Beth Coleman: Reality Was Whatever Happened. Octavia Butler AI and Other Possible Worlds

Processing Process

Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy is a compelling meditation on the existential human fear of depending on other species to survive; Beth Coleman’s Reality Was Whatever Happened: Octavia Butler AI and Other Possible Worlds relays questions of kinship, community, survival, and transformation through generative processes of image production, serialization, and fabrication. Operating as an interspecies vehicle with which OBAI prompts us to reconsider race, cognition, and computability, Reality Was Whatever Happened attends to the wild edges of computational culture and politics. Contributors engage with questions of black computing, indigenous AI, relational temporalities, and the hummmm of digital repetition, while Coleman’s conversation about the process and reality of contemporary AI-driven artistic practice frames the broader ethical and aesthetic stakes of OBAI. To see beyond the current hype of AI and explore the radical potential for (de)generative reconfigurations of images, bodies, and worlds, Coleman invites readers to become complicit in and through OBAI’s project of promiscuous liberation and provocative drift.


BETH COLEMAN works across locations of text, sound, and visuality, playing with frequencies of a generative aesthetic. Coleman’s work is located at a blurring of boundaries between visible/invisible, subject/object, past/futures. An obsession with technology, aesthetics, white dogs, black cats, and formulations of power and agency are evident across the body of Coleman’s work. Coleman has a history of international exhibition at venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Pioneer Works, Centre International des Récollets Paris, Waag Society Amsterdam, among others. In collaboration with Howard Goldkrand, Coleman led the decade-long SoundLab Cultural Alchemy project that transformed New York City’s “electrotectural now,” along with other international sites. During daylight hours, Coleman is an associate professor of Data & Cities at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology and Faculty of Information, University of Toronto with previous academic appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Waterloo. Coleman’s publications include Hello Avatar, “Race as Technology,” and “Technology of the Surround,” among others.
JJJJJEROME ELLIS is an animal, artist, and proud stutterer. Through music, literature, performance, video, and photography he researches relationships among blackness, disabled speech, divinity, nature, sound, and time.
V. MITCH MCEWEN works at the intersection of computation, architecture, and black studies. She is principal of Harlem-based design practice Atelier Office and a co-founder of the Black Reconstruction Collective.
M. MURPHY is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Science & Technology Studies and Environmental Data Justice at the University of Toronto. They are Red River Métis from Winnipeg.
LEE SMOLIN is a founding member and research physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, making major contributions to the field of quantum gravity. He is the author of more than 150 public scientific papers, essays, and writings.
ETIENNE TURPIN is a philosopher and general editor for K. Verlag in Berlin.


Beth Coleman: Reality Was Whatever Happened. Octavia Butler AI and Other Possible Worlds — Processing Process. With contributions by Beth Coleman, JJJJJerome Ellis, Mitch McEwen, M. Murphy, Lee Smolin as well as a conversation between Beth Coleman and Etienne Turpin. Design by K. Verlag with Wolfgang Hückel & Katharina Tauer.



14 x 21 cm

132 pages

Full color images, silver pantone spot ink

Softcover with wrap-around poster, open spine, foil stamp, thread sewn

ISBN 978-3-947858-50-7



The article “AI Has an Inclusivity Problem – Some Creators Are Looking to Change It,” by Brande Victorian in Teen Vogue (30 May 2023), introduces some of the issues tackled in this publication.


Read the introductory conversation between Beth Coleman and Etienne Turpin for free here.


North-America based readers: Please feel free to order this book at Printed Matter Inc. to save on shipping!


Published in October 2023