Renowned artist Cauleen Smith will be in conversation with Jayna Brown about black creative cosmologies and their shared subjects—black mystic Rebecca Cox Jackson, jazz and devotional musician Alice Coltrane, and poet, musician and band leader Sun Ra. Their talk will center on Brown’s new book, Black Utopias, and Smith’s current exhibit Mutualities, currently at The Whitney Museum.


Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, she makes things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants. Her films include the award winning Drylongso (1998), Crow Requiem (2016) and her recent short Black Utopia LP (2019). Her films, objects, and installations have been featured and exhibited widely, including in the Whitney Biennial (2017), and at present her work is appearing in concurrent solo shows at MASS MoCA, SFMoMA and at The Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art. Smith is the recipient of several grants and awards including the Rockefeller Media Arts Award, Creative Capital Film /Video, Chicago 3Arts Grant, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Chicago Expo Artadia Award, and the Rauschenberg Residency. Smith earned her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Theater Film and Television. She is currently a professor at CalArts.

Jayna Brown is professor in the Graduate Program in Media Studies at Pratt Institute, where she teaches classes on science fiction, black queer and feminist studies, performance and media. As well as numerous essays, Brown is the author of two books, both published by Duke University Press: Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern (2008) and Black Utopias: Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds (2021). Brown is Co-Coordinator of the Global South Center and Co-Editor of the journal Social Text. She has also been a contributing journalist for NPR’s music programming.