Radio Imagination: Artists in the Archive of Octavia E. Butler is an exhibition curated by the Los Angeles–based arts organization Clockshop, and is part of Clockshop’s yearlong program to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the celebrated science-fiction writer’s death. In addition to this exhibition, the program has also included collaborations with local platforms such as ALOUD at the Los Angeles Public Library and REDCAT. On view at Pasadena’s Armory Center for the Arts, Radio Imagination comprises newly commissioned artworks by several artists who explored and responded to contents of the author’s archives, which are housed at the Huntington Library in nearby San Marino.
A room near the exhibition’s entrance features a slideshow of images of notebooks, photographs, and ephemera from Butler’s papers at the Huntington. It is not hard to imagine how artists—who must persist through impossible cycles of success and failure—must understand the motivation and frustration ever-present in Butler’s notes. “Focus on Action!” is written again and again on a particular scrap, undoubtedly reminding the author to continue pushing forward, no matter how grueling the project. While the slideshow provides an evocative glimpse of the archive’s source material, it would be even stronger if objects from the collection were actually on display at the Armory, and were allowed to intermingle with the new work generated by the invited artists.