Visual artist Jeremy Kamal engages CGI storytelling to explore relationships between Blackness, technology, and ecology.
He is a design faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. He studied Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD and received a Master of Arts in Fiction and Entertainment at SCI-Arc. His work uses themes of landscape and fiction to envision speculative worlds in which Black life is at the center of geological phenomena. Through fiction, Kamal is interested in making explicit the connection between cultural abstractions and ecological realities.
His focus on landscape-centric narratives is the driving force behind the worlds he brings to life through animation, game engine technology, music, and storytelling. Kamal's work offers another perspective on the way we think about space and the cultural behaviors that shape it.
INSTA / VIM
The tilling machine, the cotton extractor, and the soil compactor condensed into a single unit; a single body. Black labor has geoengineered many of our landscapes, yet Black values are rarely embedded in them. My work confronts the exclusionary dynamics of landscape history through an Afrofutrist world where Black culture, technology, and ecology are in symbiosis. This world is called Mojo. It is home to a series of virtual environments that visualize what our landscapes might look like if seen through a contemporary Black gaze.
Using digital installations and video, I transport audiences into speculative ecologies brought to life through 3D animation, sound, and technology. Motion capture performances bridge the virtual and the physical using avatars that manipulate these ecosystems and their associated landscapes. A flex artist jerks; a field of wildflowers comes into bloom. A music producer hits the drum pad; pools of water swell. An athlete sprints; an entire hillside erodes. The displays of cause and effect awaken the Black body to its origin story as an “Earth Shaper”. Embuing them with a sense of agency, the hands that once worked the land for labor now shape the land through leisure.
I use photorealistic 3D assets to bring these “unimaginable” landscapes into a foreseeable reality. Through game engine software I explore different layers of experience within them. In some cases, visitors see pre-scripted stories that animate these environments. In other cases they see performance artists occupy them in real time.
I am driven by my belief in the need for new geomythologies that offer alternative ways of relating to ecology without excluding, muting, or abating Blackness. Just because it's “Green” doesn't mean it's Black. Each work subverts existing landscape histories and constructs new ones through forward-thinking geomyths that reimagine different forms of coexistence. I blur traditional distinctions between humans, animals, plants, and machines by embracing the “messiness” that arises when they merge. What if automation removed the burden of labor that Black bodies historically endured in our landscapes? What would happen if those bodies entered into symbiosis with machines to shape the land in new ways? What would happen if the values of contemporary black culture were the driving force behind that transformation?
Awards + Grants
2022 Folly Tree Arboretum Art Residency
2021 NYU ITP Postgrad Fellow
2021 New Forms Residency
2020 ONX Studio Fellowship
2020 Sundance New Frontier Story Lab Fellowship
2019 Alfred P. Sload Foundation Award
2017 Norman T. Newton Prize Harvard University
Talks + Workshops
2023 Columbia University GSAPP Artist Talk
2022 UCLA Sci Art Lab Artist Talk
2021 Reassemble Lab Artist Talk + Workshop
2020 SCI Arc Black Lives Matter Action Week Artist Talk
2020 Afrotectopia Artist Talk
2019 University of British Colombia “Forbidden Fruit” Artist Talk + Workshop
2019 University of Viriginia Workshop “Realtime Storytelling”
Press + Screenings
2023 TORRENTS: New Links to Black Futures
2021 Around the World Summit
2020 ONX Studio Showcase