Born in Flames: Feminist Futures
April 28, 2021 - September 12, 2021

Born in Flames: Feminist Futures is a constellation of imagined world-scapes projected by fourteen contemporary artists. Set within the space of an exhibition, the artwork presented is a projection of the artists’ larger visions about futurity. Each section of the show is a microcosmic speculation on what could have been, what is, or what is to come. These worlds are steeped in lessons of our complicated pasts, peppered with the ravages of oppression but also blooming joys. Their work critically examines current struggles for equity by exploring strategies for justice and equality through multifaceted futurisms. 


This exhibition borrows its title from the 1983 film, Born in Flames, by artist and activist Lizzie Borden. The film sets forth an essential question within the exhibition: What can the future hold if our present is part of a long-standing cycle of capitalist values? The artists expand on this question through envisioning futures that defy our current oppression or understand that its reality is insurmountable, calling to light the realities of capitalism and patriarchy.


The works posit that futurity and social justice are inextricably connected, ​as writer Walidah Imarisha notes in her introduction to Octavia ​Brood: Science Fiction Stories from the Social Justice Movement​. She says, “Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fictions.” When we envision a world where social justice is no longer a radical idea, but a reality, we reaffirm the bond between futurism and justice.

Born In Flames: Feminist Futures presents works created over the last four decades, bringing together ideas from multi-positional, intersectional, and intergenerational vantage points. The exhibition demonstrates not only the artists' place within a futurist lineage but also exposes the ongoing impulse to imagine new realities on their own terms.


Curated by Jasmine Wahi, Holly Block Curator of Social Justice.


Exhibition Artists: 

Caitlin Cherry 

Chitra Ganesh​ 

Clarissa Tossin

Firelei Baez 

Huma Bhabha​ 

Lizzie Borden​ 

Maria Berrio

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum​ 

Rose B. Simpson

Saya Woolfalk​

Sin Wai Kin (fka Victoria Sin)

Shoshanna Weinberger 


Wangechi Mutu​ 


Support for Born in Flames: Feminist Futures is made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund: Culpeper Arts & Culture Program, Agnes Gund, Kathleen Landy and The Feminist Institute, Carole Server and Oliver Frankel, Elden Services, Mamais Construction, Island Acoustics, LLC, Gotham Drywall, Inc., Kamco Supply Corp., and SRI Fine Art Services.



The Only Lasting Truth Is Change

Octavia Butler “Parable of the Sower”


Today’s Top Story! 

You are in the tender belly of the beast:

Cocooned in protective silks. Sizzling in with a Black hot electricity. So fiery, it burns Vanta. Enveloped in swaths of complexity borne out of a Kali-like maternal instinct:: both coddling and deeply-fiercely protective. This is the first stop on your journey through an untamed and intersecting space where/when many worlds collide. 


Your vessel propels you beyond into spaces and places where visions morph into realities. Dreamscapes become marbled worlds, tiny but pregnant with infinite possibilities. 

Swollen to the brim. 

A saffron yolk leaking out on the precipice of endless sun-kissed possibilities. 


The Swan songs. The Siren songs. Imperialist pasts become sugar on the tongue.

Melt away into pools of rippling fire. 

This fire is in the belly of the beast.

It is the fire next time.

It is the fire this time.


Visions of Us manifest infinitely into fractals. 

Glinting off of our own visages. 

A cacophony of sharp edges and supple, dimpled curves that once felt so foreign.

Even to us- we were exotic.

But now we are now commonplace. 

And the mundane is a comfort. 


In a once-upon-a-time world, you and me: we. we were never seen. 

We were invisible. 

We were made invisible. 

We made ourselves invisible. 

We were erased.

Only shavings swept off bleached sheets to the scorched floor.


But in these worlds, we burn with more power than a thousand suns. 

We burn with the energies of a thousand daughters::: of a thousand children, too absorbed in their own frenetic energy to be concerned with anything but the pleasure of existing in a light of their own. 


On this galactic craft, you flow through plaited lava tendrils 

There new worlds where giants roam. 

Are these goliaths or oankali? 

Or Ooloi? 

Does it matter when one is in the company of great and terrifying beauty?

Call me in my mother tongue. 


Other realms in this cosmic spread embrace the pleasure of pleasure: 

Planets free of restrictions and oppression. 

A world of unbridled and untainted lust behind filmy and translucent veils which still let in the breeze. 

Where brown bodies intertwine, curling lashes that reach up to gently kiss the brow bone. 

Worlds that gently encourage-

The freedom to be. 


To be both seen and hidden. 

To be exposed and harmoniously guarded in the same breath. 


You tumble through these dynamic spaces. 

Cracked apart and sewn back together. 

You become a geometry so startling and sumptuous in its asymmetry. 


On this journey, 

you thump and bump along into dimensions that may snatch your breath with their delicate grace. 

But you will come to realize that thumping and bumping are markers of violence beneath invisibly soiled bedsheets

Callouses and clumps are the sign-of-signs that not everything is as it seems. 


Some worlds are ravaged beneath their tenderly woven veneers. 

They are traps and lessons. 

Cautionary tales couched in an ocean of putrified depths. 

These worlds have an outer sheen. 

An Ellis Island beacon.

The appeal of the bootstraps hitting the ladder rungs towards progress and success. 

But beneath these false promises are the realities we hope never become our own.

The truth that our futures may not be so different from our pasts. 


Our histories are cyclical. Our futures may not be untethered from the tangled vines of brutal pasts. 


Our futures are just consequences of the violences that we refuse to spare our children from. 


Our rivers are filled with the sweat of the browbeaten and the remnants of raped lands. 

Our indigeneity has been turned into industry. 

It is an overripe flower rotting with its browning petals splayed obscenely 

On the dusty, fired, ashy, earth. 


But fear not. 

These sacred worlds are not here to chastise or shame! 

Wounds may be the spaces of Meeting and worship. 





This galaxy, filled with all its dreams cum reality in minuscule form, spins like the rest of them. There is no stasis in flame. 

There is no ground in space. 

There is no stopping time, no matter how many directions it spreads in. 


Sink into these worlds. 

Feel the air hiss out of your lungs as you tesseract 

Across planes that only exist in the dreamed realities of others. 

Drown in the pools until you are crushed out into the other side. 


You are here. 


You Are. Born. In Flames. 


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