Futurist Writers’ Room: Collective Imagination in Deep Time – The Digital Installment

Co-presented with the Guild of Future Architects

Over the course of several months five black artists at the intersection of art, science and technology— Sophia Nahli Allison, Idris Brewster, Stephanie Dinkins, Yance Ford and Terence Nance—have been developing speculative historiographies and futures in collaboration with Octavia Butler. With the guidance of facilitators Lafayette Cruise, Madebo Fatunde,Tony Patrick and Robert Sinclair, and advisors Salome Asega, Fox Harrell, Errol King, Ashley Jane Lewis, Terry Marshall, Ari Melenciano, Mutale Nkonde, Rashid Shabazz and Aisha Shillingford, the artists evoke Butler’s deep time practice by creating powerful provocations inspired by her seminal work Patternist Series, Parable Series, and Kindred. The project is to culminate with a presentation of collectively imagined stories at the 2020 Live Ideas Festival.

However, as such collective imagination unfolds, our world was hit hard by a pandemic and suddenly resembled Butler’s Parable Series in the uncanniest ways. Instead of coming to a halt, the project took on a different urgency. In place of a live presentation at the festival which has been postponed until 2021, the artists will create digital versions of their stories to be released online in the spring of 2020. These digital stories will be produced by the new media company Crimes of Curiosity in collaboration with the artists and the Guild of Future Architects.

Collective Imagination in Deep Time aims to surface insights from artists and scholars informed by African values and logic systems in hopes of helping humanity balance the approach in designing our collective future.

Black artists Sophia Nahli Allison, Idris Brewster, Stephanie Dinkins, Yance Ford and Terence Nance present the culminating creations from their 5-month collective exploration into the late Octavia Butler’s practice of transcending the boundaries of past, present, and future through deep time imagination and storytelling. At the intersection of art, science, and technology, these artists have been brought together by the Guild of Future Architects and New York Live Arts, guided by esteemed facilitators and advisors, to develop speculative historiographies informed by African values and logic systems that just might help balance the approach to designing a collective future.

The Guild of Future Architects is a not-for-profit organization that brings together the architects of tomorrow to more effectively pursue shared visions of the future. The Work of the Guild is to establish its century-long role as a critical animator of enlightened cultural, social, economic, and political systems. The Guild developed a signature offering called The Futurist Writers Room (FWR). This program catalyzes the collective imagination of the future, informed by an in-depth reflection on the past, as a fundamental step to developing or evolving Shared Futures.

Sophia Nahli Allison is an experimental documentary filmmaker, photographer + dreamer. She disrupts conventional documentary methods by reimagining the archives and excavating hidden truths. She conjures ancestral memories to explore the intersection of fiction and non-fiction storytelling.

She is a 2020 United States Artists Fellow in Film and has held residencies at The MacDowell Colony, The Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France., The Center for Photography at Woodstock, and POV Spark’s African Interactive Art Residency. She is a recipient of a 2014 Chicago 3Arts Award and was named the 2017 Student Video Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographers Association. She received a Master’s Degree in visual communication from UNC.

Her work has been featured on The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Root, with Los Angeles Filmforum at MOCA, and screened at festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, AFI and more.

Idris Brewster is an innovative and passionate individual who uses his technical and artistic expertise to disrupt traditional narratives through immersive experiences, all the while empowering others to do the same. His background is in Cognitive Science and Computer Science. As an artist, Idris spends his time focusing blending technology and the material world as a means of creative expression, as well as socio-historical education. Idris’s creative expertise includes painting, augmented reality, 3D modeling, and hip-hop production. Idris is the founder of Movers and Shakers, an education non-profit that uses Augmented Reality as a tool to shed light on narratives from communities of color, as well as a tool to educate in classrooms, cultural institutions and public spaces. As an educator, Idris worked for Google, developing an educational program called Code Next that exposes black and brown youth to the world of computer science, allowing them to have the tools to build their own future.

Stephanie Dinkins is a transmedia artist and Associate Professor at Stony Brook University who creates platforms for dialog about artificial intelligence (AI) as it intersects race, gender, aging, and our future histories. She is particularly driven to work with communities of color to co-create more equitable, values grounded artificial intelligent ecosystems.

Dinkins exhibits and publicly advocates for inclusive AI internationally. Her work has been generously supported by fellowships grants, and residencies from Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, Berggruen Institute, Lucas Artists, Creative Capital, Data and Society Research Institute, Sundance New Frontiers Story Lab, Open Society Foundation, the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Eyebeam, Pioneer Works Tech Lab and NEW INC.


Yance Ford is an Oscar nominated, Emmy Award and Gotham Award winning director producer based in New York.

His feature documentary film Strong Island won a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize, the Gotham Award for Best Documentary and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 90th Academy Awards. In 2018 Ford won the Primetime Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.

Ford is also a former Series Producer of the PBS documentary series POV. His curatorial work there was recognized with 5 Emmy Awards and 16 Emmy nominations.

Ford is a MacDowell Colony fellow, a Sundance Institute alum and in 2019 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Terence Nance was born in Dallas, Texas in what was then referred to as the State-Thomas community. Nance learned personhood there. Nance’s first feature film, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically in 2013. In 2014, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow.

In the summer of 2018, Terence’s Peabody award-winning television series Random Acts of Flyness debuted on HBO to great critical acclaim, and was renewed for a second season by the network.  In the fall of 2018, it was announced that Nance was tapped to write and direct Space Jam 2, starring Lebron James.

Additional film work includes “Swimming in Your Skin Again” and “Univitillen”, which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and the 2016 New York Film Festival, respectively. In 2017, Nance premiered a performance piece, 18 Black Boys Ages 1-18 Who Have Arrived at the Singularity and are Thus Spiritual Machines at Sundance. Nance is currently at work on healing, curiosity, and interdimensionality, and resides in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.