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Lunchtime talk write-up
Posted on Fri 17 Feb 2017

Edson Burton: The Last Blues Song of a Lost Afronaut

Edson Burton joined us to share insights and the process behind his immersive theatre show in development, The Last Blues Song of a Lost Afronaut.


Edson is a writer, historian, programmer exploring themes of racial identity, post racial identity and mythology through the lens of Afrofuturism

Edson Burton

The Last Blues Song of a Lost Afronaut is a immersive theatre show in development. The discovery of an archaic device on a lifeless planet leads an Afronaut explorer to question the origins of his/her civilization.

This week Studio resident,  Edson Burton  joined us to share insights and the process behind his immersive theatre show in development, The Last Blues Song of a Lost Afronaut. 

The Last Blues Song of a Lost Afronaut is an idea that Edson first imagined in 2013. Through the residency, Edson has explored the shape of the project and ways in which technology may support the storytelling. The experience is currently envisaged as four distinct acts, exploring decolonised identities, mythologies, cultural syncretism, ghosts, exodus & environmental collapse. 

The story follows a Black Afronaut explorer as he travels through space recording a science series exploring the possibility of life on other planets. Landing on a devastated Earth he discovers the origins of his civilization – his ancient ancestors escaped an environmental catastrophe centuries before. Then, having colonised a new world, its founders severed all ties with their racialised past. The Afronaut composes a blues song and experiences the particular conditions which gave the song life.

My takeway from the talk:

Edson's questioning arises from a broad theme of decolonising the mind. His interest cover a broad range of topics from Black Zionism, African and African Diaspora Aesthetics, Myth making, Future Technologies.  What would life have been like if the encounter between races hadn't happened the way it did, especially in relation to the power dynamics that it took place in? What if the N word never existed? What if we started from a different place?  What if we ‘pressed the reset button around black identity’? 

Edson is a writer, programmer, and historian who became excited about the idea of a theatre piece that include the themes and used technology to do that. The question he brought to the studio is “What is the relationship between an african aesthetic and technology? How can the studio help to bring this to life?

Edson summarises the studio experieince as ‘Loving and drowning in the Candy Shop’. He knew there were many opportunities out there and got excited by them but in the end he had to go back to the story and what drove him. He wanted to use the residency as an opportunity to explore what the experience would be like with different types of tech so he experimented with various methods such as motion tracking, face tracking, light and sound. 

During his time here, he enjoyed working with various collaborators in the process; composers, visual artists, graphic artists; filmmakers; creative technologists, fashion designers and choreographers. He reached out to the public offering workshops entitled ‘Afro Future Fashion 3000’. During the workshop participants explored future selves and future philosophies through the making of costumes. 

His next steps include working with new collaborators, an expanded participation strategy along with explorations of Ebonics (How to play fair with language), carnival, and a deeper exploration of the possibilities of technology to explore a narrative.

Edson believes he came to the studio as a storyteller and left an ‘artist in a more diffuse way’ and realised there are many ways to tell a story, which he arrived at from access to and conversations with many generous people. In his own words, “The Last Blues Song is a universe. We can all play.”