OYA-9394 (in progress)
I am continually thinking about a space where I can live without my body being in a constant state of threat. Sun Ra, like many other Afrofuturists, mentions space as being the place where Black people must go in order to escape systems of oppression and violence. As I continue to reflect on Afrofuturism and alternative futures, what keeps coming to mind is the development of space(s) that are inclusive, the destruction or restructuring of capitalism, and the decolonization and unlearning of many beliefs that have brought us to where we are today. Many times, I have tried to imagine what the world would look like without capitalism… and even today I have difficulty envisioning what that might be. Writer and cultural theorist Mark Fisher calls this Capitalism Realism, which is "the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it." As I look at my past and my present I cannot think about utopian futures.
The OYA- 9394 suit makes me hyper-visible. When I am without it, I adopt ways of surviving and blending in. I constantly question the way I dress, the way I speak, and the words that come out of my mouth. Focusing on the idea of a dystopian future, I consider the OYA suit a type of armor, a protective suit made with materials that I can find--made with the technology available on earth. I do not have the means to leave Earth but others do. I think about space exploration as something that is meant to benefit mostly White folks--people with wealth, and power. But the day they depart Earth there will not be much left for me here. I will need to develop further methods of survival.
The prototype is assembled from 3 chemical-resistant overalls, an acrylic dome as a helmet, and a waterproof backpack. In the second prototype, I use shock survival blankets and ac aluminum tape to create the overalls. In this version, I cover my helmet to conceal my identity with a black veil. I recently walked the Slave Trail in Richmond dressed in the OYA-9394 suit, and I made offerings along my path.