Finding OTHER Futures at Gray Area

This Friday, artists at Gray Area will share their own retelling of history through sound and visual performance. Guided by different experiences, backgrounds and motivations, each work navigates alternate views of what the future future might look like.

OTHER Futures, is headlined by the duo, Miao Jing (visual artist, animator) and Jason Hou (composer, sound designer). The group will perform 初·ZPTPJ; titled after a golden age of innovation in Egyptian mythology, which surveys the course of humanity on the verge of technological singularity.

They are joined by Bay Area artists, Anum Awan and Sharmi Basu, who use music and mixed-media experiences through queer and non-western narratives, intersectionality and social justice. They perform for the first time together, in collaboration with Rahema Alam on visuals, blending Sufi visuals with hybridized sound.

Harvey Moon and Don Hanson (Tellurics) perform Leyline, an instrumental interpretation of the next 100,000 on Earth, featuring live 3D graphics that diffuse throughout the space.

“No matter how this tech/human life will be in the future—as long as it’s inclusive, I think there will be hope,” said Qianqian Ye, producer of OTHER Futures, which examines how diverse narratives in art and technology can better define what lies ahead.

awokenedfelix“Awoke & Awokened,” multimedia art by Surabhi Saraf

We spoke to Surabhi Saraf, a media artist and the founder of the Centre for Emotional Materiality (CEM), about how OTHER Futures can be tied to technology and the creative progress.


How would you describe the title of the show and what it means to be OTHER?

To be OTHER in a social context often means to be at the margins. I like to imagine this Otherness as a place of empowerment, where we embrace the non-conformity it affords us to think beyond what is understood as normal. I think the title of the show embodies this idea.

How does CEM fit into the overall idea of OTHER Futures?

While working with very different formats & frameworks, both CEM (an interdisciplinary research project) & OTHER Futures (performance event) are essentially creating space that imagines alternative futures at the intersection of art and technology.

How does your work relate back to the mission of CEM?

I founded CEM as an extension of my art practice, so all areas of research we are interested in with CEM (AI, Data, privacy, emotional intelligence, embodied cognition) are also the ideas I have been exploring in my practice. As with my work, CEM also engages in interdisciplinary and experimental forms to critically examine the effects of technology on our body, emotions and the environment.

How can the future be amended/adapted to allow ‘OTHER’ futures to exist? How can art be used to change this?

Our actions in the present affect the future and it starts with creating space; space to be able to imagine a future beyond the capitalist, patriarchal and Western narratives that dominate the social imagination. Art is inherently equipped to help us get there, because the best art (at the very least) will make us look at the world differently.

How do you feel people have been affected emotionally by technology?

I think it has generally made us more restless, impatient and anxious and, most importantly, it has created a problem of abundance, often making us feel overwhelmed.

cemgroupThe crew at the Centre for Emotional Materiality

How does the medium you work within lend itself to your subject matter?

Since I am interested in offering a critical perspective towards how we live with our technologies, it is important for me to engage in the medium. It is much easier to be critical of something from the outside, but it’s also important to understand the systems we are part of, to bring the change we’d like to see from within. Thus, working with tech and making work about tech makes it challenging, but also much more interesting. I often tell people I make work about things that make me feel uncomfortable.

What’s up next for CEM?

CEM is going through a transition turning into a collective and will be housed at Pioneers Works in Brooklyn this Fall. We will be announcing more details on this next phase on our website and social media very soon.



Editor’s Note: OTHER Futures is organized by the ONiON Collective, an arts and technology platform focused on creative/critical thinking about emerging technologies. It curates art shows, pop-up exhibitions and interactive solutions in Shanghai, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Following Friday’s show, there will be a talk and panel discussion on Saturday, June 15th, from 7PM-10PM at B4bel4b Gallery in Oakland.

OTHER Futures
Friday, June 14th, doors at 8pm, show at 8:30pm
Gray Area / Grand Theater, 2665 Mission Street, San Francisco
$15 in advance, $20 at the door