March 30, 2022

Black Quantum Futurism: Time Zone Protocols and Prime Meridian Unconference

Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Black Quantum Futurism, Ancestors returning again / this time only to themselves, 2021. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Albert Yee.

Developed out of 2020–22 VLC Fellow Rasheedah Phillips’s ongoing practice as a member of Black Quantum Futurism, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School presents Time Zone Protocols (April 4–18, 2022), the Prime Meridian Unconference (April 15–17, 2022), and the digital project website. The exhibition and the accompanying Unconference, both held at the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery at Parsons School of Design, explore the implications of the 1884 International Meridian Conference, a convening that established a prime meridian, enforcing a universal time standard. Tracing the “Protocols of the Proceedings,” the written and unwritten political agendas and social agreements that underlie Westernized time constructs, Phillips examines the protocols by which dominant time structures regulate, catalyze, and perpetuate systems of oppression that deny marginalized people access to and agency over the temporal domains of the past and present, with a focus on Black communities in the US. Using Black Quantum Futurism and Colored People’s Time as ontological frameworks, the exhibition, Unconference, and accompanying digital space propose alternative theories of temporal-spatial consciousness.

Time Zone Protocols debuts a nonlinear map pinpointing sociohistorical events in the development of Western time consciousness. Focusing on the 1884 International Meridian Conference as a critical point on the Western timeline, the map illustrates the backward and forward-reaching impacts of time standardization and colonized time. Designed to host the Prime Meridian Unconference, the exhibition space displays books, posters, videos, and research materials from the larger Time Zone Protocols project, while guiding visitors through an examination of the implicit and explicit rules underlying Westernized time constructs, such as time zones and Daylight Savings Time.

The three-day, hybrid Prime Meridian Unconference brings together artists, architects, musicians, physicists, geologists, technologists, and scholars of African American Studies. Through interactive talks, workshops, panels, performances, and plenary sessions, the participants consider new ways of understanding our relationship to space-time, utilizing specific Black social, geographical, and cultural frameworks that seek to unmap Black temporalities from the Greenwich Mean timeline. Together they explore and unpack the standards and protocols of time that have left and continue to leave Black people locked out of the past and future—stuck in a narrow temporal present. Speakers and presenters include Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother), Asia Dorsey, Walter Greason, Kendra Krueger, Ingrid LaFleur, V. Mitch McEwen, Katherine McKittrick, Mendi + Keith Obadike, Danielle M. Purifoy, Ingrid Raphaël, Thomas Stanley, Joy Tabernacle-KMT, Ujijji Davis Williams, and Celeste Winston.

Preceding the exhibition and Unconference is the launch of the website. The site documents the ongoing Time Zone Protocols research project and sets the stage for the exhibition and Prime Meridian Unconference. It offers an interactive space for rewriting the protocols of time, rezoning the time zones, and unmapping the imperialist global time colonization project with a Black [Quantum] futurist lens. It also presents an ongoing archive of over three hundred research materials on cultures of time, temporality, time zones, clocks, and more. Illustrating ways of marking and tracking alternative temporalities, the site bridges the Vera List Center’s iteration of Time Zone Protocols with Black Quantum Futurism’s forthcoming Creative Capital project Time Zone Protocols: Confederate States. The in-person audience for the Unconference is limited, but the program will be livestreamed on and the Vera List Center website. The exhibition is open daily 12–6pm EDT, and Thursdays until 8pm EDT.

Rasheedah Phillips’s Time Zone Protocols is a 2020–2022 Vera List Center Fellowship-commissioned project and has been supported by research assistance, production grants, and curatorial support by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. It is curated by Carin Kuoni and Eriola Pira with curatorial assistance by Camila Palomino. The Prime Meridian Unconference is curated by Rasheedah Phillips. Additional support has been provided by the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. Graphic design and website development by Partner & Partners.

This project and the Spring 2022 programs of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School are generously supported by members of the Vera List Center Board, individual donors as well as the following institutional funders: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Boris Lurie Art Foundation; Dayton Foundation; Ford Foundation; Kettering Fund; Native Arts and Cultures Foundation; Pryor Cashman LLP; and The New School.

Please visit the VLC website or for the full Unconference listing and to register.

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