STATEMENTS
2022
Ayana Zaire Cotton (she/they) is a queer, Black feminist, anti-disciplinary artist and cultural worker from Prince George’s County, Maryland. They are currently based in Dawn, Virginia — tucked in between the ancestral lands of the Mattaponi and Youghtanund — answering the call to steward land that has been in their family for four generations. Braiding language, performance, and craft Ayana speculates and worldbuilds alongside science and technology. Sankofa is a word and symbol of the Akan Twi and Fante languages of Ghana which translates to, "go back and get". Centering a sankofa sensibility, they build databases as vessels holding seed data and experiment with shuffling algorithms to spin non-linear narratives. Ayana calls this methodology “Cykofa Narration”, generating new worlds using the digital and social detritus of our existing world — resulting in a storytelling form that embodies circular time and troubles human authorship. Through engaging with language, technology, and ecology, Ayana is cultivating a practice of remembering and imagining alternative modes of being and interspecies belonging.


EDUCATION
2021
School for Poetic Computation, Reading, Writing, and Compiling
New York, NY

Forested, Permaculture Design Certification
Bowie, MD

2018
Flatiron School, Software Engineering Intensive
Washington, D.C.
2012 — 2015
University of Maryland, Innovation, Design and Society Major (BA)
College Park, MD

2011 — 2012
LIM College, Business Management Major
New York, NY


SELECTED PROJECTS
2022
IN PROGRESS: Seeda School

Seeda PressCykofa: The Seeda Origin Story


2017 — 2018
Zaire Studio, POWEROTICA Collection
2016
DISTRIKT Magazine, Art x Politics Issue
2015
DISTRIKT Magazine, The Underground Issue



WRITING


EXHIBITIONS

2022
Kickin’ The Can, Group Exhibition
curated by Anisa Olufemi and R. Treshawn Williamson
ACRE Projects @ Drama Club
Chicago , IL
2022
Rituals Here, Group Exhibition
visioned by Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo
Site Specific Activations in
Richmond, VA

2020
E:17 Zines , Group Exhibition
Transformer
Washington, D.C.

2018
We Got Next: Young Contemporaries, Group Exhbition Curated by Deirdre Darden
CAH Gallery
Washington, D.C.
2016
Ward 12, Group Exhibition
Halcyon House
Washington, D.C.


RESIDENCIES AND FELLOWSHIPS
2022
Annual Artist Residency
Visual Arts Center of Richmond
Richmond, VA

Wherewithal Project Grant
Washington Project for the Arts and Andy Warhol Foundation For The Visual Arts
Washington, D.C.
2021
Ginkgo Creative Residency
Ginkgo Bioworks and Faber Futures
Boston, MA

Make Work Residency
Studio Two Three
Richmond, VA

Summer ‘21 Cohort
Recurse Center
New York, NY

Seed Summer Residency
Exodus School of Expression
Richmond, VA
2020
Wherewithal Research Grant
Washington Project for the Arts and Andy Warhol Foundation For The Visual Arts
Washington, D.C.

Xenogenesis Salons
Institute for Contemporary Art
Richmond, VA

E:17 Zines
Transformer
Washington, D.C.
2016
Social Impact Artist in Residence Halcyon House
Washington, D.C.


SPEAKING


2015
Transcending Limitations, TEDxUMD


SELECTED MEDIA AND PRESS


2019
Zaire Studio Wire Arm Cuffs featured in When I Get Home Film, directed by Solange Knowles 

2017
Free Style — The Best Looks at Afropunk Marched to Their Own Beat (featuring the Zaire Studio jumpsuit worn and customized by Anthony Prince), Vogue, By Rachel Hahn, Video by Mika Altskan and Matvey Fiks



EXTENDED CV BY REQUEST
LAST UPDATED OCT 2022





Mark

Cykofa: The Seeda Origin Story

2022
Purchase ︎︎︎


We know this place as the North Carolina Black River, they know it as Cykofa. A parallel universe suspended among past and future — where cornrows are cryptography keys, data farms are data forests, the weaving loom is a computer, a cloth is a document, and chain link fencing from demolished prisons are used as architectural membrane woven with plant life. In Cykofa the trees have learned to speak using the data Cykofians have encoded in the tree’s DNA and tree ring memory.

Remembering that we can store data into the DNA of plants and read information from a tree's rings through dendrochronology, I developed Cykofa Narration as a methodology. Cykofa Narration is a storytelling technology/methodology that relies on ecosystems reverence, collective voice, re-appropriation, and computer collaboration.  Developed and published during the Ginkgo Bioworks Creative Residency, Cykofa: The Seeda Origin Story is a long-form poetry narrative told through the journal entries of a non-binary biotechnologist named Seeda and the found data within an ancient, 2,600+ year-old bald cypress tree named Cy. Our narrator is a tree but also a portal, allowing us to traverse deep time and connections. The people of Cykofa have traditionally hosted their data within the DNA of their trees, but what happens when Seeda discovers a rip in the dendrochronological memory, exposing select datasets from our world? 

Through foraging seed data related to biotechnology, poetry, abolition, southern self taught art and more—YouTube transcripts, found PDFs, website text, poems, journalism articles, etc.—are blended into a non-linear, choral hymn and Cy’s voice emerges. I have written a JavaScript program that splits paragraphs at punctuation marks such as periods and randomly recombines the paragraphs using a shuffling algorithm, resulting in Cy’s Narration and a woven world on the page. In many ways, Cykofa: The Seeda Origin Story was not written — it was grown.

I completed the printing, cutting, and binding at Studio Two Three in Richmond, Virginia. The book features a risograph printed cover and vellum sheets as an experiment in translucency and opacity. Printing on vellum allowed me to create three narratives in one book: Seeda’s Journal Entries, Cy’s Narration, and both read together. Printing on translucent paper also creates material echoes to the story itself, reinforcing the parallel universe theme and the layering process of the Cykofa Narration methodology and my risograph printmaking practice.

What started out as a short speculative fiction story about an indigenous community with advanced biotechnology, in a parallel universe on North Carolina’s Black River, turned into an excavation project using language to blur the arbitrary lines of biotechnology, spiritual ecologies, and blackness through collected seed data, remembrance, and experiment.

In accordance with Akan wisdom, if the “san” in “sankofa” means to “return,” the “ko” means to “go,” and the “fa” means to look, seek, and take, then by replacing the “san” with “cy,” short for cypress tree, Ayana is inviting us into a world where we return to our ecosystems and reimagine time.