Notes on Blocks
On Worldbuilding
This piece came out of a new event series called “Are.na Walkthroughs” in which we ask people to take us through a particular channel, the blocks and ideas held within, and the ways those ideas may have evolved as the channel has grown and accumulated. Our first one was on February 12 over Zoom, and it featured Kai Jenrette, Taulant Sulko, Ritu Ghiya, and Emily Nabnian. Here, Kai shares some of what he talked about while walking us through his channel “nappytex.” 
I’ve always been interested in the idea of worldbuilding—organizing objects in space and time to convey new context. My channel “nappytex” originally started as just that, a space for me to organize ideas, images, and motifs around Afrofuturism and rest, for eventual use in my practice. Originally named “Seneca” for the settlement of Black landowners in Manhattan that was burned down to build what is now Central Park, the channel grew from an interest in building a better world from the past, one that centers Blackness, love, and rest in opposition to capitalism. Through image collection, I create a visual “stolen” language from the curated knowledge of the past that speaks to a future existence outside of capitalism. With “nappytex,” I can freely explore the intersections of Blackness, rest, and technology in our past and present, creating a future that at times challenges the images themselves.  
With a grounding in Afrofuturism, I’m often looking for prolific Black/Indigenous technologies that have proven themselves to be bountiful as we move into the future. Technologies like braiding patterns, adornment, rhythm, rhyme, and sleep heavily influence intersections around Blackness and technology in my making. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about spirals as technology in this way. This image of Epona Circles in Gabon, Africa, for example, shows evidence that the spiral petroglyphs were used as an agricultural tool to help propagation.
I also love finding documentation of Black folks sleeping and resting; they’re always such powerful images. This photo of Shaq sleeping has an expansive history: first released in an AdWeek article titled, "Why Aren’t More Athletes Making Better Use of Facebook Public Profiles?" the image later turned into a popular meme that has taken on a life of its own. The picture carries weight and thoughts for me around surveillance, selling the self, sleep, and the meme as a modern-day hieroglyph for nonverbal communication, all of which heavily resonates with the questions and thoughts being dealt with through the channel.
I’ve also been really interested in bags, specifically purses, for reasons related to my connection to buying, owning, and carrying femininity. It also feels in a way to be a symbol of leaving—leaving capitalism behind, taking your things and going. Bags even bring me to think of Toni Morrison’s work concerning flight, myth, folklore, and futurism. This vintage Gucci bag features a signature horsebit embossed pattern that was first introduced in the 1950s during the mid-century modern period as designers were looking to the past to assemble their desired future through objects.
Ashtrays are simple personal furnishings that speak to rest and leisure. They feel like small objects of bliss that leave space for time abolition and getting almost lost in the simple action of smoking. As I’ve started making my own ashtrays, I’ve been interested in the legacy of ashtrays also presenting as luxurious art objects since the early 1900s, when women began smoking more and wanted well-designed ashtrays that reflected them beyond the traditional trays used by men at the time.
This piece of writing, called “I don’t want to work,” stemmed from the desire to put written language to the pictorial language referenced throughout the channel. As a tentative space for collection and world-building, I often find myself using “nappytex” to bring ideas together and tie knots in a way. This writing acts as a call to action around rest and reprogramming, similarly to the images collected throughout the channel. 
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