another user on the server, another viewer on a platform, another consumer in the marketplace-- anonymized in our multimodal reality simply by virtue of being a citizen of cyberspace. But on another level, I am uniquely me- the product of various environments, technological interactions, and social realities. As a black woman in this digital era, I have always wondered how these distinct experiences shape identity and provide a mechanism of intercultural and sociopolitical meaning-making.
For as long as I can remember, technology has been a central pillar of my daily life. From texting classmates on my LG Xenon’s T9 keyboard after school to now FaceTiming friends and family across the country, the proverbial black mirror has served as a key means of sustaining interpersonal relationships for myself and others of my generation. Technology and digital media platforms have long served as a means for connecting and reconnecting people with shared backgrounds. But especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a globally resurgent Civil Rights Movement, digital spaces have become all the more essential, serving as tools for communication, connection, and cultural production with sociopolitical impact.
I will graduate in Spring 2021, into a somewhat unconventional and unknown future, but representing the newest generation of Black students at Princeton’s campus-- both physical and virtual. During the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential virtual nature of college, I have found myself without the traditional cathartic outlets that characterized my weekends: listening to music, dancing, flirting, drinking, talking, travelling, getting dressed up, and... eventually studying. While some students have indeed returned to this mode of college life, the unique environment that Princeton provided for these purposes has all but vanished-- a once somewhat safe space for the socialization of young people as we navigated early adulthood. The absence of social physical space has elucidated for me the discrepancy between these experiences and virtual ones. In some ways, we remain connected; in others, we never were to begin with.
(WHO IS WE)
01 - FAMILY PORTRAIT
Within my family structure, dreams represent a meaningful intersection of the sacred and the profane, a site for the spiritual and the secular unconscious to interact and converse. Our dreams are profoundly personal, but also collective experiences which allow us to share our thoughts, hopes, and fears. Our dreams also influence our waking reality, as numerous times, myself and my family members have done things because we did so in our dreams. This approach to autoethnography subverts past narratives in which dreams occupy a liminal status, perhaps referenced, but off the page. As we grappled with exaggerated daytime stressors, the dreamscape offers an opportunity for us each to explore our own interiorities, while also connecting with one another through trying to make meaning of these personalized lapses in lived reality. For myself and my family, dreams are not dreams at all, but experiences of and for life.
02 - SELF PORTRAIT
The influence of the ostentatious displays of wealth have of late transformed towards the boujee aesthetics of late capitalism. From Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids” to Migos “Bad and Boujee,” the aesthetics of milieu of millennial malaise have fed into Zoomer-era hyper visualized consumerist aesthetics. These modern “post-riche” aesthetics reflect the conditions of its practitioners, one shaped by intellectually and politically fraught discussions and experiences questioning race, gender, sexuality, globalism, environmentalism and a distorted sense of futurity and time. And now more than ever, Generation Z must reckon with drug addiction, suicide, depression, and anxiety. As of 2021, the nouveau riche signifier as deviant has also been reincorporated into the capitalist structure, with massive fast fashion retailers and corporations recognizing the importance of consumer behavior, and capitalizing off of social media and influencer culture for profit and exposure. What could be a multi-generational vision for the future of work and wealth? How does a reparatory framework complicate the analysis of the modern media landscape and its aesthetics?
03 - GHOST PORTRAIT
“Being infected has opened my eyes (again) to my own mortality. As a result, I think we have to be better prepared as a family in terms of disaster planning and preparedness” - J
With COVID-19 still ongoing, our time is strangely apocalyptic, yet equally quotidian. Newly virtual, yet still very analog, very “IRL.” And in the wake of COVID-19, the exposure to such a large-scale medical disaster may well leave everyone traumatized. Already reports indicate that the impact of COVID-19 has exacted a significant financial toll, with the global economic bailout running at USD 19.5 trillion as of November 2020. Yet, estimating the social, psychological, and cultural toll of the pandemic remains to be determined. To truly address the extent of traumas suffered by the American people on the whole, American infrastructures would require massive change. While modern innovations, therapeutic priorities, and culturally-responsive pedagogy can help to address the trauma of past and present, to what extent will trauma continue to complicate the future?
04 - SLEEP PORTRAIT
Dreams and visualized ideas offer semiotic value, exploring the role of symbols as a means to explore how expression and communication engage the self and manifest in society and culture. Global pop culture and visual media constantly engage imagery and iconography emphasizing utopia and dystopia. Indeed, it is a “culture, finally, in which ancient suspicions of analogy, reality and image are fostered and reinforced by a very modern theory of the sign.” How can analyzing speculative visual spaces offer insight into sociocultural and political histories and realities?
05 - FAMILY PORTRAIT?
For better or for worse, we often create the very worlds that we run from. The term retrofuturist is used to analyze views of the future as imagined in the past. The dissonance which arises from this imagined reality and the actual one is evocative, highlighting all of the predictions which actually came true and the dreams which were still left unrealized. We can observe the impact of this sort of imaginary at work around us. In
this digital era, the media and entertainment industry is hyper-present and significantly influential in global culture. As such, the metropolitan condition has been democratized and is readily accessible across the globe through visual media, making the dreams and dreamscapes from people of all backgrounds more accessible than ever.
06 - SELF PORTRAIT II
In recent years, the philosophies and styles of Afrofuturism, an aesthetic informed by the intersection of African and African-American traditionalism and technological futurism, have become infused in the collective consciousness of the black diaspora, from Marvel’s blockbuster
to increasingly techno-punk aesthetics within hip-hop culture. However, the hypervisibility and integration of Afrofuturist aesthetics within global visual culture faces an interesting tension; vastly impactful due to their exportation and significance within wide networks of cultural exchange, yet still subject to incorporative processes within an capitalistic framework. This dominant aesthetic, Afrofuturism, represents a meaningful term with artistic and anthropological significance in the contemporary era, often marking sociocultural imaging as economically meaningful sites for reanimation and retelling. Afrofuturist methodologies can aim to develop new schema for understanding and representing black futuristic practice as co-constructions of non-disciplines which exist beyond boundaries of art and science.
07 - WEDDING PORTRAIT
“COVID 19 has reminded me to honor the past, live fully in the present and embrace the future—we have much to do.” -K
08 - GHOST PORTRAIT II
In many ways, the apocalyptic realities of COVID-19 have worsened the longstanding socio-political conditions of African-American families and communities. And at the same time, African-American realities have always been dystopian. The question ofof reparations has been visited in many contexts. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2016 article of the “The Case for Reparations” explores the influence of housing inequity and writes on the enduring rejection of HR-40. Yet, such a solution has been rejected for impracticability and hyper-liberalism. In the age of COVID-19, stimulus checks are one fiscal form of restitution and remediation in the midst of disaster. However, the damage exacted by this pandemic extends beyond mere economic impact, and has disproportionately affected already disadvantaged communities and people of color in countless ways. The work in excavating traumas and creating new futures starts in our homes and in our communities. We all hold power over our own narratives and can enact meaningful change in making collectively-held dreams, from equal access to medical resources to fair and equitable treatment, a reality.
09 - SELF PORTRAIT III
As one glaring example in modern history of the sheer magnitude of human destruction, the notion of post-nuclear sublimity provides one way in which to unpack contemporary visual motifs. Understanding “the nuclear as the unthinkable to be the most recent version of the notion of the sublime” echoes the disruptive abnormality with which landscapes have traditionally been recognized. As the explicit prominence of nuclear disaster has dissipated over time, so too has the comparison; yet the aesthetics of post-nuclear sublimity still reside within my and our visual imaginary, perhaps characterizing contemporary understanding of the nuclear and the sublime alike.
10 - BATTLE UNIFORM FOR AN ALWAYS APOCALYPTIC AMERICA
“We can’t believe this is happening, says the only country in the world where it regularly happens”
(WHO IS WE)
So much of American identity is defined by division. Trump supporters on one side. Black Lives Matter on the other. Antifa. White nationalists. So-called "liberals" & “conservatives.” Black, white, people of color. But who is American and who is not?
how do we fight?
Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. With Family. With Ourselves. Against Covid. Against the past. Against the future. On Twitter. On the streets. Politically. Spiritually.
hasn’t the war already begun?
BY ADIA GRACE WEAVER
TEXT ABOVE INCLUDES EXCERPTS FROM
2021 THESIS, “AN ALL-AMERICAN APOCALYPSE:
EXPOSING THE TRAUMAS, TRUTHS, AND DREAMS
OF A BLACK ‘NUCLEAR’ FAMILY DURING COVID-19.”