Envisioning an Ancient Future through Art, Afrofuturism, and the Fractal-Holographic Universe
by D. Amari Jackson
“Heaven is where you’ll be when you are okay right where you are.”
Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong. Perhaps, for far too long, we’ve believed the story we have told ourselves about ourselves, that self-limiting, redundant account of fear, conformity, and lack. Perhaps Marianne Williamson was right when she told us “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Perhaps our vision is too small, too limited. Perhaps the future is bigger than we expect, more expansive than we have been conditioned to believe–vast, impossible, infinite.
If so, what else but art could traverse such an imperceptible space, the gap between our contrived expectations and our infinite potential? Is this not, in fact, what art is ultimately for, for employing the seeable to move beyond the seeable, for deconstructing our socially engineered ‘reality’ while expanding into higher dimensions to facilitate a collective consciousness previously unimagined?
That said, how do we describe the infinite? What language do we use to effectively express our vision for all its impacted layers and dimensionality? What does such a grand vision look like?
Perhaps this vision is already upon us, shrouded in dystopian imagery and belied by a mass Orwellian dysfunction where up is down, love is hate, freedom is enslavement, and healthcare is anything but. Perhaps it has been here all along. Perhaps we just forgot or, failed to re-member, in an Ausarian sense, to reassemble the pieces of our collective self, our original vision, one not new at all, but cyclical, one foreign yet innate, ancient yet nascent, seasoned yet unborn. Perhaps it is a powerful vision conflating time and space via an Einstein–Rosen bridge and enabling us to anticipate our past, to reminisce upon our future; to look forward to yesterday, to remember tomorrow.
Perhaps, T.S. Eliot envisioned it best:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.”
—T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
At its essence, art is vision, a reflective portrayal of self, as vibrant or ugly as that may be, of who we aspire to be. Art speaks in imagery, if not words, explaining the inexplicable, envisioning the invisible. Art has ever propelled us forward, particularly in challenging and prophetic times, the times we find ourselves in, the times we simultaneously resisted and hoped for, bearing the change we demand yet fear. These times are simultaneously old and new, tragic and triumphant. The events they bear occur not just outside of us, but within us; they happen not just to us, but through us. And art is ever present, recording our responses, depicting our collective plight, and telling a never-ending story based in image, color, numbers, symbols, layers, Golden Ratios, and Fibonacci spirals.
All is form, as the ancients wisely expressed, and, consistently, art possesses the capacity for interpreting the form of a culture and translating its aesthetic across space and time. Fittingly, such artistic form can save us from drowning, from furiously laboring toward our own demise if we can move beyond the fear, recognize the futility of fighting the riptide and, instead, flow along the perpendicular pathway to our own salvation. Such form has not only saved us in the past but inspired us, nurtured us, even created us. We recognize our historic cultures by the art they produced then left behind, be it the timeless monumental structures and esoteric murals of the Kemites (ancient Egyptians); the rich, cosmologically-inspired attire, innovations, and accessories of the Moors; the loaded, axiomatic adinkra symbols of the Akan; or the black-and-white photographic remnants of the Harlem Renaissance. This interpretive capacity qualifies art as a metalanguage, one informing our collective vision, simultaneously depicting, translating, and facilitating its form and meaning.
With its origins in science fiction, its speculative approach, and its intersections with race, technology, and visual art, perhaps Afrofuturism effectively inhabits such a space. Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term in the 1993 essay “Black to the Future” to characterize such forward looking, multidisciplinary intersectionality incorporating art, music, literature, and technology. This Sankofan approach—progressing forward while looking back—is far from new. Afrofuturism commonly presents a techno-utopian vision of the future while mining history and race relations for input and inspiration, be it the musical imagery of Sun Ra, George Clinton, Grace Jones, and Missy Elliot; the speculative, conscious literature of Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, and Nnedi Okorafor; the provocative and timeless social critiques of photographer Renee Cox; the heroic, universal sculptures and images of Hebru Brantley; the cosmologically encoded quilts of Sanford Biggers.
Perhaps Afrofuturism effectively speaks to our grand vision, whatever it may be, in an artistic language of the infinite. Perhaps Afrofuturism speaks to our current moment, for all its angst, to wow us and reassure us with images of our multidimensional selves defying gravity, riding a light beam, navigating a wormhole. Imagine the physics of such a breathtaking vision, where art provides its form while theoretical physics details it structure, its infinite dynamics. Imagine what this intersection of art and science, meeting in an Afrofuturistic space, could do, has done, to present us with soaring, more truthful images of ourselves, far beyond the manipulated drama, the bipolar fear-infused politics of the day. Imagine.
“After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well.” –Albert Einstein
Perhaps this grand vision and its associated language no longer need be left to the imagination. Over the past two decades, a ‘new’ paradigm has emerged at the so-called “fringes” of theoretical physics, the marginal position reserved for those who don’t conform to the mainstream approach and its politics, further giving form to this language of the infinite and, in an artistic analogy, merging the abstract with the figurative. While the Standard Model—the established framework characterizing the fundamental forces in the universe apart from gravity and classifying all known elementary particles—continues to sag under the weight of its own cosmic flaws, paradoxes, and bureaucracy, a more novel yet ancient approach has emerged. Culled largely from the foundational theories of Nobel Prize winning physicists like Einstein and Paul Dirac, both critics of the ‘random’ universe later depicted by the Standard Model, and championed most notably by renegade physicist Nassim Haramein, this paradigm positions our universe as fractal and holographic within an infinite yet unified structure reflected in every segment of space, be it cosmic or subatomic, external or internal. Or, as the ancients told us, “As above, so below; as within, so without.”
Where the standard approach sees randomness and coincidence, the latter sees patterns, balance, and symmetry. What the former views as Black “empty” space, the latter reveals as a charged, infinitely dense sea of energy connecting at all scales via ubiquitous black holes perpetually radiating and absorbing energy in a toroidal feedback loop. Where the standard approach has matter defining space in a futile search for “the God particle,” the latter sees space defining matter into a patterned structure radiating toward cosmic infinity at the macro level, and contracting to infinite singularity at the micro. These dynamics are ever present in nature and the cosmos be it a galaxy, tornado, cyclone, or a hurricane spinning clockwise in one hemisphere and counterclockwise in the other. At the midpoint, a singularity is maintained where the highest velocity of swirling matter and energy surrounds the calm eye, a point of equilibrium and minimal vectoral stability entangled with all other.
Like a master work of art, this connected vision of the universe—verified mathematically by a 2008 Scaling Law—presents elegant symmetrical imagery consistent with Einstein’s prophecy that any unified solution in physics be both elegant and beautiful. To be clear, while art can certainly pull from and visualize such an infinite construct, such an infinite construct was pulled from art as our ongoing quest for form, for beauty, has ever been a human tradition in seeking to explain our universe, its mysteries, colors, actions, and movements. Toroidal structures, phi ratios, Fibonacci spirals, octahedrons, pyramids, and spheres have all represented artistically from ancient times to the present, from the walls of tombs to the works of numerous African American artists maintaining the tradition today. Surely, art has told the story from the beginning, these visual connections to a patterned universe ever before us, hidden in plain sight.
“I’m playing dark history. It’s beyond black. I’m dealing with the dark things of the cosmos.” –Sun Ra
Perhaps some new stories, ones old as time, are waiting to be told. Perhaps African American artists and Afrofuturists will tell these stories, as they always have, with one eye set to the past, the other on our current plight, the third ever attuned to the cosmic, the infinite. And these stories, in turn, will make us better, more whole, as they always have, more capable of moving forward while looking back, to remember our future, anticipate our past, and let us know we possess the universal, God-given power to do so.
Perhaps, in this light, the ultimate role of the artist is to move our human collective beyond our deepest fear, past our current dysfunction, the socially and self-imposed shackles of our mainstreamed minds, to express and advance our simultaneously earthly and cosmic existence, to reconcile the physical with the metaphysical, the quantum with the relativistic, the conscious with the human, the abstract with the figurative, and, in doing so, reclaim the infinite, our universal birthright, before basking once and for all, as if for the first time, in how massive, eternal, and unbound we truly are.