Refiguring the Future Conference

Refiguring the Future

Conference: February 9-10, 2019

Reserve your seat today

Livestream Day One

Livestream Day Two

Tickets start at just $10 and include lunch and two full days of programs!

The Refiguring the Future conference convenes artists, educators, writers, and cultural strategists to envision a shared liberatory future by providing us with ideas that move beyond and critique oppressive systems. Participants in the conference will address concepts of world-building, ecologies, disability and accessibility, biotechnology and the body.  

The conference kicks off the opening weekend of the Refiguring the Future, a new exhibition offering a politically engaged and inclusive vision of the intersection of art, science, and technology, organized in partnership with the REFRESH collective and Hunter College Art Galleries,

The Refiguring the Future conference is curated by Eyebeam/REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow Lola Martinez and REFRESH member Maandeeq Mohamed.

Read the full curatorial text here.


*Subject to change


Day 1

February 9th, 2019| 10am – 6pm

Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College

695 Park Ave, New York, NY 10065


9:30 AM – 10:00 AM | Check in

10:00 AM – 10:15 AM | Opening Remarks

10:15 AM – 10:30 AM | Conference Introduction

Dorothy R. Santos and Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Co-Curators of Refiguring the Future



10:30 AM – 11:30 AM | Towards World-Building: Sciences at the End of the World

Exploring the settler ontologies that govern technoscientific inquiry, this panel will engage technology towards a liberatory, world-building politic.

shawné michaelain holloway, Artist

Rasheedah Phillips, Artist and Co-Creator of Black Quantum Futurism

Alexander G. Weheliye, Professor, Northwestern University

Moderated by Maandeeq Mohamed, Writer



11:30 AM – 12:30 PM | Keynote Lecture

Thenmozhi Soundararajan

Keynote Introduction by Salome Asega, Artist and Technology Fellow at the Ford Foundation



12:30 PM – 02:00 PM | Lunch



02:00 PM – 02:30 PM | Keynote Performative Lecture

In this performative lecture, artist Zach Blas offers critical investigations on issues of the internet, capitalism, and state oppression.  

Zach Blas, Artist

Keynote Introduction by Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Artist



02:30 PM – 03:30 PM | Symbiotic Ecologies

Narratives of colonial legacy, migration, and extinction have shifted our cultural imagining of ecologies. Beginning by acknowledging our existence in unsustainable climates, this panel brings forth artistic and activist practices which provoke and foster symbiotic relationships for new understandings within environmental predicaments.

Sofía Córdova, Artist

Jaskiran Dhillon, Associate Professor, The New School

Sofía Unanue, co-founder and co-director of La Maraña

Moderated by Kathy High, Artist.



03:30 PM – 04:00 PM | Coffee Break



04:00 PM – 05:00 PM | Speculative Bodies: A Shell to be Surpassed

Technological biases categorize individuals according to markers such as race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship, and in turn undermine how we live and navigate our present and future worlds. This panel collectively examines how the fields of health, genomics, and technology are reinforced by Western scientific discourses and speculate new insights for alternative systems of knowledge.

Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor, Princeton University

micha cárdenas, PhD, Artist and Assistant Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz 

Dr. Pinar Yoldas, Artist

Moderated by Dr. Kadija Ferryman, Researcher at Data and Society.



05:00 PM – 06:00 PM | Keynote Lecture

In this Keynote lecture, Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor examines the politics of social liberation movements. Author of #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Taylor offers an examination of the history and politics of Black America and the development of the social movement Black Lives Matter in response to police violence in the United States.

Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, Assistant Professor, Princeton University

Keynote introduction by Dorothy R. Santos, Curator and Writer



Day 2

February 10th, 2019 | 12pm-6pm

Knockdown Center 

52-19 Flushing Ave, Maspeth, NY 11378 


11:15 AM – 12:00 PM | Check In



12:00 PM – 01:45 PM | Session 1: Workshops, Talks, and Screenings



Workshop | Mxtressclass: Lexi Had a Little Alembic

Location: Ready Room Bar

In a co-constitutive process of exchange, this semi-structure workshop will engage participants on collaborative writing for performance, online synchronous writing, and collaborative writing processes using enabling constraints and sympoietic systems.

In Her Interior (Virginia Barratt and Francesca da Rimini), Artists

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body



Talks | Refiguring Planetary Health, Building Black Futures

Location: Annex

We cannot have a healthy planet that sustains all human beings as long as the systemic oppression of Black and Indigenous peoples continues. And yet, prominent environmental science institutions concerned with conservation and climate change often fail to address this oppression or their role in perpetuating it. In this talk, we will explore how histories of scientific racism and eugenics inform current scientific policies and practice. Cynthia Malone will work with various forms of freedom practice, from hip hop to science fiction to scholarship in the Black Radical Tradition, to consider alternative visions for planetary health that advance both environmental stewardship and liberation from oppressive ideologies and systems.

Cynthia Malone, Activist, Scholar, and Scientist



The Spirit of the Water Bear

In this talk, Claire Pentecost will give an introduction and reading of Spirit of the Water Bear, a young adult novel set in a coastal town in the Carolinas. The novel’s protagonist, Juni Poole, is a 15-year-old girl who spends much of her time exploring the natural world. Inevitably, she finds herself confronting the urgency of a crisis that has no end, namely climate change and the sixth great extinction. Through experiences of activism, she finds comrades who feel environmental and political urgency much as she does, and learns that she has a place in the ongoing struggle for environmental justice. The book is a work of “Cli-Fi” or climate fiction, featuring Juni’s adventures, but it is also a work of “Cli-Phi” or climate philosophy, featuring conversations and musings on the nature of our existential predicament.

Claire Pentecost, Artist

Speaker Introductions by Lola Martinez, Eyebeam and REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow



Workshop | Bioplastics for Ritual Healing from Petrochemical Landscapes 

Location: Arizona

In this bioplastics and biomaterials workshop, participants will refigure methodologies to radically re-make petro-chemically derived plastic materials that we use in our everyday lives. We will envision tactics for reclaiming, rebuilding, nurturing and healing – via renewable biological raw materials – the extractive and destructive processes of techno-capitalism and the inherent waste, cultural and environmental degradation of these now dominant processes.

Tiare Ribeaux, Artist



Screening | Incense, Sweaters, and Ice

Location: Gallery 2

(1 hour, 9 minutes. Closed Captioned)

Incense Sweaters & Ice follows the movements of Girl, Mrs. Queen Esther Bernetta White, and WB (“whiteboy”) through different phases of watching, being watched, and remaining unseen. Using Hollywood film tropes and the visual languages of social media video platforms like Vine and Instagram, the film follows the long cinematic history of using camera motion to create the illusion of subjectivity. Intertwining technique and narrative, the film drives at the tension between surveillance and self­ promotion that pervades our many avenues of self­ documentation and broadcast.

Martine Syms, Artist

Film Introductions by Maandeeq Mohamed, Writer




01:45 PM – 02:45 PM | Lunch 




03:00 PM – 04:45 PM |   Session 2: Workshops, Talks, and Programs



Workshop | Abstract Data Portraits

Location: Wood Jamb

Note: Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops.

In this community data justice workshop, participants will explore the data they constantly create by generating and abstracting their data via creative code. Through an informative yet playful process, we aim to demystify concepts around “big data” by allowing agency and providing information.

Ladan Siad, Designer and Creative Technologist

Aljumaine Gayle, Designer



Roundtables and Talks | Visible networks: Community Building in the Digital Arena

Location: Annex

As notions of accessibility are being rendered visible on networks and digital medias, disability and chronic illness communities are utilizing networks to provide resources and representations. Yet what does it mean to build community within these platforms? This roundtable discussion offers reflections by artists working to provide new insights into biomedical discourses which reinforce apparent and unapparent representations of disabled bodies.

Hayley Cranberry, Artist

Anneli Goeller, Artist

Yo-Yo Lin, Artist




Legacy Russell is the founding theorist behind Glitch Feminism as a cultural manifesto and movement. #GLITCHFEMINISM aims to use the digital as a means of resisting the hegemony of the corporeal. Glitch Feminism embraces the causality of ‘error’ and turns the gloomy implication of ‘glitch’ on its ear by acknowledging that an error in a social system disturbed by economic, racial, social, sexual, cultural stratification, and the imperialist wrecking-ball of globalization—processes that continue to enact violence on all bodies—may not be ‘error’ at all, but rather a much-needed erratum. The digital is a vessel through which our glitch ‘becoming’ realises itself, and through which we can reprogramme binary gender coding. Our ‘glitch’ is a correction to the machine—f**k hegemonic coding! USURP THE BODY—BECOME YOUR AVATAR!

Legacy Russell, Curator and Writer

Speaker Introductions by Lola Martinez, Eyebeam and REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow



Workshop |  Alt-text as Poetry 

Location: Ready Room Bar

Alt-text is a key building block of web accessibility, allowing blind people and people with low vision to access visual content. Often it is seen through the lens of compliance, as an unwelcome burden that needs to be met with minimum effort. How can we instead approach alt-text lavishly and creatively? In this workshop, we will reframe alt-text as a type of poetry and practice writing it together.

Shannon Finnegan, Artist

Bojana Coklyat, Artist



Workshop |  Distributed Web of Care

Location: Arizona

What kind of network do we want for the future? How does it feel to be programmed into centralized, decentralized, and distributed networks? Distributed Web of Care imagines a more equitable, caring internet for the future. Through lecture and performance, we will address timely issues of the internet including surveillance, censorship, corporate data ownership, and explore alternative methods of communicating via peer to peer protocols for collective agency.

Taeyoon Choi, Artist and co-founder of School for Poetic Computation

Stud1nt, Sound Artist

Cori Kresge, Dancer




04:45 PM – 05:00 PM | Session Break 




05:00 PM – 05:30 PM | Performance: Breaching Toward Other Futures

Location: Main

For their performance, Morehshin Allahyari and Shirin Fahimi will channel the revelation of the jinn figures Aisha Qandisha and Ilm al-raml as their method for telling and opening doors towards other futures. Aisha Qandisha is one of the most honored and fearsome jinn in Islam, known as “the opener”. When she possesses humans, she does not take over the host but rather opens them to an outside–to a storm of incoming jinn and demons, making them a traffic zone of cosmodromic data. Ilm al-raml refers to the foresight that the Earth holds within itself. Through its practice, this foresight is revealed and the future is seen, known, and breached.

Morehshin Allahyari, Artist

Shirin Fahimi, Artist




Kaye Playhouse hosts internationally-acclaimed artists and music, dance and theatre companies for New York audiences, as well as serving as the centerpiece for the performing arts at Hunter College.

Knockdown Center is an art center and performance space dedicated to unusual projects and collaborations.



Kaye Playhouse is an accessible venue. The conference entrance and lobby are located at 68th Street, between Park and Lexington, on the north side of the street, through the courtyard. Accessible entrance is available by ramp on the left side of the courtyard. Restrooms are located on the ground floor and are wheelchair accessible.


The Knockdown Center is an accessible venue. The conference entrance is located on 52-19 Flushing Ave at 54th St through a parking lot. The accessible entrance is available by ramp in front of the building. Restrooms are located on the ground floor lobby area and are wheelchair accessible.

(For accessible transportation inquiries from the Flushing Ave JM MTA Station to the Knockdown Center please contact [email protected] or +1 347 378 9163 (voice only) by Thursday, February 7)

Day 1: American Sign Language interpretation and CART captioning will be provided

Day 2: American Sign Language interpretation will be provided



Refiguring the Future is supported by grants from the Open Society Foundations and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of the NetGain Partnership. This partnership is a philanthropic collaboration seeking to advance the public interest in the digital age.