A.K. Burns' Negative Space Prepositions of the Future

A.K. Burns is an American contemporary artist and educator whose multidisciplinary practice explores systems of value, and identity. A.K. Burns: Prepositions of the Future features a selection of works from the artist’s allegorical science-fiction epic Negative Space. Eschewing familiar mechanisms of representation that fall repeatedly into hierarchical patterns that reinforce ongoing states of political, social, and environmental crisis, Burns reinvents strategies of representation through a “speculative present”—a narrative strategy for imagining an uncanny world that could be happening in the now.


This virtual walk through includes views of the exhibition Living with Ghosts which was presented concurrently with A.K. Burns' Negative Space: Prepositions of the Future.

In the shadow of a global pandemic, why examine alternative modes of perception? Are we able to speak about another world without questioning its validity for study, given that this current one is on the edge of climate collapse? Can climate even remain the focus as we address our end of the world anxieties when countless recent events have proven that climate is not simply eco-, but an ever present socio-eco-political matrix? Burns responds to these questions through articulations of the land and the body as sites and spaces of radical possibility, forming a web of improvised world-building that counters neoliberal utopianism with alternative modernities.

The works in this exhibition reference the earth in forms ranging from video and sound to collage, photography, and sculpture. In all their variety of depiction they engage and seek to modify our ideas about the world we inhabit, and as such, can be considered as prepositional to the central concept of "Earth." Rather than offering a straightforward, symbolic representation of what “Earth” conventionally conveys—climate, home, planet, etc.—earth is presented as something fluid, living, and multifaceted, opening the representational space to the unknown. This opening or negative space is akin to the gaps in our knowledge that science seeks to fill. Science-fiction writers throughout history have mined this gap, using allegory and experimenting with perceptions of reality as vehicles for challenging notions of self and other. Extending this genre, Burns’ art likewise transforms the unseen/unforeseen into matter, creating a new language for what determines a world.