The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, circa 1985, photo by Pip R. Lagenta, via:

Join a Talk On Sci-Fi, Art, and Black Californians at the Opening of American Artist: Shaper of God

May 23, 2022
Joel Ferree, Program Director, Art + Technology Lab

In celebration of the opening of American Artist: Shaper of God at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), LACMA Art + Technology Lab grant recipient American Artist and scholar Ayana Jamieson will discuss science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler’s continued resonance in contemporary life and the author’s intersections with the artist’s upbringing in Altadena, California, on Tuesday, May 31. Curator Adam Kleinman will moderate the discussion, which will be followed by audience Q&A. 

In the religious text “The Books of the Living,” written by the protagonist of author Butler’s 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, there is a repeated epitaph that instructs readers to “Shape God.” Lauren Oya Olamina, a young Black woman who is the religion’s creator, tells us that “God can’t be resisted or stopped, but can be shaped and focused.”

Informed in part by American Artist’s research for their Art + Technology Lab grant, the exhibition features new commissions including video, installation, sculpture, and drawing, set within a rendition of Robledo, the gated community in which Olamina spends the first part of the novel before trekking across a dystopian vision of an imagined future California after the neighborhood is sacked by invaders.

Shaper of God takes inspiration not only from Butler’s novels, but from her own life. As a descendant of African Americans who migrated to the enclave of Pasadena, California, and after growing up in the 1950s, as the city’s rocket science legacy was taking off and nearby Los Angeles was ascending as the capital of science fiction, Butler’s legacy is one of many unacknowledged overlaps and connections.

Incorporating these various local narratives as well as the breadth of Butler's footprint, the exhibition is the first part, or "touchdown," of a multi-year research-based project by REDCAT and other Los Angeles- and California-based intuitions, including LACMA, The Huntington, and KADIST. The project was developed in conversation with classmates, friends, collaborators, and Butler scholars (including Ayana Jamieson, founder of Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network), as well as with scientists and engineers from Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the LACMA Art + Technology Lab, and other Los Angeles artists.

American Artist makes thought experiments that mine the history of technology, race, and knowledge production, beginning with their legal name change in 2013. 

Ayana Jamieson is an educator, mythologist, depth psychologist, and founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network. 

Adam Kleinman examines how forms of information describe, prescribe, organize, and even misrepresent reality; he is Lead Curator for North America at KADIST.

The conversation with American Artist and Ayana Jamieson will take place at REDCAT on May 31, 2022, from 7–8:30 pm after a reception from 5–7 pm. Reserve tickets.

This program is co-presented by REDCAT.

The Art + Technology Lab is presented by

The Art + Technology Lab is made possible by Snap Inc. Additional support is provided by SpaceX and Google.

The Lab is part of The Hyundai Project: Art + Technology at LACMA, a joint initiative exploring the convergence of art and technology.

Seed funding for the development of the Art + Technology Lab was provided by the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission through the Productivity Investment Fund and LACMA Trustee David Bohnett.