Meet Vince Fraser, the Afro-Surrealist visual artist behind this critically acclaimed cultural exhibition on Afrocentricity

The term “Afrofuturism” was coined in the 1990s by cultural critic Mark Dery in his book flame wars, in an essay titled “Black To The Future”, acknowledging a preoccupation with the future in the work of a number of black artists.

Today it has remained a term applied to seemingly disparate artists – ranging from artists such as Missy Elliot to Toni Morrison to mainstream blockbusters such as Black Panther. In recent years, another brilliant mind has been added to the list: Vince Fraser.

Through his work, the London-based Afro-surrealist, visual artist and illustrator explores the black experience and hones what it is to be black today within a futuristic context.

Just in time for the district’s annual Juneteenth celebration, he will bring his talents to ARTECHOUSE washington d.c. with Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies is an award-winning cultural art exhibition exploring the historical black experience, Afrocentricity, and social justice issues facing the black community. The critically acclaimed “Best Exhibition” in “Best in Town” from Time Out Miami 2021 Awards, opens today, June 13, and fuses art, technology, history and poetry to tell a story about human triumphs. The exhibition comes to ARTECHOUSE DC after a successful run at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas.

Fraser’s work has continued to evolve combining a variety of skills, including film and movement, while bridging the gap between fantasy and reality. Part of its mission is to inspire, educate and reinforce positive images of the African Diaspora. In an interview with ESSENCE, he talks about his collaboration with ARTECHOUSE, the future of art, and what it’s like to be a London-based artist representing the African-American experience.

As an artist who explores many messages and themes, how do you determine what to focus on and what environment or audience will best receive the work?

I’m a period artist, so I tend to focus on the here and now rather than future realities. I try to document what is happening around me in the world, whether in London or the United States, but also to take elements from the past and reimagine them in the present. These can be historical items like African masks, these are an important part of the ancient tribal traditions of Africa and are still made and used today. African tribes believe that these masks can provide a vital gateway to the spiritual world when worn during rituals and ceremonies, so they hold special sacred significance. The use of emblematic objects of black culture allows me to reach a wider audience combining ancestral heritage and modern sensibilities. While recreating the theme of ancient African kings and queens, the viewer is invited to interact with them in a whole new context never seen before, creating their own metaphorical frequencies and wavelengths. Working with ARTECHOUSE on this exhibition was definitely a collaborative process. While I provided visuals, it was the ARTECHOUSE team who then adapted and reinvented them for an audience experience through the use of the latest technological tools.

The black European experience and the black American experience are very different and similar at the same time. As a London-based artist addressing an African-American audience, how did you cross paths with the two?

Although the experiences are different to some extent, I believe that fundamentally black people go through very similar things, whether in Europe or America. For the exhibit, I wanted to take a historic event like the George Floyd incident and highlight all of the social justice issues surrounding it, including racial discrimination, inequality, and police brutality experienced by people of color. This particular topic is prevalent in Europe, especially in the UK where there is a lack of trust between the black community and the police, so I wanted to show it through my own unique perspective so everyone can relate to it. identify. For me, it’s about telling stories, highlighting issues, and helping to help build a more positive future where everyone is equal, regardless of race and color. So my message is that we need to keep spreading the message for change to happen in society.

From Miami to London, DC to Las Vegas, a number of institutions and galleries have featured your work. What are the benefits of exhibiting in a wide variety of cities and events around the world?

It’s a dream come true if I’m being honest, something I had thought about for many years but always felt out of reach. I think a lot of artists would love to be able to showcase their work globally, as it increases visibility and exposes you to a wider audience, ensuring your brand’s longevity, legacy and impact. Plus, you never know who you’ll meet at an event, so the door is always open to new opportunities. This is something that I am very grateful to the ARTECHOUSE team for making possible, as they truly fulfill their mission of empowering artists and bringing our work to the widest possible audience. I can’t wait to see where we can take this exhibition and I certainly hope it comes to London one day.

How did the collaboration with ARTECHOUSE come about? How do you choose who to work with?

I contacted founder and chief creative director Sandro about 3/4 years ago and we started talking and building a relationship during that time, so it wasn’t overnight. We first collaborated in the midst of the pandemic on an XR project that the ARTECHOUSE team reached out to me about and which went live on BLM plazas in August 2020. And then we started building on that relationship, working on different continents to make the exhibition happen.

I’m very picky who I work with or collaborate with, which is why I haven’t done many collaborations in the past. It is very difficult to find people who share the same vision, the same qualities and the same understanding but I felt that the Artechouse team really understood my work and I fully entrusted them with the vision they had. for this exhibition. I had an idea of ​​what ARTECHOUSE could do, but I had no idea what they would be able to create. They produce and create innovative, thought-provoking works that align with my vision. Their team was able to take my visual assets and create this amazing state-of-the-art immersive and interactive exhibit that focuses on the black experience. I would just like to say a big shout out to Artechouse for believing in my work and sharing it with the public in the United States.

As technology advances and new styles and mediums evolve, what do you think the future of art or “futuristic art” will look like?

The future of art will be driven by technology where the physical world will merge with the digital to create next-generation experiences more cohesively. Artists like me can make deeper emotional connections and connect more meaningfully with the viewer. We are currently living in exciting times with so many possibilities in terms of digital tools available to creatives. This will be very interesting as Ai tools become more accessible to creatives, allowing them to literally create art by typing prompts on a computer. Not sure, what will happen to the traditional artist in the future? Maybe everyone will become an artist?

How does Ursula Rucker’s work amplify experience? Why was it important to add this element?

Well, I’m a huge music fan and the ARTECHOUSE team always emphasizes sound and music in their exhibitions, so it was agreed that the exhibition needed a new dimension. I was drawn to a spiritual realm, so Nyabinghi drums were initially added. The term ‘Nyabinghi’ was used in Rwanda and Uganda to describe a woman whose name meant ‘one who possesses many things’, this religious belief allowed worshipers to connect with spirit through a medium. Eventually it was brought to Jamaica by Rastafarians who used it to describe their gatherings and drumming practices.

However, after adding them, we all felt it still lacked depth, so we went back to the drawing board and that’s when the ARTECHOUSE team suggested that we should spoken words, to guide the viewer through the experience, similar to what they noted in some of my pieces online. Having followed Ursula’s work since the early 90s when she made tracks like “Supernatural” with King Britt, I knew that one day I would work with her, but I didn’t realize it would take nearly 30 years to do it (lol). While we explored a few other voice artists, she was ultimately the perfect fit for the show that we agreed on as a team, great storytelling skills and an absolute pleasure to work with. And of course, it was great that she shared the enthusiasm we had for this project and jumped on it to be a part of it, creating original poetry for this exhibition.

Briana R. Cross