WEHO Times and Rolling Stone recently announced that Grace Jones would headline the Saturday lineup for the OUTLOUD WeHo (West Hollywood) Pride Music festival on June 2 and 4, 2023.
"Outloud is a show created for queer people in queer communities. It was born out of a need to support a struggling community of queer artists," Outloud founder and CEO Jeff Consoletti tells Rolling Stone. "While the top of our bill celebrates industry titans who each champion or represent LGBTQ causes, our drive comes from the diverse, eclectic assortment of established and emerging talent who represent the very best of queer music today. Building off our success in West Hollywood, our hope is to bring this queer festival experience to towns across the U.S. where queer artists might not otherwise get a chance to immerse themselves in a queer festival experience," he adds."
Grace Jones. Two words. Two syllables. Many icons. Many universes. The reference for diva. Grace Jones can make fabulous both jealous and blush. Grace Jones can bend binaries into sleek black rainbows. Grace Jones. Say their name out loud. Repeat it. Grace Jones.
I have a good friend who insists Grace Jones is an intergalactic Jamaican Afrofuturist being from a Nalo Hopkinson novel. I agree with some nuance.
In 1998, Dr. Alondra Nelson started the online community called Afrofuturism to connect Black people's aspirations, imagination, and innovations for the future. For Nelson, "Challenging mainstream technocultural assumptions of a raceless future, Afrofuturism explores culturally distinct approaches to technology…[and is at] the intersection between African diasporic culture and technology through literature, poetry, science fiction and speculative fiction, music, visual art, and the Internet and maintains that racial identity fundamentally influences technocultural practices."
This is Grace Jones, a culturally distinct approach to race as a technology and a political imaginary that pushes back and explodes the simultaneously parochial and imperialist notion of a raceless future. Jones both represents and transcends the intersection of creative speculative lives. A multi-genre artist, innovator, and speculative performer of genuine life, Jones weaves and unravels connections across diasporic geographies of race and experience, land masses and oceans, cultural production, Hollywood, fashion, and other meaning-making media.
Grace Jones is an Afrofuturistic icon and elder, a flash of the universe's expanding possibility, like when you close your eyes and see the palimpsest on the eyelid of what your eyes see when open. Grace Jones's imagination, imaginary, image, persona, and person transcends category. It disrupts binaries, a genealogy of radical Black people from the Caribbean, like Sylvia Wynter and Franz Fanon, defining the horizon of tomorrow's possibility. There is no Janelle Monae without Grace Jones without Janelle Monae without Grace Jones.
In a 2020 "exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, Grace Before Jones: Camera, Disco, Studio, curators Cédric Fauq and Olivia Aherne offer a multifaceted portrait of the renegade who turned the mainstream upside down with her refusal to be pigeonholed by any singular quality….A cross between fan-fiction, study and biography, Grace Before Jones: Camera, Disco, Studio departs from the iconic singer's career and her collaborations with artists, designers, photographers and musicians to question black image-making and gender binarism as well as both performance and the performance of life. Featuring 100 works by some 50 artists including Anthony Barboza, Antonio Lopez, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Jean-Paul Goode, Grace Before Jones is organized into 13 sections that explore her approaches to gender, sexuality, performance, race, and cybernetics throughout her career."
Click here for a virtual tour of the exhibit.
This article from Huck Mag, "Grace Jones' pioneering gender play and Afrofuturism,"offers an in-depth and personal look at Jones's impact on culture, fashion, gender-bending, and the significance of skin color and political forces during the 1980s. With images and photos, "Hailing from Jamaica, Grace Jones is a true iconoclast: a rebellious pioneer who set the worlds of music, fashion, and film ablaze with aesthetics that defied categorisation, appropriation, or co-option by industries that have long cannibalised marginalised communities."
For more about Grace Jones from the Boing Boing archives, check out this vintage post of "Process shots of famous Grace Jones album cover," or this post when she ominously asked on a public service announcement, "Do you know where your children are?
For a discussion on "Sonic Futures: The Music of Afrofuturism," with Nona Hendryx, Vernon Reid, and George Clinton, moderated by Alondra Nelson, click here.
Also check out Janelle Monae's Afrofuturistic anthology of multi-authored stories, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer. "Janelle Monáe, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, Eve L. Ewing, Yohanca Delgado, and Sheree Renée Thomas have delivered a sexy, soulful, and dissident collection of tales that expands the bold vision of Dirty Computer – in which Monáe introduced us to a world where people's memories — a key to self-expression and self-understanding – could be controlled or erased by an increasingly powerful few. And whether human, A.I., or something in-between, citizen's lives and sentience were dictated by those of the New Dawn, who'd convinced themselves they had the right to decide fate – that was, until Jane 67821 remembered and broke free."
Look for Grace Jones in the upcoming cost-plus budget multi-episode production based on Dirty Computer's Emotion Picture, the film that accompanied the release of the album. Emotion Picture stars Janelle Monáe as Jane 57821, Tessa Thompson as Zen, and Jayson Aaron as Ché.