ALTeks: NGLitcholalia

For the web residency »Algorithmic Poetry.« artist and poet Sherese Francis has created six broadcasts that think about knowledge-making in the context of Black and Afro-diasporic poetics, languages, and sounds: NGLitcholalia, (E)Dub, KwaNTum, NDigiTale, AlKyMatics, and AlKyM/oRG. Speaking in tongues, the spider trickster Anansi, the roots of words and their constant migration, and dub music are only a few of the ideas Francis has been playing with throughout the series, where each show is a poetic essay.

Sherese Francis in conversation with Jazmina Figueroa — Nov 22, 2023

Akademie Schloss Solitude - ALTeks: NGLitcholalia

»I began the project because I felt that I didn’t have a full grasp of how the African diaspora thinks about science and technology.«

Jazmina Figueroa: What does ALTeks: NGLitcholalia express, and how does it continue your ongoing exploration into sound as a search engine and the embodiment of words?

Sherese Francis: The project is called ALTeks: NGLitcholalia and it’s a radio broadcast series of six broadcasts. Each broadcast is titled with a word that I created for myself, and through each broadcast I collaborate with the search engine to look up various possible meanings of what that word could signify.

For example, the first broadcast is titled NGLitcholalia, where I split NGLitcholalia into parts:  »NGL,« »glitch,« and then the »lalia« – which stems from the word »glossolalia.« I do the research for each broadcast by using a search engine of those three parts that make up the word, NGLitcholalia, and with the results I come up with a network system of »meanings« for myself that I read throughout the broadcast accompanied by musical sounds and other references that I felt resonated with the search results. The broadcast is also a way to connect other meanings of this word, for me. That’s basically what the broadcast series was about.

Jazmina: To situate this new work within the framework of your practice, I would like to know about the central idea behind your previous and ongoing project KwaNTum, and how you associate that with knowledge-making through Black and Afro-diasporic poetics.

Sherese: I pronounce it, | kwä | en | təm | and I know when people read it, they would expect it to be pronounced as quantum. KwaNTum is a poetic project about Black Afro-diasporic ways of knowing and knowledge-making, and its different spelling and pronunciation is more about sound, how we pronounce things, and how different pronunciations can affect the meaning of things as well. This work is based on my interests in Afrofuturism, Black Quantum Futurism, The Black Speculative Arts Movement1, and of course, some of my favorite music artists, like Parliament Funkadelic, had a huge influence on how I thought about [the philosophy of] science, music, specifically, Black music. I was fascinated by how they would string words together to create new meanings in their songs.


Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop):

I began the project because I felt that I didn’t have a full grasp of how the African diaspora thinks about science and technology. I know a bit about this from an US-American perspective, but I wanted a broader understanding beyond my context. I was researching various Black thinkers, past and present, aligned with my thinking about how science and technology are understood from a Black and African diasporic perspective. I then wrote poetic responses to this body of research, which then turned into more interdisciplinary practices like ALTeks – an object assemblage that functions as Anansi’s2 digitation time device and altarpiece with speakers – inspired by my Caribbean heritage and the sound system culture emerging from the Caribbean. An interesting layer to the work was that the company that made the speakers, Altec Lansing, created the first synchronized sound technology used in film for the 1927 release of The Jazz Singer3. That was an interesting synchronicity, like the technologies associated with sound and music history.

I’m a poet and I think a lot about language and sound, which eventually led me to think about doing a radio broadcast.

Jazmina: Can you explain the significance of the ReVer(b)sions Lab in the development of your theory on resonance and its connection to knowledge-making through language, words, and sounds?

Sherese: I did the ReVer(b)sions Lab with the Lewis Latimer House Museum in Queens, New York. The reason why I wanted to do that wasn’t just because Lewis Latimer was a Black inventor and poet, but also because I thought it was interesting to think about the filament that he worked with for the light bulb and how the filament could represent a kind of stringing together of connections and ideas that eventually leads to a kind of enlightenment.

The reason why I called it ReVer(b)sions Lab was also playing with the idea that the word and verb have the same root. The word »reversion« is rooted in the idea of something turning or twisting around and reverberating, a vibration, and [as a visual], I came to this idea of a web, as being related to that sort of vibration. I see it as this thread that’s being connected through a network and then sound is vibrating through that network.


Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

ReVer(b)sions Lab with Sherese Francis:

Specifically for ReVer(b)sions Lab, I was thinking of how we can create new ways of thinking about communication systems. How we communicate science and knowledge, and how we can perceive those things differently. We can look at the roots of words with the roots of history, different histories, to think about the ways that knowledge [is accumulated] differently.

ReVer(b)sions Lab was about me thinking about how my art is more of a process than a finished piece. I use ReVer(b)sions Lab as a way to interact with other people, gain new knowledge, and expand knowledge based on collectivity. My practice is a process of collaboration, through conversation. All words lead us into conversation, as in the network system of meaning among us all.

Jazmina: You’ve already started to explain what your aims are for this web residency with, ALTeks: NGLitcholalia. What does Glitch-olalia represent in connection to the word »glossolalia«? And how do you incorporate glossolalia into this series of broadcasts?

Sherese: I grew up in a Pentecostal church, and in Pentecostalism, there’s an emphasis on speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you start speaking in a language that is not known to anybody else, and it’s considered a divine language.

When I started researching speaking in tongues, I found out there was a word for it called »glossolalia.« And then, of course, I love etymology, and looking at the roots of words, I looked up glossolalia and found out the »gloss« has to do with the tongue, and »-lalia« has to do with speaking.

In the first broadcast, I delve deeper into this concept, but I also play around with the potential for other meanings in some parts of the word. So, »-lalia« might be connected to ululation4. In a lot of cultures throughout Africa, they would ululate as a kind of praise song.


Mit dem Laden des Videos akzeptieren Sie die Datenschutzerklärung von YouTube.
Mehr erfahren

Video laden

Video description: An Egyptian woman ululates after having cast her vote in the 2014 Egyptian presidential elections. Date: 27 May 2014.

I was thinking of »-lalia« speaking with people ululating or la-la-la-la-ing their tongue. I didn’t know the term »glossolalia« before, but I started making connections like with Hallelujah, for example, and thinking about how the »la-la-la-la,« ululating, became an important sound throughout many cultures and why.

With »gloss,« I was playing with that part of the word and realized how it sounds similar to »glitch.« The tongue is slippery in the sense that there is a slipperiness of language, which is how we create so many words and languages. Speaking in tongues, for me, represents the human [aspiration] to express and create language.

»For me, sound is multiplicitous. There’s plenty of information and data on the possibilities of sound and the way dominant Western culture thinks about language and writing.«

Jazmina: When you think of sound as a search engine, what does ALTeks: NGLitcholalia mean concerning the body, and the poetics of language, and how does this series of broadcasts continue the exploration of sound as a search engine alongside the embodiment of words?

Sherese: For me, sound is multiplicitous. There’s plenty of information and data on the possibilities of sound and the way dominant Western culture thinks about language and writing. We tend to think about language and how it sounds in fixed ways, where there has to be this kind of linear thought about language. Etymologies reinforce linear thinking of language, however, this doesn’t speak to how humans use language, i.e. through constant migrating, speaking with various people, and as a result, there’s not a simple direct lineage [of a word and its root].

Sound as a search engine is thinking about it in a kind of similar way to Kamau Brathwaite’s5 ideas of tidalectics6.

It’s more about a flow of language, different influences, confluences, and information impacting and coming into what the meaning of a word is and how it sounds and how you pronounce it. So, there isn’t necessarily a correct way to pronounce a word and that can bring about different meanings attached to the word as well.

The embodiment of words also comes into ways people embody a word because of the ways someone interprets how a word is supposed to be read or pronounced depends on who they are, where they are, what kind of accents they speak, and who they’re in conversation with, how they heard the word or didn’t hear the word.

Sometimes people read words they have never heard, so they pronounce them as they think, and later, when they hear someone else say the word, they may change their pronunciation. Is there a wrong pronunciation? That is how they assumed it’s pronounced. I am thinking about the ways different bodies say words and what those meanings occur in different bodies and, to me, that a more accurate way of thinking about language and meaning – beyond a distinctive sense of definition, or the root of this word, or its correct pronunciation. Sound and search engines are a useful way to think about how you can use sound as information and that information is endless. There’s endless data to pull into language, sound, and poetry.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - ALTeks: NGLitcholalia

Ananse Web Adinkra Symbol

Jazmina: Like a process of de-institutionalizing language, how meaning emerges from processes of re-pronunciation, mispronunciation, or intended pronunciations of a word. This relates to the trickster character used in your work, through subversive uses of language. What is the significance of referencing the West African spider trickster, Anansi, in the ALTeks series, and how does it connect to this project’s themes?

Sherese: Anansi, typically a trickster figure, embodies a sense of fluidity and shape-shifting that truly represents the essence of life and nature. As someone who identifies as non-binary, I find a strong connection with trickster characters, as they mirror my own fluidity. I view language in the same fluid way.

Anansi’s representation as a spider resonates with me. When I researched spiders, I discovered that their webs function as an extended tool of their bodies, almost like an extension of their cognition. They use their webs to navigate and think, similar to how we use language, as an extension of our own cognition. Just as spider webs can be destroyed, and spiders have to rework them, language also undergoes changes and shifts, leading us to rework our language networks and think differently about concepts and ideas. I like to use the Anansi as a dynamic representation of language evolution, as it encapsulates this ever-changing nature of language and thought.

Jazmina: Now that we’ve come to the topic of the network, how does the project gather and network through what you termed »call-ins« and the meditation on a (key)word? And what role would you like communication to play in crafting the network within this project?

Sherese: I might not be able to include call-ins at the end of this residency, but I hope to do so in the future as the project evolves. Growing up in the Pentecostal church, I understand the importance of call and response, and this is a central part of the practice. I want people to join in and respond because I don’t have all the answers, and I value learning from others when people participate in the broadcast and share their thoughts.

For example, in the ReVer(b)sions Lab, my co-host Roxy brought up an interesting point. I was talking about the word »filament« and its root, »*gwhi-.«7 Roxy mentioned that in Mandarin, the sound is also associated with the word for »melon.« This connection sparked my poetic imagination, considering the idea of »stringing a melon« or »stringing a gourd,« given the similarity of sounds. These insights are important to my poetic practice, allowing me to actually initiate a weaving process where you’re constantly making connections to other things and expanding, and asking what relations can be? We tend to think of relations in this kind of superficial or singular idea of a relation [between two things], but there are many possibilities for relations and connections.

At a later stage, I hope to facilitate call-ins where people can add their voices to the broadcast and it creates this kind of larger chorus and network of meaning beyond just myself as the singular definitive source.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - ALTeks: NGLitcholalia

Jazmina: Can you describe, from a more technical perspective, how the sound recordings will be interconnected or interwoven into these broadcasts? Based on what was mentioned regarding the practice of the broadcast, how are the broadcasts in this work organized thematically?

Sherese: The website that I’m creating during this residency, with the technical assistance of Grayson Earle, has a landing page with the broadcast kind of floating around in space. This is where I was thinking about the possibility of adding in the call-ins, they can be floating around together sharing that [digital] space. Another idea was that I would make broadcasts and interweave the call-ins with my recordings, so that I could respond to the call-ins, and weave them into a larger body of work, expanding the network, and making cloud systems of call-ins and responses.

The six broadcasts represent different words, the first one I already talked about is NGLitcholalia. The second one is (E)Dub. The third one is KwaNTum. The fourth one is NDigiTale and then the fifth one isAlKyMatics and the last one is AlKyM/oRG.

When you listen to the broadcast, you hear me break each word into pieces, almost like I’m doing chemistry. I look at the possible sound roots of each of those words that I created and the possible roots and meanings of those.

For instance, take the word »(E)Dub.« I’ve been looking into the history of dub music and exploring other words that sound similar. What many people may not realize is that in Hebrew, the word for »word« is »dabar.« So, there’s a potential connection between »dub« and »dabar.« In the Egyptian language, I think of »dub« with »dbt,« used to describe an archive or a sarcophagus for holding relics and information.

I was also referencing the connection between dub music and Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism draws influence from Ethiopia, and if you say »Ethiopia« with a different accent, it almost sounds like »E-Dub-ia.« I’ve been playing with this idea throughout the podcast series, as I discuss various possible connections and contemplate what »dub« is.

As I talk about these relationships, I incorporate different music in the background, featuring artists like Scratch Lee Perry. Toward the end of the series, I also include women dub poets. I discuss how dub music can be seen as a form of queerness, where the original sound is twisted and transformed. This relates to both queerness and the experiences of women. I mention artists like Sister Nancy and how her song »Bam Bam« exists in the realm of dub and dancehall music, as she navigated a predominantly masculine space.

Overall, each broadcast is like a poetic essay, where I analyze the meaning of each word, telling how all of that interweaves and connects.

Jazmina: And this refers to what you have called a »(key)word« or is it serving a different function as keywords? … Based on your proposed »meditation on a (key)word.«

Sherese: Each word used as the title of the broadcast acts as a keyword. In the search engine I typed in different aspects of that word based on the results to craft this poetic effect, a mutative or creolized, or transmutation of words.8 I am interested in how that represents thought and meaning and how it concerns identity and positioning.

It’s a big endeavor, but I would like to turn it into a kind of radio station. Thinking about both the idea of pirate radio9 that you and I spoke about [at an earlier stage of this project], got me thinking about its relationship to the Underground Railroad, the various stations that you can land on with a word, it’s about the freedom of words.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - ALTeks: NGLitcholalia

Sherese Francis (she/they) describes themselves as an Alkymist of the I–Magination, finding expression through poetry and interdisciplinary arts (bookmaking, papermaking, collage, assemblage, performance, social arts practice). Her(e) work takes inspiration from her(e) Afro-Caribbean heritage (Barbados and Dominica), and studies in Afrofuturism and Black Speculative Arts, mythology, and etymology.

Jazmina Figueroa initiated the nineteenth call for Web Residencies and the collaboration between Digital Solitude and Liquid Architecture. Figueroa is a writer and performer.


  1. The Black Speculative Arts Movement. Black Speculative Arts Movement. (n.d.).

  2. Anansi, sometimes called Ananse, is the Spider God of knowledge, stories, trickery, and wisdom from the Akan, a Kwa group living in present-day Ghana and in parts of Ivory Coast and Togo in West Africa. Typically shown as a spider in Akan folklore, Anansi is a key figure in the stories of West Africa, African Americans, and the West Indies. These tales were brought to the Caribbean during the transatlantic slave trade. Anansi is known for being cunning, often outsmarting stronger foes.

  3. The Jazz Singer is a 1927 American musical film directed by Alan Crosland, which marked a significant milestone in the history of cinema as it was one of the first feature films to integrate synchronized sound. The film stars Al Jolson, an entertainer of the time known for his vaudeville and racist blackface performances.

  4. Ululation is a long high-pitched vocal sound resembling a howl with a trilling quality. Particularly as a means of conveying grief, happiness, festivity, or respect. It is produced by emitting a high-pitched loud voice and with fast alternating motions of the tongue and the uvula. See: Pendle, Karin (2001). Women & music: a history. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  5. Barbadian poet and cultural theorist, Kamau Brathwaite expanded the Black Atlantic notion of »nation language,« which refers to the use of a distinct, non-standardized form of language or dialect that is specific to a particular community, region, or nation. Brathwaite’s national language is coupled with the preservation and celebration of the linguistic and cultural expressions throughout the Caribbean, focusing on the African diaspora’s influence on the language and culture of the region.

  6. Atif Akin, Darren Almond, Julian Charrière, Em’kal Eyongakpa, Tue Greenfort, Ariel Guzik, Newell Harry, Alexander Lee, Eduardo Navarro, Sissel Tolaas, Janaina Tschäpe & David Gruber, Jana Winderen, Susanne M. Winterling, »TIDALECTICS«, curated by Stefanie Hessler. NTS Radio, 15 Jun. 2017.

  7. Harper, D. (n.d.). filament (n.). Retrieved from

  8. In Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, he summarizes the process of shaping Caribbean identity using ‚detour,‘ ‚ruse or trickery,‘ and ‚opacity‘ as the critical components of the ‚deferred speech‘ in Creolite languages.

  9. Frantz Fanon’s essay, This is The Voice of Algeria describes the use of technology in the Algerian colonial context and his account of the radio’s introduction to colonial Algeria is paradoxical to the contemporary condition of technological developments and functions. Published in 1962, this essay describes Fanon’s impressions of the colonial implementation as well as the native rejection and re-appropriation of the radio during pre- and revolutionary Algeria. Initially, the radio was an instrument to serve a colonial society’s communications, as a signifier that was instrumental to the dissemination of the French language and French communications.

Beteiligte Person(en)

Find more contributions in the archive