Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy is a compelling meditation on the existential human fear of depending on other species to survive; Beth Coleman’s Reality Was Whatever Happened: Octavia Butler AI and Other Possible Worlds relays questions of kinship, community, survival, and transformation through generative processes of image production, serialisation, and fabrication. Operating as an interspecies vehicle with which OBAI prompts us to reconsider race, cognition, and computability, Reality Was Whatever Happened attends to the wild edges of contemporary computational culture and politics. Contributors engage with questions of black computing, indigenous AI, relational temporalities, and the hummmm of digital repetition, while Coleman’s conversation about the process and reality of contemporary AI-driven artistic practice frames the broader ethical and aesthetic stakes of OBAI. To see beyond the current hype of AI and explore the radical potential for (de)generative reconfigurations of images, bodies, and worlds, Coleman invites readers to become complicit in and through OBAI’s project of promiscuous liberation and provocative drift.
Beth Coleman works across locations of text, sound, and visuality, playing with frequencies of a generative aesthetic. An obsession with technology, aesthetics, white dogs, black cats, and formulations of power and agency are evident across the body of Coleman’s work. Coleman has a history of international exhibition at venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Pioneer Works, Centre International des Recollets Paris, Waag Society Amsterdam, among others. In collaboration with Howard Goldkrand, Coleman led the decade-long SoundLab Cultural Alchemy project that transformed New York City’s ‘‘electrotectural now,’’ along with other international sites. Coleman is an associate professor at the University of Toronto working on issues of technology & society.