robertogreco + blackness   47

Italian writer Igiaba Scego rewrites the Black Mediterranean
"Igiaba Scego is one of the most prominent voices of a new cohort of Black writers in Italy. Scego was born in Rome in 1974 to parents from Somalia; her father served as a high-ranking official in the Somali government before the 1969 Siad Barre coup d’etat. A prolific novelist, journalist, social commentator, and activist, Scego has won numerous awards for her writings on African-Italian identities and the legacies of Italian colonialism. Her newest book, Adua, released in Italy by Giunti this September, represents a welcome intervention into the diversity of Black experiences in Italy. Indeed, Adua can be read as an exploration of what Jacqueline Nassy Brown has termed “diaspora’s counter/parts”–relations among the African diaspora that are based not solely on affinity and sameness, but also on differences and antagonism.

Adua is told through two voices and over three historical moments, which Scego describes as “Italian colonialism, Somalia in the 1970s, and our current moment, when the Mediterranean has been transformed into an open-air tomb for migrants.” Zoppe is a polyglot Somali, descended from a family of soothsayers, who works as an interpreter in the 1930s under Italian fascism. In many ways an embodiment of the tragic maxim “translator as traitor,” Zoppe is torn between his struggle for survival and his deep sense of ethical obligation toward family and nation. A survivor of brutal racist attacks while in Rome, Zoppe’s translation work also affords him a terrifying window into the impending and bloody Italian re-invasion of Ethiopia.

Adua, Zoppe’s daughter and the book’s namesake, was born in Somalia but left for Rome at the age of seventeen. She is known as a “Vecchia Lira” (Old Lira), the irreverent term used by younger immigrants to describe women of the Somali diaspora who arrived in Italy during the 1970s. Adua’s young husband is a recent Somali refugee who came to Italy via Lampedusa escaping civil war; she calls him “Titanic” in reference to the precarious boat on which he arrived, and the two share an ambiguous relationship that oscillates from the maternal to the hostile.

Young Adua dreamed of becoming a movie starlet like Marilyn Monroe–her romantic images of Italy were shaped by the films she watched as a child in a theater built by the fascists. Yet after decades in Italy, she only has one title to her name: a humiliating and degrading erotic movie exploiting Italian stereotypes of Black female sexuality. Adua’s own tragic tale is belied by her triumphal name, bestowed by her father to represent the first African anti-imperialist victory.

Adua is deeply and thoroughly researched, a process Scego describes in the “Historical Note” after the epilogue. It is also a captivating read: the novel is sweeping in its geographical and temporal scope, yet Scego nonetheless renders her complex protagonists richly and lovingly. Adua makes two critical contributions. First, she centers Italian colonial history (particularly Italian colonization and occupation in East Africa) and its reverberations in the present through the lens of lived experience–the layers of intimacy and violence that characterize imperial entanglement. Contrary to the rabid rhetoric of ethno-nationalism, xenophobia, and border securitization in Italy today (seen in the aggressive taunts launched against the likes of Mario Balotelli that “there are no Black Italians”), Scego’s book underscores that “Africans” are not foreign Others intruding into bounded Italian space; rather, these intertwined histories predate Italy’s “official” transformation into a country of immigration during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s.

And second, Scego dispels the notion that there is any sort of unitary Blackness in Italy. Her characters are colonial subjects and aspiring freedom fighters, migrants and refugees of multiple backgrounds and generations–in other words, Afro-Italians of many stripes and political valences. Scego has taken us beyond the all-too common invocation of subjects “trapped between two worlds,” instead portraying a range of experiences that–while still structured by racism, misogyny, and other axes of power–can do justice to the changing face of Italy today."
igiabascego  2015  italy  mediterranean  colonialism  race  africa  racism  misogyny  power  blackness 
17 days ago by robertogreco
quantum distributions for Sarah Baartman | The Offing
"“Baartman lived in poverty, and died in Paris of an undetermined
inflammatory disease in December 1815. After her death, Cuvier dissected
her body, and displayed her remains. For more than a century and a half,
visitors to the Museum of Man in Paris could view her brain, skeleton and
genitalia as well as a plaster cast of her body.”

from Sarah Baartman’s Wiki page, referencing
Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus:
A ghost story and a biography
by Clifton C. Crais and Pamela Scully

here is what is true:
a black body radiator be a star that Rayleigh Jeans Law fails to approximate
black bodies be emitting spectral radiance but those white men act like they ain’t ever seen us i mean
who gave men permission to approximate the black body?
to contain us? how have men deluded themselves that they are close enough to touch
us? why must they demand black bodies self-sacrifice
in ultraviolet? that is why must we give
all of us to them until we have nothing left? until we approach
infinity? why must they make us approach infinity?
why must they contrast us against the omnipotent?
why must they deny us our humanity in death? why must they torture us
with the focus they have been beaming on to black bodies?
why are they so hungry? like we shine but it ain’t enough? for them
black bodies is never enough
and our purgatory ain’t either how dare they
in fact we the black bodies refuse and denounce lawful men
and their sickly approximations because
we the black bodies understand each other at visible frequencies
without a dissection or death—which is to say witness
us the black bodies rejoice to become mortals again because
here is what is true:
a black body radiator be in thermodynamic equilibrium which is to say
a black body be at rest yes let the black bodies rest
in peace watch us the black bodies converge into an infrared sunset so
blessed be the tail of a distribution curve like where my thigh meets my ass
mine own black body emblematic and
fundamentally mine"

[via: "quantum distributions for Sarah Baartman" is by Lena Blackmon, a Black woman undergrad studying materials science (applied physics) @Stanford. I dreamed of a poem like this: a Black woman writing herself & her history into science, with accurate science!"
https://twitter.com/IBJIYONGI/status/1012346837427109889

"This poem is also my answer to everyone who has ever asked me why it is a problem to compare Black people to dark matter:
black bodies be emitting spectral radiance but those white men act like they ain’t ever seen us i mean
who gave men permission to approximate the black body?"

"If you're writing about Black people and trying to use physics analogies, you better imagine that Black scientists exist and not just reference popular science writing by white people. Talk to a Black scientist. There are many @ #BlackandSTEM."

"Part of Black liberation has to be imagining Black experts in science too. Black people don't just write poetry. We also do science. Sometimes, like Lena, we do both. When you don't imagine that, you don't imagine Lena, and I need you to imagine Lena. I made a department for her."

"I am proud of everything we have published in Back of the Envelope, but it was work like Lena's that drove my initial thinking behind creating the department. I wanted somewhere that a Black woman wouldn't feel like she had to choose between her scientific and literary identities"]
lenablackmon  science  physics  sarahbaartman  blackness  bodies  blackbodies  darkmatter  chandaprescod-weinstein  body 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Fred Moten’s Radical Critique of the Present | The New Yorker
"He is drawn to in-between states: rather than accepting straightforward answers, he seeks out new dissonances."



"“I like to read, and I like to be involved in reading,” he said. “And for me, writing is part of what it is to be involved in reading.”"



"For Moten, blackness is something “fugitive,” as he puts it—an ongoing refusal of standards imposed from elsewhere. In “Stolen Life,” he writes, “Fugitivity, then, is a desire for and a spirit of escape and transgression of the proper and the proposed. It’s a desire for the outside, for a playing or being outside, an outlaw edge proper to the now always already improper voice or instrument.” In this spirit, Moten works to connect subjects that our preconceptions may have led us to think had little relation. One also finds a certain uncompromising attitude—a conviction that the truest engagement with a subject will overcome any difficulties of terminology. “I think that writing in general, you know, is a constant disruption of the means of semantic production, all the time,” he told me. “And I don’t see any reason to try to avoid that. I’d rather see a reason to try to accentuate that. But I try to accentuate that not in the interest of obfuscation but in the interest of precision.”"



"“The Undercommons” lays out a radical critique of the present. Hope, they write, “has been deployed against us in ever more perverted and reduced form by the Clinton-Obama axis for much of the last twenty years.” One essay considers our lives as a flawed system of credit and debit, another explores a kind of technocratic coercion that Moten and Harney simply call “policy.” “The Undercommons” has become well known, especially, for its criticism of academia. “It cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the university is a place of enlightenment,” Moten and Harney write. They lament the focus on grading and other deadening forms of regulation, asking, in effect: Why is it so hard to have new discussions in a place that is ostensibly designed to foster them?

They suggest alternatives: to gather with friends and talk about whatever you want to talk about, to have a barbecue or a dance—all forms of unrestricted sociality that they slyly call “study.”"



"Moten’s poetry, which was a finalist for a National Book Award, in 2014, has a good deal in common with his critical work. In it, he gathers the sources running through his head and transforms them into something musical, driven by the material of language itself. "



"And he’s still trying to figure out how to teach a good class, he said. He wasn’t sure that it was possible under the current conditions. “You just have to get together with people and try to do something different,” he said. “You know, I really believe that. But I also recognize how truly difficult that is to do.”"
2018  fredmoten  davidwallace  poetry  fugitivity  betweenness  liminality  dissonance  reading  howweread  fugitives  blackness  undercommons  education  highereducation  highered  stefanoharney  sociality  study  learning  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  pedagogy  criticalpedagogy  grades  grading  conversation  discussion 
may 2018 by robertogreco
28 MORE Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball (2018) – Scott Woods Makes Lists
"When I made the first of these lists back in 2016 I had no idea the places it would go: Libraries, schools and families all over the world continue to share it even now, and I am humbled by its reception. I’ve long threatened to do a sequel to that list, so here it is. Same old librarian, all new tricks. Same rules apply:

1) Titles that came out within the last ten years (or so).
2) A spread in the gender of the protagonists.
3) Shine light on typically ignored aspects of black life. Nothing against history, but we aren’t exactly hurting for books on slavery. We could do with some more books about fishing, owning pets, and generally any other hobby children have. (That said, this list caught a lot more history than the last one.)

The books are not ranked in any way. Creator(s) are noted: Author/Illustrator.
See you in the stacks, but more importantly, buy some books!"
books  children  childrensbooks  lists  picturebooks  classideas  blackness  history  society  childrensliterature 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The Starbucks thing hit me harder than I expected. I've been brooding for days. On the face of it, it's inconsequential. It is…”
"The Starbucks thing hit me harder than I expected. I've been brooding for days. On the face of it, it's inconsequential. It is certainly inconsequential in direct comparison to the "newsworthy" horrors we are used to. No one was shot. Nobody died.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It happened on an ordinary day in an ordinary place. But that's also the reason it stings: precisely because of that ordinariness. Show of hands: who's ever been to a Starbucks? It happened in Starbucks, with their overpriced faux-Italian drinks, to people like us, doing the things we do, waiting for a friend to arrive before ordering.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Keen-eared Professor Iyer notes that playing overhead during the arrest was Dizzy Gillespie's Salt Peanuts. A compact contemporary history of public space could be written with the title "Black Music, Yes! Black People, No!"
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We are not safe even in the most banal place. We are not equal even in the most common circumstances. We are always five minutes away from having our lives upended. Racism is not about actively doing stuff to you all the time—it's also about passively keeping you on tenterhooks. We are always one sour white away from having the cops arrive. And the cops! The cops are like a machine that can’t stop once set in motion, what Fela called "zombie." When the cops arrive, the human aspect of the encounter is over.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This is why I always say you can't be a black flaneur. Flanerie is for whites. For blacks in white terrain, all spaces are charged. Cafes, restaurants, museums, shops. Your own front door. This is why we are compelled, instead, to practice psychogeography. We wander alert, and pay a heavy psychic toll for that vigilance. Can't relax, black."
tejucole  2018  starbucks  flaneur  psychogeography  race  racism  blackness  us 
april 2018 by robertogreco
On the Blackness of the Panther – Member Feature Stories – Medium
"At least once a day, I think: “another world is possible.” There’s life yet in our dreams. The pan-African political project is still alive. The memory of whatever was good in the Bandung Conference or the Organization of African Unity still makes the heart race. Flashes of common cause among the Darker Nations can be illuminating and sustaining. But “Africa” as trope and trap, backdrop and background, interests me ever less.

I am more fascinated by Nairobi than by Africa, just as I am more intrigued by Milan than by Europe. The general is where solidarity begins, but the specific is where our lives come into proper view. I don’t want to hear “Africa” unless it’s a context in which someone would also say “Asia” or “Europe.” Ever notice how real Paris is? That’s how real I need Lagos to be. Folks can talk about Paris all day without once generalizing about Europe. I want to talk about Lagos, I don’t want to talk about Africa. I want to hear someone speaking Yoruba, Ewe, Tiv, or Lingala. “African” is not a language. I want to know if a plane is going to the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport. You can’t go to “Africa,” fam. Africa is almost twelve million square miles. I want to be particular about being particular about what we are talking about when we talk about Africa.

* * *

I grew up with black presidents, black generals, black kings, black heroes, both invented and real, black thieves too, black fools. It was Nigeria, biggest black nation on earth. I shared a city with Fela Kuti for seventeen years. Everyone was black! I’ve seen so many black people my retina’s black.

But, against the high gloss white of anti-black America, blackness visible is a relief and a riot. That is something you learn when you learn black. Marvel? Disney? Please. I won’t belabor the obvious. But black visibility, black enthusiasm (in a time of death), black spectatorship, and black skepticism: where we meet is where we meet.

Going on twenty six years now. I learned African and am mostly over it. But what is that obdurate and versatile substance formed by tremendous pressure? What is “vibranium”? Too simple to think of it as a metal, and tie it to resource curses. Could it be something less palpable, could it be a stand-in for blackness itself, blackness as an embodied riposte to anti-blackness, a quintessence of mystery, resilience, self-containedness, and irreducibility?

Escape! I would rather be in the wild. I would rather be in a civilization of my own making, bizarre, contrary, as vain as the whites, exterior to their logic. I’m always scoping the exits. Drapetomania, they called it, in Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race (1851), the irrepressible desire in certain slaves to run away.

* * *

Ten years pass and I still dream about that cat. The eyes slide open, an image enters. Where are you now, Mirabai? Euthanized years ago by the animal shelter? Or successfully adopted and now gracefully aging in some home in Brooklyn? With people, young or old, merciful and just? Dream cat, leaping up to meet me."
tejucole  2018  blackpanther  africa  culture  race  film  blackness  identity  cats  animals  knowledge  racism  zoos  capitalism  monarchism  rainermariarilke  switzerland  colonialism  tonimorrison  lagos  nigeria  immigration  edwardsnow  eusébiodasilvaferreira 
march 2018 by robertogreco
W. Kamau Bell Doesn’t Want to Fit In on Vimeo
[via: http://gitamba.com/post/171045406081/comedian-w-kamau-bell-struggled-with-his-identity

"Comedian W. Kamau Bell struggled with his identity growing up. As a self-described “nerd,” he favored martial arts over basketball and rock over hip-hop. This struggle carried over into adulthood and his early efforts at standup comedy. At one point, he even considered giving up comedy entirely. It was at this crossroads that Bell stumbled upon a Rolling Stone article, which became the catalyst for him finding his own voice. Since then, Bell has gone on to headline shows across the country, host a CNN series, and document it all in his book “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell.”"]
wkamaubell  2018  comedy  identity  blackness  outsiders  comics  adulthood  comedians  hiphop  martialarts 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Metrograph Celebrates the Inventive Truth-Telling of St. Clair Bourne | Village Voice
"Let the Church is so free of form and spirit that, presented without context, it could easily be seen as a fictional piece. It is not clear how much the scenes are staged, or, indeed, whether they are staged at all. Right from the first interaction, in which what seems to be a religious teacher laboriously explains the purpose of a sermon, there is a distance with the people filmed (broken on occasion by extreme zooming and direct address), as well as a writtenness and theatricality in the dialogue that can be delightfully confusing. What one learns while watching Bourne is that there are many ways to enter a subject, and one mustn’t refrain from exploring them, especially not in the name of nonfiction convention."



"Bourne conveys the collective through the individual: What do these voices reveal of the state of mind of the subject, and how do they mirror that of an entire community?"



"There are individuals who have been burdened with what Frantz Fanon has described, in Black Skin White Masks, as the “colossal task to make an inventory of the real.” Fanon was of course one of them, and so was Bourne.

The task is even more herculean when the reality has been so intensely erased and distorted, including by the very medium in which Bourne decided to express himself. Hence the extreme sensitivity and curiosity that animates his body of work, which belongs — right next to the early literature of enslaved Africans, the films of Oscar Micheaux, the novels and essays of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston — on the shelves of every Black family, its images ornating the minds and memories of every Black child. Much like the Martinican psychiatrist did with philosophy, poetry, and psychoanalysis, St. Clair Bourne utilized the tools of television and cinema to uncover the multitudinous facts of Blackness — and to send his people many love letters."
fantasylla  2018  stclairbourne  film  documentary  blackness  filmmaking  frantzfanon  zoranealehurston  jamesbaldwin  tonimorrison  realism  dialogue  breakingform  form 
february 2018 by robertogreco
How Birds-of-Paradise Produce Super-Black Feathers - The Atlantic
"Blackbirds, it turns out, aren’t actually all that black. Their feathers absorb most of the visible light that hits them, but still reflect between 3 and 5 percent of it. For really black plumage, you need to travel to Papua New Guinea and track down the birds-of-paradise.

Although these birds are best known for their gaudy, kaleidoscopic colors, some species also have profoundly black feathers. The feathers ruthlessly swallow light and, with it, all hints of edge or contour. They make body parts seem less like parts of an actual animal and more like gaping voids in reality. They’re blacker than black. None more black.

By analyzing museum specimens, Dakota McCoy, from Harvard University, has discovered exactly how the birds achieve such deep blacks. It’s all in their feathers’ microscopic structure.

A typical bird feather has a central shaft called a rachis. Thin branches, or barbs, sprout from the rachis, and even thinner branches—barbules—sprout from the barbs. The whole arrangement is flat, with the rachis, barbs, and barbules all lying on the same plane. The super-black feathers of birds-of-paradise, meanwhile, look very different. Their barbules, instead of lying flat, curve upward. And instead of being smooth cylinders, they are studded in minuscule spikes. “It’s hard to describe,” says McCoy. “It’s like a little bottlebrush or a piece of coral.”

These unique structures excel at capturing light. When light hits a normal feather, it finds a series of horizontal surfaces, and can easily bounce off. But when light hits a super-black feather, it finds a tangled mess of mostly vertical surfaces. Instead of being reflected away, it bounces repeatedly between the barbules and their spikes. With each bounce, a little more of it gets absorbed. Light loses itself within the feathers.

McCoy and her colleagues, including Teresa Feo from the National Museum of Natural History, showed that this light-trapping nanotechnology can absorb up to 99.95 percent of incoming light. That’s between 10 and 100 times better than the feathers of most other black birds, like crows or blackbirds. It’s also only just short of the blackest materials that humans have designed. Vantablack, an eerily black substance produced by the British company Surrey Nanosystems, can absorb 99.965 percent of incoming light. It consists of a forest of vertical carbon nanotubes that are “grown” at more than 750 degrees Fahrenheit. The birds-of-paradise mass-produce similar forests, using only biological materials, at body temperature.

Vantablack is genuinely amazing: It’s so good at absorbing light that if you move a laser onto it, the red dot disappears. But McCoy has created a similar demonstration with her super-black feathers. In the image below, you can see two feathers, both of which have been sprinkled with gold dust. The left one is from the lesser melampitta—a bird of average blackness—and it looks as golden as its surroundings. The right one comes from a paradise riflebird—one of the 42 species of bird-of-paradise. Yes, it is covered in gold dust. And yes, it still looks black. The gold settles within the grooves of microscopic forest, and all of its glitter is lost.

This opens up several other questions, says Rafael Maia from Columbia University, who studies the evolution of bird colors. “Is this something unique to birds-of-paradise, or have other species evolved similar optical solutions?” he says. “If they have, do they use the same type of feather modifications?”

Many animals and plants use microscopic structures to produce exceptionally vivid colors with metallic sheens; this is called iridescence. Comparably fewer species use microscopic structures for the opposite purpose: to absorb colors entirely. These include a few butterflies and the Gaboon viper.

The viper—whose fangs, at two inches, are the longest of any snake—likely uses its super-black scales for camouflage, breaking up its outline so that the rest of its body better blends into the leaf litter of a rainforest. The birds-of-paradise, meanwhile, probably use their unfeasibly black blacks for the same thing that seems to motivate everything about them: sex.

“These likely evolved as an optical illusion, to make adjacent colors seem even brighter than they are,” says McCoy. “Animal eyes and brains are wired to control for the amount of ambient light. That’s why an apple looks red whether it is in the sun or the shade, even though the wavelength hitting our eyes is quite different in those scenarios. A super-black frame inhibits this ability, so nearby colors look like they are very bright—even glowing.”

The male birds use this illusion to great effect. The magnificent riflebird—that’s its adjective, not mine—splays out his super-black wings and flicks his head between them, showing off his electric blue throat. The superb bird-of-paradise—again, that is literally its name—spreads a cape of super-black feathers to highlight the electric blue patches on his cheeks and chest. He ends up looking like a spectral, wide-mouthed face. The six-plumed bird-of-paradise erects a super-black tutu and shimmies about to show off his kaleidoscopic throat bib.

Feathers on birds-of-paradise contain light-trapping nanotechnology that makes some of the deepest blacks in the world.

The illusions work best when viewed straight on. From that angle, the little barbules and spikes are pointing straight at you, and they become better at trapping light. When viewed from the side, the super-blacks lose some of their blackness. That’s why the dancing males take such care to face the objects of their attention, bouncing around so their audience never gets a side view.

Super-black surfaces have plenty of uses for humans, too. They could camouflage military vehicles, help solar panels collect more light, or stop stray light from entering telescopes, improving the ability to spot faint stars. Vantablack can already do all of the above, but McCoy thinks the structure in super-black feathers might still be useful to engineers. “If these could be really cheaply 3-D printed, that would be amazing,” she says."
birds  nature  color  black  biology  biomimcry  science  2018  edyong  nanotechnology  vantablack  blackness 
january 2018 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts: March 10, 2017
"The writer and theorist Fred Moten once wrote that "to be invisible is to be seen, instantly and fascinatingly recognized as the unrecognizable."

David Hammons is also interested in the nature of invisibility—what it’s made of, how it behaves, what it does to the world, what forms it takes. He keeps the invisible invisible, or, at least, the visible unrecognizable.

There are many (many!) invisible people in the world, but perhaps the most well-known might be Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952). This is the subject of Fred Moten's lecture.

This is the ninth event in our year-long season about and around the work of David Hammons."

[video: https://vimeo.com/214239080 ]
fredmoten  davidhammons  invisibility  ralphellison  2017  wattisinstitute  race  visibility  racism  webdubois  frantzfanon  whiteness  blackness  jazz  milesdavis  louisarmstrong  icebergslim  music  aljarreau  jacoblawrence  wallacestevens  adreinhardt  art  erasure  aesthetics  artworld 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney (part 2) | Full Stop
"I also think there is a story of something more radical than the student movement — wildcat strikers, black liberation armies, etc., that is not so much surpassed by economic changes but politically, violently destroyed. And with it the possibility of more political democracy in general in society comes to a halt, at least temporarily."



"there is something kind of cool about the way we are writing to each other from under this work regime of bulk teaching, as my friend Marina Vishmidt called it. We’re writing to each other from our conditions, conditions that we make harder by being kind to the students and to each other. So that’s what we got to do, even if it makes us uncouth.

It’s also good timing that you wrote to me about this comment I made to you in an earlier conversation because I just finished a terrific book called Dixie Be Damned by Neal Shirley and Saralee Stafford. They write about insurrections in the South from the dismal swamp in the 18th century to a 1975 uprising in a North Carolina women’s prison. It’s stirring stuff and then in a really sound, clear-hearted concluding chapter they surprised me. They said our enemies have been saved not by fascism but by democracy. It should not have surprised me, given that we were just speaking about Du Bois and democratic despotism, but it did. They are right. And I think it is in this sense that a better university would be worse for us, has been worse for us, in a paradoxical way."



"In any case, whiteness is either absence or violence, and in either case, not much to offer as an ally. But on the other hand white people have a big role to play in the revolutionary violence Shirley and Stafford speak of because the act of abolition of white communities is a monumental task."



"But we have to be careful here. Blackness is neither the opposite nor the total reversal or abolition of whiteness. Blackness exists in/as the general antagonism. It’s always anti-colonial, always fugitive."



"What I realize now is that leisure evokes free time that we have in opposition to work, no matter how much that leisure has now been commodified itself. But this opposition between free time and work is alien to the black radical tradition, something Angela Davis, Barbara Smith and many others have taught us for a long time now. The black body, especially the black female body, under racial capitalism, should either be working or must be interrogated for why it is not working. Free time doesn’t come into it, but that is not the only reason. Free time itself has to be ‘reworked’ within an abolitionist history. Freedom is neither possible nor — more controversially perhaps — desirable. Fred and I talk about the opposite of slavery being something like service, not freedom, learning from Saidiya Hartman. And Denise instructs us to think of time outside its deployment in enlightenment European philosophy, instead through her concept of difference without separability. So a free time that is neither about freedom nor sequential time."



"Otium starts as a term in Greek that is in opposition to war. It is the time of rest, of peace, or pursuits antithetical to war, a way of being without war. Then with the Romans it starts to stand for time that is in opposition to public service, a way of being without the civic. The first sense gives us a time of preservation, of militant rest, in opposition to the ongoing war of settler colonialism. And then the second sense gives us a time without public service. Think of what we learn from Frank Wilderson about the impossibility of black civic life and we see the other side to this is some kind of anti-colonial otium, an otium of black operations. Otium is fugitive from the good cop- bad cop of politics and war."



"There’s something else about this otium and maybe the closest I can come to it right now is through a phrase Che Gossett uses, ‘an ontological cruising.’ I came across this phrase in an amazing piece Che wrote for the Verso blog and it stayed with me. Here’s the whole sentence: ‘As queer and/or trans people of color, already dispossessed, we yearn to be with one another; our search and seeking is a be-longing, an ontological cruising.’ Otium is this, not leisure, not free time, but this be-longing away from war, away from the public and the civic, and not an opposition to work but an alternative to it."



[Michael Schapira] "This is a long way of saying I’m not sure. I’ve suggested laying yourself bare in a different way than the laborer or developing a different relationship to death as two ways to get back leisure. I suppose this is like the existentialist’s guide to teaching. But I do think you are right in what you said earlier, that getting sucked into policy is a bit of a trap despite the pressing policy issues like debt, unionization, job security, etc. It pushes the personal off the table in favor or professional concerns."



"And you are right that it is increasingly all students who stand before capital as supplicants, without mediation, and it is increasingly all of us. Under these circumstances it might be important to distinguish between this exposure to capital and the persistence, perhaps especially in business education, of what Foucault called a total education, something Fred and I have been speaking about.

As you may recall he was talking about how the prisons instructed prisoners in every aspect of prison routine, to use your mentor’s apt distinction from study. Foucault says this total instruction attacked what it saw as the perversion of prisoners. And the first step in this attack, this instruction, was the individuation of bodies and minds. That’s the first and most brutal reform, individuation. Perversion on the other hand therefore could be thought of here as the refusal to be individuated. It is another word for the entanglement of beings, the encircling, winding, curling flesh, blurred and indistinct parts, different but inseparable, as Denise Ferreira da Silva would put it. Total education is an organized attack on our perversions, our versions, our differentiated inseparability. The brutal individuation of the prisoner, his or her straightening, the construction of fortifications around each of these bodies not just around all of them, the training in the distinction of individualized bodies and minds. This is the instantiation of reform of total education. Literally a re-forming of these perverse unformed, under-formed, deformed beings into proper forms. That is why reform is the true punishment, the truly vicious side of the prison and of reforming, conforming societies like ours. We do the same in education.

In education the very first lesson is individuation in time and space. What are the first two lessons kids are taught? First, you can’t touch each other. Second, you are required to stay. You cannot leave when you want to — to go to the bathroom or eat or because you are bored. You leave when they say. Fred and I have also been writing about the relationship between wandering and gathering, and refuge and receiving. And it all starts here. Kids are taught they cannot wander, and they are taught they cannot gather. By gather I mean as with the prisoners they cannot retain what society calls perversion, indistinct, experimental and blurring forms of senses and porous bodies being together. Collective self-unorganisation, wandering, seeking refuge and receiving is replaced by order, and the classroom as the only place they can be, or the playground and lunchroom at regulated times. Denied their own forms of both gathering and wandering, they are educated.

This instruction in individuation of the body and mind that precedes and accompanies instruction in the interactions, routines and spatial propriety of the student or the prisoner might be opposed to something else. This something else would be another kind of education, or study — the kind that prisoners persistently find a way to convene, as we know from the black radical tradition in prison, famously for instance with Malcolm X and George Jackson. Moreover there is plenty of evidence that this kind of study has never gone away. For instance, I am reading an amazing doctoral dissertation by Angelica Camacho from UC Riverside who is writing about the families supporting the recent prisoner strikes at Pelican Bay, and the forms of study that emerged inside and outside with those strikes. We might call this a form of study that takes place despite instruction, despite the brutal individuation of solitary confinement, despite the sadistic separation of families — we might call this a partial education. As opposed to a total education, a partial education is, as its roots suggest, partisan. It is an education where as Mao said the one becomes two, or perhaps as Fred and I would say the one becomes both less and more than one. Totality itself is exposed as partisan in the process.

But a partial education is also partial in another sense — in the sense of being incomplete, and indeed being based on incompleteness, vulnerability, needing other people. Cedric Robinson speaks of a principle of incompleteness in communities in Africa, and elsewhere, in his great book Terms of Order. I also remember this amazing moment where Albert Woodford is asked why he continued to think of himself as a Panther through all the years of confinement in Angola Prison even as the Panthers seemed to fade into history and commodification. He said he needed them. This most extraordinary figure who might otherwise be narrated as a lone, brave unbreakable singular man of principle, talks about himself very differently, as needing others, as being incomplete."



"How can we join with the only force of resistance to all this delusional individuated sovereignty? That is, how can we join with the students?"



"And here an important point should be made about a partial education. Their total education always becomes more and … [more]
stefanoharney  fredmoten  michaelschapira  jessemontgomery  2017  education  highereducation  highered  individuation  neoliberalism  capitalism  markets  labor  work  leisure  individualism  study  studies  solidarity  society  liberation  resistance  refusal  democracy  nealshirley  saraleestafford  chrisnefield  marcbousquet  revolution  whiteness  blackness  escape  fugitivity  opposition  saidiyahartman  angeladvis  barbarasmith  deniseferreiradasilva  chegossett  otium  frankwilderson  settlercolonialism  decolonization  colonialism  colonization  socerignty  howeteach  teaching  learning  cedricrobinson  hortensespillers  love  annettehenry  fordism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, "Michael Brown" [.pdf]
[Also here: https://www.academia.edu/17216167/Michael_Brown_by_Stefano_Harney_and_Fred_Moten ]

"We fall so we can fall again, which is what ascension really means to us. To fall is to lose one’s place, to lose the place that makes one, to relinquish the locus of being, which is to say of being single. This radical homelessness—its kinetic indigeneity, its irreducible queerness—is the essence of blackness. This refusal to take place is given in what it is to occur."



"But what if together we can fall, because we’re fallen, because we need to fall again, to continue in our common fallenness, remembering that falling is in apposition to rising, their combination given in lingering, as the giving of pause, recess, vestibular remain, custodial remand, hold, holding in the interest of rub, dap’s reflex and reflection of maternal touch, a maternal ecology of laid hands, of being handled, handed, handed down, nurture’s natural dispersion, its endless refusal of standing. Hemphill emphatically announces the sociality that Luther shelters. Fallen, risen, mo(u)rnful survival. "



"The state can’t live with us and it can’t live without us. Its violence is a reaction to that condition. The state is nothing other than a war against its own condition. The state is at war against its own (re)sources, in violent reaction to its own condition of im/possibility, which is life itself, which is the earth itself, which blackness doesn’t so much stand in for as name, as a name among others that is not just another name among others.

That we survive is beauty and testament; it is neither to be dismissed nor overlooked nor devalued by or within whatever ascription of value; that we survive is invaluable. It is, at the same time, insufficient. We have to recognize that a state—the racial capitalist/settler colonial state—of war has long existed. Its brutalities and militarizations, its regulative mundanities, are continually updated and revised, but they are not new."



"The law of the state is what Ida B. Wells rightly calls lynch law. And we extend it in our appeals to it.

We need to stop worrying so much about how it kills, regulates, and accumulates us, and worry more about how we kill, deregulate, and disperse it. We have to love and revere our survival, which is (in) our resistance.We have to love our refusal of what has been refused. But insofar as this refusal has begun to stand, insofar as it has begun to seek standing, it stands in need of renewal, now, even as the sources and conditions of that renewal become more and more obscure, more and more entangled with the regulatory apparatuses that are deployed in order to suppress them. At moments like this we have to tell the truth with a kind of viciousness and, even, a kind of cruelty."



"The innovation of our survival is given in embrace of this daimonic, richly internally differentiated choreography, its lumpen improvisation of contact, which is obscured when class struggle in black studies threatens to suppress black study as class struggle."



"Michael Brown and his boys: black life breaking and making law, against and underneath the state, surrounding it. They had foregone the melancholic appeal, to which we now reduce them, for citizenship, and subjectivity, and humanness. That they had done so is the source of Darren Wilson’s genocidal instrumentalization in the state’s defense. They were in a state of war and they knew it. Moreover, they were warriors in insurgent, if imperfect, beauty."



"Rather than dissipate our preoccupation with how we live and breathe, we need to defend our ways in our persistent practice of them. It’s not about taking the streets; it’s about how, and about what, we should take to the streets. What would it be and what would it mean for us jurisgeneratively to take to the streets, to live in the streets, to gather together another city right here, right now?"
stefanoharney  fredmoten  michaelbrown  blackness  indigeneity  refusal  resistance  governance  illegibility  state  homelessness  queerness  survival  settlercolonialism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney (part 1) | Full Stop
"He is perhaps best known for The Undercommons, an absolutely essential work on the contemporary university (and much, much more) co-written with Fred Moten. But an Internet search will show interests pushing in all kinds of exciting directions — from study to infrastructure, from cultures of finance to leisure, from public administration to the metroversity."



"There is as little point in demanding something of this president as of the last. Not only because we will not get it, but because it is probably not what we want. We get sucked into policy. But the university, the NEA and the NEH, these institutions are just the enervating compromise, the residue of a past battle. Preserving them has the perverse effect of weakening us. These are just settlements we have to reject in our ongoing war against democratic despotism, which is of course the ongoing war against us.

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote about democratic despotism in ‘The African Roots of War,’ published in 1915. The current US regime could be said to be the realization of this trajectory of democratic despotism. Du Bois was very specific about democratic despotism. He observed capitalists in the United States and Europe offering a compact with their white working classes, offering a share, however meager, in the nation’s wealth. This share would be extracted from black and brown peoples living in the nation, but excluded from this pact, and through imperialism, shares would be extracted from what Du Bois called the black, brown, and yellow peoples throughout the globe. Democratic despotism was a cross-class alliance based on the color line. Through this agreement, governments could function as ‘democracies.’ Indeed participation in a white democracy was part of what being offered as part of the stabilization package. The modern university is a phenomenon of this agreement sealed along the color line. Thus I would say the undercommons remains the moving violation of that agreement.

I have a friend called Jonathan Pincus. He’s a very smart Marxist development economist, and recently he turned his attention to the development and future of universities around the world. He points out that the deal between the capitalist classes and the nation-state is fraying. One effect of this is that the capitalist classes do not want to pay for universities that serve a national purpose anymore, whether that purpose is producing research, training labour, or preserving national culture and identity. They only want to pay for universities to educate their children — that is, teach them the etiquette of the capitalist classes — and their children go to Princeton or Oxford, or wherever. But their children certainly do not go to Rutgers-Newark nor UC-Riverside, never mind state colleges, small private colleges, and numerous other regional universities. As Jonathan notes universities like Princeton already cater to a global, not national, capitalist class. They are flourishing. The question this raises for me is not whether the vast number of colleges and universities outside the attention of the global capitalist classes will continue to be funded. They won’t, except where vestiges of the white middle class can effectively threaten legislatures to give their kids and not Latino, Black, Asian, and Indigenous kids, the remaining bits of this system. But what can we do, together with the rest of these kids, with these abandoned factories of knowledge? That’s what interests me. How can we occupy them once they are discarded?"



" Fred and I work under the influence of Denise Ferreira Da Silva here, as elsewhere. She speaks about difference without separability and about entanglement in a way that becomes most available through this nautical event, through blackness. She adds that without separability, our ideas and practices of determinacy and sequentiality, which I’ve reduced to time and space here, also get called into question. Her work is rich and deep and I am still finding my way through this entangled world with her help. Shipping and the Shipped, the show at the Bergen triennial, owes much to her thought."



"And so, to shift registers slightly from our thing to theirs, if you think about recent political battles coming out of the United States and its imperial decline, they could all be seen as logistical. So, I agree with you Michael that logistics can be a capacious category for understanding what they are doing, as well as what we are trying to do. The Black Snake winding through Dakota lands, the wall along the current border with Mexico, the ban directed at the seven Islamic countries the US has strategised to destroy and dominate, these are all about the movement of energy, goods, and labour, about ensuring control of the flows. So too the South China Sea ‘stand-off’ is a reaction to China’s ‘belt and road’ strategy — the Silk Road Belt and the Maritime Silk Road — China’s plan for connectivity, shipping, logistics across vast territory. The Maritime Silk Road is to run from Papua New Guinea to East Africa and the Silk Road Belt from the ports of Southern Italy and Greece through Turkey to Siberia. China is building this infrastructure as we write, all along these routes, in massive undertakings. Infrastructure is however only one aspect of logistics, or one dimension might be a better way to put it.

Another dimension of logistics is its unconscious. The dream of logistics, and you can find this in the academic journals, is the elimination of human time, the elimination of the slowness and error of human decision-making, actions, and indeed mere bodily presence. Now you might think this means replacing truck drivers with self-driving trucks running automated routes where algorithms recalculate constantly and link to fuel prices and inventory signals, all without people having to intervene, and you would be right. But interestingly the jobs that have already been replaced by the most important machine in logistics — the algorithm — are management jobs."



"Finally, one might object that logistics does not have much to say about something like police brutality, or as my friend Dylan Rodriguez would correct me, police, since police brutality is, as he says, redundant. But what Fred and I tried to suggest in our piece ‘Leave Our Mikes Alone’ is that the demand for access — intensified by logistical capitalism — also identifies the inaccessible as sabotage. Anyone who does not immediately open oneself fully to the police upon demand for access is a saboteur. But anti-black racism means it is impossible for black people to comply with this order for access since black people are by definition opaque to the police and to white supremacist society. Access kills, but not indiscriminately."



"I think students who study business are in a sense very logistical. Whereas a student studying music or history must say how can I fit what I like to do into this economy, a business student says how can I fit the economy into me. The business student is immediately ready for interoperability, for being accessed, plugged in, traversed by flows, modulated, wherever necessary. These students are unmediated by an interest, such as anthropology, that has to be converted into the economic in an extra step of logistical effort. Now, the curious other side to this is that the business student is also often ‘the last Fordist.’ Even when Fordism ‘never was’ for that particular student or her family. By this I mean because it is impossible to be interested, really, in Human Organisation and Development (the way it is inevitably taught as an extension of logistical capitalism), students place their interests elsewhere, in a non-work sphere. Now this is not true for those upper middle class business students who are convinced business can deliver meaning for them (including through green business, social entrepreneurship and all the rest of the more sophisticated delusions). But amongst the average student taking business courses, I have found little illusion about why they are doing it, or what it is going to be like, even if they have hopes. I say all this to say the student taking philosophy in your class is probably there to take philosophy, as if in an old-fashioned division between work and leisure. I am personally happy to make my classes into places of leisure under these circumstances (or any). The real question I want to ask with you both is this: outside of the places Jonathan is talking about — the global universities responding to a global capitalist class — students are struggling. They are over-worked, over-taught, piled with requirements and internships, plagued by debt and psychological distress, and they are often the new welfare state for grandparents, kids, and disabled relatives. In other words, leisure is being made impossible for them and I think this means it is hard to ask them to take our classes with a kind of leisure. How can we organize with the students for leisure as a first step toward study?"



"But I wanted to ask an unrelated, slightly inarticulate question. I mentioned at one point in our initial email conversation that I’m genuinely curious about the co-author phenomenon (Adorno & Horkheimer, Mouffe & Laclau, Hardt & Negri, etc.). I’m still curious about this, like the phenomenology of it versus any crude craft or process question, but I’m not quite sure how to ask it.

Actually, Michael, I also like to ask the question of how people write together. I always ask it when I find people writing together. In our case, we hung out together for fifteen years before we wrote anything down! But for us the transition to writing things down had two impulses. On the one hand, we were trying to understand our workplace, and we wrote a couple of early pieces about conditions of academic labour, one called the Academic Speed-Up, and another called Doing Academic Work. There was not much to them, but they did make us realize we could not consume … [more]
stefanoharney  fredmoten  2017  education  highered  undercommons  highereducation  colleges  universities  labor  work  capitalism  webdubois  jonathanpincus  denisederreiradasilva  frankwilderson  omise'eketinsley  nourbesephillip  christinasharpe  refusal  resistance  blackness  whiteness  michaelbron  bodies  neoliberalism  study  jessemontgomery  michalschapira  ayreenanastas  renegabri  valntinadesideri  stevphenshukaitis  norasternfeld  edouardglissant  consent  blackstudies  academia  body 
december 2017 by robertogreco
The Black Outdoors: Fred Moten & Saidiya Hartman at Duke University - YouTube
"The Black Outdoors: Humanities Futures after Property and Possession seeks to interrogate the relation between race, sexuality, and juridical and theological ideas of self-possession, often evidenced by the couplet of land-ownership and self-regulation, a couplet predicated on settler colonialism and historically racist, sexist, homophobic and classist ideas of bodies fit for (self-) governance.

The title of the working group and speaker series points up the ways blackness figures as always outside the state, unsettled, unhomed, and unmoored from sovereignty in its doubled-form of aggressively white discourses on legitimate citizenship on one hand and the public/private divide itself on the other. The project will address questions of the "black outdoors" in relationship to literary, legal, theological, philosophical, and artistic works, especially poetry and visual arts.

Co-convened by J. Kameron Carter (Duke Divinity School/Black Church Studies) and Sarah Jane Cervenak (African American and African Diaspora Studies, UNC-G)"



[Fred Moten (31:00)]

"Sometimes I feel like I just haven't been able to… well, y'all must feel this… somehow I just can't quite figure out a good way to make myself clear when it comes to certain things. But I really feel like it's probably not my fault. I don't know that it's possible to be clear when it comes to these kinds of things. I get scared about saying certain kinds of stuff because I feel like sometimes it can seem really callous, and I don't want to seem that way because it's not because I don't feel shit or because I don't care. But let's talk about it in terms of what it would mean to live in a way that would reveal or to show no signs of human habitation.

Obviously there's a field or a space or a constraint, a container, a bounded space. Because every time you were saying unbounded, J., I kept thinking, "Is that right?" I mean I always remember Chomsky used to make this really interesting distinction that I don' think I ever fully understood between that which was bounded, but infinite and that which was unbounded, but finite. So another way to put it, if it's unbounded, it's still finite. And there's a quite specific and often quite brutal finitude that structures whatever is going on within the general, if we can speak of whatever it is to be within the general framework of the unbounded.

The whole point about escape is that it's an activity. It's not an achievement. You don't ever get escaped. And what that means is whatever you're escaping from is always after you. It's always on you, like white on rice, so to speak. But the thing about it is that I've been interested in, but it's hard to think about and talk about, would be that we can recognize the absolute horror, the unspeakable, incalculable terror and horror that accompanies the necessity of not leaving a trace of human inhabitation. And then there's the whole question of what would a life be that wasn't interested in leaving a trace of human habitation? So, in church, just because my friend Ken requested it, fuck the human. Fuck human inhabitation.

It's this necessity… The phrase I use sometimes and I always think about specifically in relation to Fannie Lou Hamer — because I feel like it's me just giving a spin on a theoretical formulation that she made in practice — is "to refuse that which has been refused to you." That's what I'm interested in. And that doesn't mean that what's at stake is some kind of blind, happy, celebratory attitude towards all of the beautiful stuff we have made under constraint. I love all the beautiful stuff we've made under constraint, but I'm pretty sure I would all the beautiful stuff we'd make out from under constraint better.

But there's no way to get to that except through this. We can't go around this. We gotta fight through this. And that means that anybody who thinks that they can understand how terrible the terror has been without understanding how beautiful the beauty has been against the grain of that terror is wrong. there is no calculus of the terror that can make a proper calculation without reference to that which resists it. It's just not possible."
fredmoten  saidiyahartman  blackness  2016  jkameroncarter  fredricjameson  webdubois  sarahjanecervenak  unhomed  unsettled  legibility  statelessness  illegibility  sovereignty  citizenship  governance  escape  achievement  life  living  fannielouhamer  resistance  refusal  terror  beauty  cornelwest  fugitives  captives  captivity  academia  education  grades  grading  degrading  fugitivity  language  fellowship  conviviality  outdoors  anarchy  anarchism  constraints  slavery  oppression  race  racism  confidence  poverty  privilege  place  time  bodies  body  humans  mobility  possessions 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Stefano Harney on Study (Interview July 2011, Part 5) - YouTube
"we’re talking about getting together with others and determining what needs to be learned together and spending time with that material and spending time with each other without any objective, without any endpoint"



"[Study] almost always happens against the university. It almost always happens in the university, but under the university, in its undercommons, in those places that are not recognized, not legitimate…"

[See also Margaret Edson: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:181e6f50825b ]
2011  stefanoharney  study  studies  highered  highereducation  resistance  unschooling  deschooling  labor  work  informal  community  interdependence  cv  credit  credentialism  accreditation  slavery  blackness  debt  capitalism  fredmoten  universities  undercommons  freedom  practice  praxis  learning  communities  objectives  messiness  howwelearn  productivity  production  product  circumstance  producing  nothing  nothingness  idleness  relationships  imperatives  competition  howestudy  self-development  sharing  subversion  education  baddebt  studentdebt  completion  unfinished  margaretedson 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Critic and poet Fred Moten is profiled by Jesse McCarthy | Harvard Magazine
"IN 2013, a manifesto entitled The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study began making the rounds among the growing pool of nervous graduate students, harried adjuncts, un-tenured professors, and postdocs whirling through the nation’s faculty lounges. The Undercommons was published by the small anarchist press Autonomedia and made freely available for download; in practice, however, it circulated by word of mouth, copies of the PDF forwarded like samizdat literature for those in the know. On the surface, the text is an analysis of alienated academic labor at the contemporary American university. But it’s also more radical than that: it is a manual for free thinking, a defiant call to dissent within educational institutions that betray their liberal credos, filling their coffers even as they prepare students, armed with liberal arts degrees and “critical thinking” skills, to helm a social and economic order in which, “to work…is to be asked, more and more, to do without thinking, to feel without emotion, to move without friction, to adapt without question, to translate without pause, to desire without purpose, to connect without interruption.”

For those with little or no knowledge of black studies, the text’s deployment of terms like “fugitivity” and “undercommons” may seem baffling. To those in the circle, however, this lexicon of continental philosophy, remixed with a poetic and prophetic fire resembling Amiri Baraka’s, bears the signature of one of the most brilliant practitioners of black studies working today: the scholar and poet Fred Moten ’84."



"This past fall, Moten took up a new position in the department of performance studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, arriving from Los Angeles and a teaching appointment at the University of California at Riverside. In early September, his office was still a bare room with a single high window looking out over Broadway. He hadn’t had a chance to unpack his library, but already a small stack of books on jazz theory, performance, and quantum mechanics rested in a pile near his desk. It soon became clear, however, that he is the kind of thinker who keeps all his favorite books in his head, anyway. His Paul Laurence Dunbar is always at his fingertips, and he weaves passages from Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant, or Hortense Spillers into his conversation with equal facility.

In someone else this learnedness could come off as intimidating, but in Moten it’s just the opposite. Something about his composure, his relaxed attentiveness, the way he shakes his head with knowing laughter as he pauses over the direction he’s about to take with a question, instantly erases any stuffiness: one can imagine the exact same conversation taking place on the sidelines of a cookout. And then there’s his voice: warm, low, and propelled by a mellow cadence that breaks complex clauses into neat segments, their hushed, conspiratorial air approaching aphorism. At one point, Moten asked about my dissertation, which I confessed, sheepishly, was kind of a mess. His eyes lit up. He leaned back with a wide grin, his hands spreading out in front of him. “You know what a mess is?” He said. “In Arkansas, a mess is a unit of measure. Like of vegetables. Where my people come from folks might say: ‘You want a bushel?’ And you’ll say, ‘Nah, I want a mess.’ You know, like that great James Brown line: ‘Nobody can tell me how to use my mess.’ It’s a good thing to have. A mess is enough for a meal.”"



"One difficulty for outside readers encountering Moten’s work is that he tends to engage more with the avant-garde than with pop. It’s easy to see why the art world has embraced him: his taste gravitates toward the free-jazz end of the spectrum so strongly it’s as if he were on a mission, striving to experience all of creation at once—to play (as the title of a favorite Cecil Taylor album puts it) All the Notes. This spring, Moten is teaching a graduate course based on the works of choreographer Ralph Lemon and artist Glenn Ligon. In recent years he has collaborated with the artist Wu Tsang on installation and video art pieces, where they do things like practice the (slightly nostalgic) art of leaving voicemail messages for each other every day for two weeks without ever connecting, just riffing off snippets from each other’s notes. In another video short directed by Tsang, Moten—wearing a caftan and looking Sun Ra-ish—is filmed in “drag-frame” slow motion dancing to an a cappella rendition of the jazz standard “Girl Talk.”

By way of explanation, Moten recalls his old neighborhood. “I grew up around people who were weird. No one’s blackness was compromised by their weirdness, and by the same token,” he adds, “nobody’s weirdness was compromised by their blackness.” The current buzz (and sometimes backlash) over the cultural ascendancy of so-called black nerds, or “blerds,” allegedly incarnated by celebrities like Donald Glover, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Issa Rae, leaves him somewhat annoyed. “In my mind I have this image of Sonny Boy Williamson wearing one of those harlequin suits he liked to wear. These dudes were strange, and I always felt that’s just essential to black culture. George Clinton is weird. Anybody that we care about, that we still pay attention to, they were weird.”

Weirdness for Moten can refer to cultural practices, but it also describes the willful idiosyncracy of his own work, which draws freely from tributaries of all kinds. In Black and Blur, the first book of his new three-volume collection, consent not to be a single being (published by Duke University Press), one finds essays on the Congolese painter Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu and C.L.R. James, François Girard’s Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a comparison between Trinidadian calypso and Charles Mingus records composed in response to the Little Rock Nine, David Hammon’s art installation Concerto in Black and Blue, Wittgenstein and the science fiction of Samuel Delany, a deconstruction of Theodor Adorno’s writings on music and a reconstruction of Saidiya Hartman’s arguments on violence. Sometimes the collision can happen within a single sentence: “Emily Dickinson and Harriet Jacobs, in their upper rooms, are beautiful,” he writes. “They renovate sequestration.”

Taken together, Moten’s writings feel like a Charlie Parker solo, or a Basquiat painting, in their gleeful yet deadly serious attempt to capture the profusion of ideas in flight. For him this fugitive quality is the point. We are not supposed to be satisfied with clear understanding, but instead motivated to continue improvising and imagining a utopian destination where a black cosmopolitanism—one created from below, rather than imposed from above—brings folks together.

For Moten, this flight of ideas begins in the flight of bodies: in the experience of slavery and the Middle Passage, which plays a crucial role in his thinking. “Who is more cosmopolitan than Equiano?” he asks rhetorically, citing the Igbo sailor and merchant who purchased his own freedom, joined the abolitionist movement in England, and published his famous autobiography in 1789. “People think cosmopolitanism is about having a business-class seat. The hold of the ship, among other things, produces a kind of cosmopolitanism, and it’s not just about contact with Europeans and transatlantic travel. When you put Fulani and Igbo together and they have to learn how to speak to each other, that’s also a language lab. The historical production of blackness is cosmopolitanism.”

What can one learn from the expression of people who refuse to be commodities, but also once were commodities? What does history look like, or the present, or the future, from the point of view of those who refuse the norms produced by systems of violence: who consent not to be a single being? These key concerns course through the entirety of Moten’s dazzling new trilogy, which assembles all his theoretical writings since In the Break. At a time of surging reactionary politics, ill feeling, and bad community, few thinkers seem so unburdened and unbeholden, so confident in their reading of the historical moment. Indeed, when faced with the inevitable question of the state of U.S. politics, Moten remains unfazed. “The thing I can’t stand is the Trump exceptionalism. Remember when Goldwater was embarrassing. And Reagan. And Bush. Trump is nothing new. This is what empire on the decline looks like. When each emperor is worse than the last.”

* * *

A THESIS that has often been attractive to black intellectuals (held dear, for example, by both W.E.B. Du Bois and Ralph Ellison) was that the United States without black people is too terrifying to contemplate; that all the evidence, on balance, suggests that blackness has actually been the single most humanizing—one could even say, slyly, the only “civilizing”—force in America. Moten takes strong exception. “The work of black culture was never to civilize America—it’s about the ongoing production of the alternative. At this point it’s about the preservation of the earth. To the extent that black culture has a historic mission, and I believe that it does—its mission is to uncivilize, to de-civilize, this country. Yes, this brutal structure was built on our backs; but if that was the case, it was so that when we stood up it would crumble.”

Despite these freighted words, Moten isn’t the brooding type. He’s pleased to be back in New York City, where he’ll be able to walk, instead of drive, his kids to school. He’s hopeful about new opportunities for travel, and excited to engage with local artists and poets. His wife, cultural studies scholar Laura Harris, is working on a study of the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, who is currently being “re-discovered” by American artists and critics. “I circulate babylon and translate for the new times,” opens another poem in The Feel Trio, … [more]
fredmoten  2017  2013  highereducation  highered  work  labor  anarchism  race  slavery  blackstudies  dissent  radicalism  via:javierarbona  resistance  blackness  bodies  aesthetics  amiribaraka  dukeellington  adrianpiper  billieholiday  nathanielmackey  poetry  scholarship  academia  rebellion  subversion  karlmarx  marxism  hortensespillers  kant  paullaurencedunbar  attentiveness  messes  messiness  johnashbery  ralphellison  webdubois  everyday  writing  undercommons  margins  liminality  betweenness  alternative  preservation  uncivilization  decivilization  consent  empire  imperialism  body  objects  cosmopolitanism  charlieparker  basquiat  weirdness  donaldglover  neildegrassetyson  issarae  georgeclinton  tshibumbakanda-matulu  charlesmingus  samueldelany  saidiyahartman  clrjames  françoisgirard  davidhammon  héliooiticica  lauraharris  charlesolson  susanhowe  criticism  art  stefanoharney  jacquesderrida  jean-michelbasquiat  theodoradorno 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader - Critical Ethnic Studies Editorial Collective - Google Books
"Whereas the positionality of the worker (whether a factory worker demanding a monetary wage, an immigrant, or a white woman demanding a social wage) gestures toward the reconfiguration of civil society, the positionality of the Black subject (whether a prison-slave or a prison-slave-in-waiting) gestures toward the disconfiguration of civil society. From the coherence of civil society, the black subject beckons with the incoherence of civil war, a war that reclaims blackness not as a positive value but as a politically enabling site, to quote Fanon, of 'absolute dereliction'.' It is a 'scandal' that rends civil society asunder. Civil war, then, becomes the unthought, but never forgotten understudy of hegemony. It is a black specter waiting in the wings, and endless antagonism that cannot be satisfied (via refom or reparation) but that must, nonetheless, be pursued to the death."

—frank b. wilderson, iii, The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal"

[via: https://www.tumblr.com/dashboard/blog/fansylla/164215169370 ]
frankwilderson  work  labor  factories  immigrants  society  blackness  slavery  prisons  hegemony  civilsociety  civilwar  frantzfanon 
november 2017 by robertogreco
internet derica
"CS Julie Dash does something that no one else does: she makes people in her films look beautiful. Black women, in particular, in her films are stunningly gorgeous.

LH Why is that so important?

CS Because it never happens. In the short film that she made at UCLA, Illusions (1982), she has this close-up of a beautiful brown-skinned girl singing, and there’s an eye light—it’s a technique you use in film to make sure there’s a sparkle in the eye, you put in a kicker to do it. She’s fully separated from the background. There’s a diffused key light so her skin is soft and dewy. The framing flatters the shape of her face. I’ll never forget that frame. When I saw it I thought, A filmmaker has never asked me to look for this long at a black girl, has never applied this much attention to her appearance. I see Daughters of the Dust (1991), 12 black women lit with the setting sun in white dresses on the beach looking like goddesses and I think, That’s how we should look in movies all the time. I don’t want to see us look any other way—not until it becomes normal. I need this image in my everyday life. In cinema, the icon is everything. It’s the portal through which empathy is produced. And the more seductive you make that, the more care you put into its construction, the easier it is for people to enter and identify with that image."

—Cauleen Smith by Leslie Hewitt, BOMB Magazine
[https://bombmagazine.org/articles/cauleen-smith/ ]
caullensmith  lesliehewitt  interviews  juliedash  blackness  film  identity  beauty  filmmaking 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Black Star: Rebirth Is Necessary - NOWNESS on Vimeo
"Director Jenn Nkiru authors a personal and powerful exploration of blackness through piecing together dreamlike portraits with stunning archival footage that includes Afrofuturism pioneer Sun Ra and revolutionary organization the Black Panther Party."

[See also: https://www.nowness.com/series/black-star/rebirth-is-necessary-jenn-nkiru ]
jennnkiru  film  sunra  blackpantherparty  blackness  2017  blackpanthers 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Letter of Recommendation: Ghosting - The New York Times
"In my father’s house, my stepmother cooks dinner. First she sweats the onions, then she sears the meat. On special occasions, she mixes dough with flour ground from enset, a plant that resembles the banana tree.

Enset has roots that are white, and when they’re ground into powder, it’s packed into little baggies. When my father travels to Ethiopia, he returns with these white baggies tucked into the pockets of his suitcase, which is one reason, among many, that it is difficult for him to cross the border and come home.

A few years ago, he began to disappear. First he skipped the onions, then he skipped the meat. Eventually he skipped the special occasions, and when he arrived home, after the baptism or graduation or wedding had long since ended, he had no desire to eat. When I asked him to explain his absences, he said, ‘‘Yes.’’ When I asked him where he kept disappearing off to, he said, ‘‘O.K.’’

If it weren’t for my father’s age (he’s 63), or for his eventual return, I would be tempted to call his unexplained absences by a name popular among young people: ghosting. The millennial neologism for an age-old conundrum, ‘‘ghosting’’ describes the situation in which a person — Tinder match, roommate, friend — exits a relationship swiftly and without discernible cause. Though its iterations are diffuse and occur along varying degrees of intimacy, the word is generally used by those who are left behind: ‘‘He ghosted me,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted,’’ or ‘‘I was ghosted on.’’

Because I fear my father’s absence, I mimic his behavior and hope he might not be forgotten. I often close the channels of communication that I am expected to sustain, texting people I love only when I feel like it and answering the phone only when the caller is unknown. In November, the morning after the presidential election, a childhood friend sent me a text: ‘‘Sup?’’ I told him I was scared for my family. When he wrote back later that day to let me know that he, too, was scared — about his LSATs — I stopped responding; we haven’t spoken since. At a coffee shop, an Australian asked me what I was reading. I said, ‘‘ ‘Great Expectations,’ a terrible novel.’’ He told me he had gotten his Ph.D. studying apartheid and then wondered aloud which was more depressing: apartheid or the work of Charles Dickens. When he asked if I wanted to get a drink later that week to continue the conversation, I said, ‘‘O.K.’’ but never showed up.

According to the internet, this is very bad behavior. If you care about someone, and even if you don’t, you are meant to explain — in terms both clean and fair — why you are unable to fulfill the terms of their attachment: ‘‘I feel sick,’’ or ‘‘I have depression,’’ or ‘‘You are boring, and I am disappointed.’’ Those of us who neglect to disclose the seed of our indifference, or neglect to disclose the fact of our indifference altogether, are typically assumed to be selfish.

It’s no coincidence that ghosting arose as a collective fascination at a time of peak connectivity. When friends and acquaintances are almost always a swipe and a tap within reach, disappearing without a trace cuts especially deep. But the very function of ghosting is to halt the flow of information, and nearly every explainer written in its name — ‘‘How to Deal With Being Ghosted,’’ ‘‘How to Tell If You’re About to Be Ghosted,’’ ‘‘Why Friends Ghost on Even Their Closest Pals’’ — berates those who ghost for intentionally spinning silence into pain. Ghosters withhold information whose admission would be likely to provide relief in others, manipulating the terms of friendship, kinship and romantic love to appear in favor of a life lived in private.

If healthy relationships — especially in the digital age — are predicated on answerability, it makes sense that a lack of communication would feel like a breach of trust. But articulating negative feelings with tact is a task most often assigned to those whose feelings are assumed to be trivial. When fear for my family — black, migratory and therefore targets of the state — is equated with the mundane anxiety of a standardized test, I find it a relief to absent myself from the calculation. Saying, without anger, ‘‘This is how you hurt me’’ feels routine, like a ditty, and articulating the need for isolation — ‘‘Now I intend to disappear’’ — is always a betrayal of the need itself. Because society demands that people of color both accept offense and facilitate its reconciliation, we are rarely afforded the privacy we need. Ghosting, then, provides a line of flight. Freed from the ties that hurt us, or bore us, or make us feel uneasy, finally we can turn our attention inward.

Some months after my father began to arrive at dinner on time, he drove me through the neighborhood by his office, a route we had driven many times before. I asked him, once again, where he had run off to all those nights. Pulling over to the side of the road, he said, ‘‘There is an excellent meditation studio inside that building.’’ I looked at the building, which looked like nothing. Confused, I asked him what he knew about meditation. ‘‘I know much about meditation,’’ he told me. ‘‘I came here once daily. I meditated, I ate my dinner and, when I was finished, I returned home.’’

The information, it seemed, had become necessary. My father, like the rest of us, was just trying to get better."
antiblackness  poc  blackness  ghosting  2017  meditation  self-improvement  reltionships  digitalage  connectedness  answerability  emotions  flight  freedom  provacy  solitude  inwardness  attention  communication  isolation  kinship  disappearance 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Fem B. Wells on Twitter: "We need to really examine the narrative of "work as valuable" re: human contributions to the world. Why do we need to work?"
"We need to really examine the narrative of "work as valuable" re: human contributions to the world.

Why do we need to work?

We assign value to people based on the "Work" they do. We praise "hard workers" and vilify those who don't work as "lazy"

But why do we need to work?

Why the emphasis on work?

I argue that the basis is capitalism, yes, but also hyper-consumerism

We require ppl to pay for water, food, and clean air, things each person needs to survive as a human being

So in order to pay for these things, ppl must pay for them...so we care about where that money comes from.

We push the idea of "work as valuable" bc we feel comfortable requiring people to pay for the basic necessities of life

Somehow, we became OK with the idea of everyone having to pay to live.

That's what it is, really

So the idea is that if you don't work, you have to get the money from somewhere to LIVE, and who gives it to you?

OR...

Why do you get to live for free?

The thing is... not everyone CAN work

Yet work is a requirement and a basic expectation of all adults

That's highly problematic as rhetoric, esp when it comes to poverty talk

"No one who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty" is what we heard the whole presidential campaign from liberals

"No one should live in poverty" is what we should have heard and what we should believe in.

But we don't

We see it as a moral failing

We see poverty as a punishment for people not doing their part to pay to LIVE

If you can't pay, you shouldn't LIVE is the basic idea

So our focus needs to shift from ideas that make "work" the bottom line because it alienates so many human beings who deserve to LIVE

We penalize ppl who dont work "hard enough". Then we rank jobs and assign value to them, which we then let guide us to determine human worth

From childhood, we're taught which jobs are the ones to which we should aspire (lawyer, doctor, etc) and we vilify "lower" jobs, menial work

We see low-wage work as personal failure, despite the fact that these jobs exist for a reason

We relegate that work to those who "deserve"

Those who deserve poverty as some punishment for whatever personal and moral failing

See: The Fight for 15 and the counterfight

Some say we shouldn't give fast food workers $15/hr bc we've decided that isn't work "worthy" of a livable wage

Isn't that odd?

And folks will fight against those workers getting a living wage not realizing that affects others who don't make $15/hr too

Many direct social service workers make less than $15. We call their work "admirable" and "rewarding", but they don't make living wages

Somehow, we've decided that one job deserves less than the other bc of the value we assign to it

As if we don't consume fast food ever

But this idea that work is required harms those who CANNOT work.

We basically relegate them to barely existing bc they can't contribute

That's why we collectively view the disabled as burdens-- we don't see disabled ppl as being able to fully contribute to doing their part

(Their part to pay to LIVE)

No one should go hungry
No one should go thirsty
No one should go without clean air

These things should NEVER rely on employment status

And this is at the heart of fighting the poverty stigma

We have ppl begging to have their humanity acknowledged by saying "I want to work!"

Bc if they don't constantly assure us that they are determined to work (and would if they could), we see them as a drain on our society

They aren't doing their part to LIVE and we have to carry the burden of making sure they LIVE by "working hard"

This makes us hate the poor, resent the disabled, banish the elderly, and basically assign worth based on ability to work

All the while determining, arbitrarily, what kind of "work" is the most meaningful in our society

You should not have to work to be able to EAT when you need to EAT to LIVE

Period.
Full Stop.
No mas.
Fin.

Poverty is not a punishment

We need to stop viewing it as such, especially when it comes to people of color, the disabled, and vets/seniors

[RT https://twitter.com/chuckbarnesjr/status/847151794580946944
Imagine if none of us had to work at all to have our needs met. I think some folks would struggle to find purpose.

Fem B. Wells added,]

This is also interesting bc we often talk about the "dignity of work"
What does "Work" add to our lives and does it rely on the kind of work

People go to work every day hating their jobs, getting ZERO personal fulfillment. They just work to get paid.

Why is that acceptable?

We force ppl into "work" that destroys their spirits or at least has little meaning to them just so they have permission to LIVE

[RT https://twitter.com/shuvlyluv/status/847155154063273986
or dismisses the ways they do contribute to society because it's not a "job"

Fem B. Wells added,]

This goes back to my thread about not wanting to pay creatives (artists, writers, etc) for their societal contributions,

Here is that thread:

[https://twitter.com/FeministaJones/status/713776334460358660
I think one reason folks don't readily financially support artists is bc they don't believe what they produce is "real work"]

We hate the idea that someone who can work chooses not to bc we see them as obligated to contribute SOMETHING as payment for their life

I think I work as hard as I do with as many jobs/occupations as I have bc I've internalized the worthlessness of Blackness & womanhood AND

I still find myself fighting the need to prove the validity of my humanity and I know that "hard work" is a validation in this society AND

I think of my capacity to work and feel guilty for not working. I stopped working for 3 months and felt like shit
AND

I know my work contributions help sustain life for others who CAN'T work, so as long as I'm able, I feel compelled to do so

Im fortunate enough that all of the work I do, I absolutely love and it's all in line with my lifelong passions (helping people and writing)

When I realized this was a PRIVILEGE, I knew there was a huge problem with how we conceive and value "work"


[RT https://twitter.com/danhauge/status/847158615748349954
That is exactly the core ideology. The Bible verse "he who does not work shall not eat" does a lot of damage here.

Fem B. Wells added,]

Right, this is hugely problematic and yet a guiding force for billions..."
feministajones  work  labor  economics  society  2017  poverty  welfare  disability  blackness  womanhood  gender  capitalism  disabilities 
april 2017 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts: David Hammons
"Spirits aren’t something you see or even understand. That’s just not how they work. They are too abstract, too invisible, and move too quickly. They don’t live anywhere, but only run by and pass through, and no matter how old they are, they are always light years ahead. They do what they want, whenever they want. And under specific circumstances, at specific times, in specific places, to specific people, for specific reasons, they make their presence known.

In the Congo Basin in Central Africa, they are called minkisi. They are the hiding place for people’s souls.

David Hammons is a spirit catcher. He walks the streets the way an improviser searches for notes, looking for those places and objects where dormant spirits go to hide, and empowers them again. He knows about the streetlamps and the mailboxes where the winos hide their bottles in shame. Hammons calls it tragic magic—the art of converting pain into poetry.

[David Hammons. "Spade With Chains," 1973.]

Much has been said about the materials Hammons uses in his work. Most are taken from the street and cost very little—greasy paper bags, shovels, ice, cigarettes, rubber tubes, hair, rocks, basketballs, fried food, bikes, torn plastic tarps, Kool-Aid. Some of them are (knowingly) borrowed from the vocabulary of other artists, while others are closely tied to his own life and chosen surroundings in Harlem. Much has also been said about the meaning of his work—its arguments, its politics, what it’s “about.” And while much of what has been said has been useful, it has also been partly beside the point.

Materials are something one can see, and arguments are something one can understand, and that’s just not what Hammons is after. He’s interested in how much those wine bottles still somehow contain the lips that once drank from them. He’s after the pun on spirit—as in the drink, but also as in the presence of something far more abstract.
Black hair is the oldest hair in the world. You’ve got tons of people’s spirits in your hands when you work with that stuff.

[David Hammons. "Wine Leading the Wine," 1969. Courtesy of Hudgins Family Collection, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART.]

If Hammons is suspicious of all that is visible, it might be because the visible, in America, is all that is white. It’s all those Oscar winners, all those museum trustees, and all those faces on all those dollar bills. Some artists work to denounce, reveal, or illustrate racial injustice, and to make visible those who are not. Hammons, on the other hand, prefers invisibility—or placing the visible out of reach. He doesn’t have a lesson to teach or a point to prove, and his act of protest is simply to abstract, because that’s what will make the visible harder to recognize and the intelligible harder to understand.

If Duchamp was uninterested in what the eye can see, Hammons is oppressed by it—it’s not the same thing.

[David Hammons. "In the Hood," 1993. Courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.]
I’m trying to make abstract art out of my experience, just like Thelonius Monk.

For Hammons, musicians have always been both the model and the front line. When George Lewis says that “the truth of improvisation involves survival,” it’s because improv musicians look for a way forward, one note at a time, with no map to guide them and with no rules or languages to follow other than ones they invent and determine themselves. It forces them to analyze where they are and forces them to do something about it, on their own terms. Doesn’t get much more political than that.

Or, as Miles Davis once put it, “I do not play jazz.” He plays something that invents its own vocabulary—a vocabulary that is shared only by those who don’t need to know what to call it or how to contain it. And just as Miles Davis doesn’t play jazz, David Hammons doesn’t make art.

[David Hammons. "Blue Rooms," 2000 (installation view, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowkski Castle, Warsaw).]
I’m trying to create a hieroglyphics that was definitely black.

Hammons goes looking for spirits in music, poetry, and dirt. He knows they like to hide inside of sounds, lodge themselves between words or within puns, and linger around the used-up and the seemingly worthless. He knows he’s caught some when he succeeds in rousing the rubble and gets it to make its presence felt. Like Noah Purifoy, he ignores the new and the expensive in favor of the available. Like Federico Fellini, he spends his time in the bowels of culture and makes them sing.

[David Hammons. "(Untitled) Basketball Drawing," 2006.]

There are the materials that make the art—those are the foot soldiers—but there is also the attitude that makes the artist. Hammons has his way of thinking and his way of behaving, which is once again not something one sees or necessarily understands, but is something that makes its presence known, the way spirits make their presence felt. There will be some who won’t recognize it and others who do—and his work is meant only for those who see themselves in it.
Did you ever see Elvis Presley’s resume? Or John Lennon’s resume? Fuck that resume shit.

Ornette was Ornette because of what he could blow, but also because he never gave into other people’s agendas or expectations.

What matters even more than having your own agenda is letting others know that it doesn’t fit theirs. “To keep my rhythm,” as Hammons puts it, “there’s always a fight, with any structure.” The stakes are real because should you let your guard down, “they got rhythms for you,” and you’ll soon be thinking just like they do. And in a white and racist America, in a white and racist art world, Hammons doesn’t want to be thinking just like most people do. His is a recalcitrant politics of presence: where he doesn’t seem to belong, he appears; where he does belong, he vanishes.

In short: don’t play a game whose management you don’t control.

[David Hammons. "Higher Goals," 1987. Photo: Matt Weber.]
That’s the only way you have to treat people with money—you have to let these people know that your agenda is light years beyond their thinking patterns.

The Whitney Biennial? I don’t like the job description. A major museum retrospective? Get back to me with something I can’t understand.

Exhibitions are too clean and make too much sense—plus the very authority of many mainstream museums is premised on values that Hammons doesn’t consider legitimate or at least does not share. He is far more interested in walking and talking with Jr., a man living on the streets of the East Village, who taught him about how the homeless divide up their use of space according to lines marked by the positioning of bricks on a wall. Those lines have teeth. In a museum, art is stripped of all its menace.

[David Hammons. "Bliz-aard Ball Sale," 1983. Photo: Dawoud Bey.]

The painter Jack Whitten once explained of how music became so central to black American life with this allegory:
When my white slave masters discovered that my drum was a subversive instrument they took it from me…. The only instrument available was my body, so I used my skin: I clapped my hands, slapped my thighs, and stomped my feet in dynamic rhythms.

David Hammons began with his skin. He pressed his skin onto paper to make prints. Over the subsequent five decades, he has found his drum.

[David Hammons. "Phat Free," 1995-99 (video still). Courtesy of Zwirner & Wirth, New York.]"
davidhammons  anthonyhuberman  art  jazz  ornettecoleman  milesdavis  theloniousmonk  material  rules  trickster  outsiders  artworld  resumes  elvispresley  johnlennon  insiders  race  racism  us  power  authority  jackwhitten  music  museums  galleries  menace  homeless  nyc  management  structure  presence  belonging  expectations  artists  fellini  noahpurifoy  availability  culture  hieroglyphics  blackness  georgelewis  improvisation  oppression  marcelduchamp  visibility  invisibility  souls  spirits 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Cinema in Black | Pioneer Works
"Cinema in Black
Taught by: Derica Shields Fanta Sylla
Mar 04 — Apr 22
8 Sessions
Saturdays, 3 - 6:00pm
First class, free RSVP
Entire class, $180

“But I think this underrepresentation also an amazing opportunity for us. It’s almost like Silicon Valley in the 80s and 90s: the black community is where all the great ideas are, it’s where the next generation of filmmakers are going to come from, it’s what’s going to save movies. Once we start making movies in the same way that we make music, it’ll be undeniable. Once we’re able to represent ourselves—not even represent ourselves but to express ourselves—in the way that we feel and we think, then I don’t even know what to say. I don’t even know what that’s gonna look like!”

— Kahlil Joseph (music video director and filmmaker)

What is missing from the screens? Is Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.a.a.d City an album or a short film? Does WorldStarHipHop create better representations of Blackness than Hollywood?

Cinema in Black explores representations of Blackness on screen and in text through films and related writing. The class will create an unconventional Black film canon through the appreciation of Black auteurs, including a focus on independent video artists and filmmakers and an exploration of alternative forms such as short online videos and music videos. Via the reading of seminal critical texts and discussions with guests and screenings, students will be asked to think about their own vision of cinema, their style and singular authorship. Students will be asked to experiment with tools they use in their everyday life (smartphones, Instagram and Snapchat Stories) and to write an augmented script. We hope to create a space in which we all can subvert hegemonic images and ways of thinking about Blackness, cinema and art and give birth to new images and new worlds.

This first meeting of this class is offered for free with an RSVP; the entire class requires registration after the first meeting.

Image from good kid, m.A.A.d city, directed by Kahlil Joseph.

Teacher(s)

Derica Shields is a writer, film programmer, and co-founder of The Future Weird.

Fanta Sylla is a critic (Reverse Shot, TIFF, Indiewire, Variety) and author of The Black Film Critic Syllabus. She’s based in Paris."
fantasylla  dericashields  2017  film  filmmaking  blackness  pioneerworks  kahiljoseph  smartphones  cinema  art  snapchat  instagram  storytelling  expression  kendricklamar  worldstarhiphop  hollywood  internet  online  web  mobile  phones  musicvideos  video 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Walking While Black | Literary Hub
"Within days I noticed that many people on the street seemed apprehensive of me: Some gave me a circumspect glance as they approached, and then crossed the street; others, ahead, would glance behind, register my presence, and then speed up; older white women clutched their bags; young white men nervously greeted me, as if exchanging a salutation for their safety: “What’s up, bro?” On one occasion, less than a month after my arrival, I tried to help a man whose wheelchair was stuck in the middle of a crosswalk; he threatened to shoot me in the face, then asked a white pedestrian for help.

I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color. Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me. I was especially unprepared for the cops. They regularly stopped and bullied me, asking questions that took my guilt for granted. I’d never received what many of my African-American friends call “The Talk”: No parents had told me how to behave when I was stopped by the police, how to be as polite and cooperative as possible, no matter what they said or did to me. So I had to cobble together my own rules of engagement. Thicken my Jamaican accent. Quickly mention my college. “Accidentally” pull out my college identification card when asked for my driver’s license.

My survival tactics began well before I left my dorm. I got out of the shower with the police in my head, assembling a cop-proof wardrobe. Light-colored oxford shirt. V-neck sweater. Khaki pants. Chukkas. Sweatshirt or T-shirt with my university insignia. When I walked I regularly had my identity challenged, but I also found ways to assert it. (So I’d dress Ivy League style, but would, later on, add my Jamaican pedigree by wearing Clarks Desert Boots, the footwear of choice of Jamaican street culture.) Yet the all-American sartorial choice of white T-shirt and jeans, which many police officers see as the uniform of black troublemakers, was off-limits to me—at least, if I wanted to have the freedom of movement I desired.

In this city of exuberant streets, walking became a complex and often oppressive negotiation. I would see a white woman walking towards me at night and cross the street to reassure her that she was safe. I would forget something at home but not immediately turn around if someone was behind me, because I discovered that a sudden backtrack could cause alarm. (I had a cardinal rule: Keep a wide perimeter from people who might consider me a danger. If not, danger might visit me.) New Orleans suddenly felt more dangerous than Jamaica. The sidewalk was a minefield, and every hesitation and self-censored compensation reduced my dignity. Despite my best efforts, the streets never felt comfortably safe. Even a simple salutation was suspect.

One night, returning to the house that, eight years after my arrival, I thought I’d earned the right to call my home, I waved to a cop driving by. Moments later, I was against his car in handcuffs. When I later asked him—sheepishly, of course; any other way would have asked for bruises—why he had detained me, he said my greeting had aroused his suspicion. “No one waves to the police,” he explained. When I told friends of his response, it was my behavior, not his, that they saw as absurd. “Now why would you do a dumb thing like that?” said one. “You know better than to make nice with police.”"



"Walking had returned to me a greater set of possibilities. And why walk, if not to create a new set of possibilities? Following serendipity, I added new routes to the mental maps I had made from constant walking in that city from childhood to young adulthood, traced variations on the old pathways. Serendipity, a mentor once told me, is a secular way of speaking of grace; it’s unearned favor. Seen theologically, then, walking is an act of faith. Walking is, after all, interrupted falling. We see, we listen, we speak, and we trust that each step we take won’t be our last, but will lead us into a richer understanding of the self and the world.

In Jamaica, I felt once again as if the only identity that mattered was my own, not the constricted one that others had constructed for me. I strolled into my better self. I said, along with Kierkegaard, “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”"



"Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to join. Instead of meandering aimlessly in the footsteps of Whitman, Melville, Kazin, and Vivian Gornick, more often, I felt that I was tiptoeing in Baldwin’s—the Baldwin who wrote, way back in 1960, “Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once.”

Walking as a black man has made me feel simultaneously more removed from the city, in my awareness that I am perceived as suspect, and more closely connected to it, in the full attentiveness demanded by my vigilance. It has made me walk more purposefully in the city, becoming part of its flow, rather than observing, standing apart.

* * * *

But it also means that I’m still trying to arrive in a city that isn’t quite mine. One definition of home is that it’s somewhere we can most be ourselves. And when are we more ourselves but when walking, that natural state in which we repeat one of the first actions we learned? Walking—the simple, monotonous act of placing one foot before the other to prevent falling—turns out not to be so simple if you’re black. Walking alone has been anything but monotonous for me; monotony is a luxury.

A foot leaves, a foot lands, and our longing gives it momentum from rest to rest. We long to look, to think, to talk, to get away. But more than anything else, we long to be free. We want the freedom and pleasure of walking without fear—without others’ fear—wherever we choose. I’ve lived in New York City for almost a decade and have not stopped walking its fascinating streets. And I have not stopped longing to find the solace that I found as a kid on the streets of Kingston. Much as coming to know New York City’s streets has made it closer to home to me, the city also withholds itself from me via those very streets. I walk them, alternately invisible and too prominent. So I walk caught between memory and forgetting, between memory and forgiveness."
garnettecadogan  racism  blackness  race  walking  nyc  neworleans  nola  serendipity  anonymity  fear  judgement  fatswaller  waltwhitman  kingston  jamaica  us  via:ayjay  racialprofiling  police  lawenforcement  possibility  possibilities  grace  favor  faith  hermanmelville  alfredkazin  elizabethhardwick  janejacobs  memory  forgiveness  forgetting  freedom 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Anish Kapoor Gets Exclusive Rights to the World’s Darkest Pigment
"Anish Kapoor now owns the exclusive rights to the world’s darkest material — a claim that, naturally, is pissing off other artists. The pigment is the very sexy Vantablack, known as the blackest black out there — much blacker than a panther swimming in a tarpit, the Ayam Cemami, or your wardrobe during your middle school goth phase. A substance developed by scientists at Surrey NanoSystems in 2014, Vantablack essentially absorbs all light — 99.965% of radiation, to be exact; even when painted on a textured and shiny surface such as aluminum, it creates an abyss free of creases that many have compared to a black hole.

Kapoor had announced his intentions to use the substance shortly after its creation, but he evidently felt he had to do more and claim it as his own, in the process barring others from using it. According to the Daily Mail, the artist Christian Furr — largely known for being the youngest artist to paint the Queen of England — had intended to use the pigment in a series of paintings and has expressed his outrage at being restricted to using less intense blacks.

“I’ve never heard of an artist monopolizing a material,” Furr told the Daily Mail. “Using pure black in an artwork grounds it.

“All the best artists have had a thing for pure black – Turner, Manet, Goya,” he said. “This black is like dynamite in the art world. We should be able to use it. It isn’t right that it belongs to one man.”

Kapoor often plays with how we perceive the materiality of objects and has noted that his affinity for the world’s darkest material stems from its ability to disorient viewers.

“The nanostructure of Vantablack is so small that it virtually has no materiality,” he told Artforum. “It’s thinner than a coat of paint and rests on the liminal edge between an imagined thing and an actual one. It’s a physical thing that you cannot see, giving it a transcendent or even transcendental dimension, which I think is very compelling.”

Researchers over at Surrey NanoSystem are evidently big fans of Kapoor’s work; the company’s founder and chief technology officer, Ben Jensen, described his art as “infectious.”

“He has an amazing ability to see things that other people don’t and he’s famous for his work in reflections and voids,” Jensen told the New York Times in 2014. “We never imagined we would be involved in something like that, but his ideas are infectious, and my research scientists love that their work could be used this way.”

Any artists tempted to use the pigment anyway should be wary of the consequences: if news reaches Kapoor that someone is treading on his artistic territory, it would not be out of character for him to swiftly threaten to sue the offender."
vantablack  anishkapoor  pigments  2016  art  black  blackness 
march 2016 by robertogreco
INVISIBLE UNIVERSE – a history of blackness in speculative fiction
"In 2003, independent filmmaker, M. Asli Dukan, set out to make a documentary about the 150 year history of Black creators in speculative fiction (SF) books and movies. What she didn’t realize at the time was that she was about to document a major movement in the history of speculative fiction. A movement where a growing number of Black creators were becoming an effective force, creating works that had increasing influence on the traditionally, straight, white, cis-male dominated SF industry. However, while these Black creators imagined better futures for Black people within their fictional works of SF, in reality, the everyday, lived experiences of Black people in the United States – e.g., the rise of massive inequality, the prison industrial complex, and police brutality – stood in stark contrast. She began to wonder if these phenomena were related.

Told through the ever-present lens and off-screen narrator voice of the filmmaker, Invisible Universe will explore this question by examining the work of Black creators of SF through the ideology of the emerging Black Lives Matter movement, which addresses the systematic oppression of Black lives. Since she began the documentary, the filmmaker has compiled an extensive interviewee list of Black writers, artists and filmmakers of SF who have been creating works where Black people not only exist in the future, but are powerful shapers of their own realities, whether in magical lands, dystopian settings, or on distant worlds. In addition, she has documented an ever-increasing number of academic, community and arts events dedicated to the work and critical analysis of Black SF, as well as building connections between the creators, thinkers, organizers and fans. In the past decade, the filmmaker has documented the cultural shift around Black SF and its explicit connections to Black liberation. This documentary explores the idea that in a world of capitalist exploitation, anti-Black oppression and state violence, Black creators are speculating better worlds as a means of resistance and survival.

The documentary will also consider how “Black Speculation” is rooted in the history of “Black Struggle” in the United States by exploring two previous eras of Black creators speculating about Black lives through the genres of SF. The first era occurred during the nadir of African American history in late 19th and early 20th centuries, when slavery, war, lynchings, race riots, disfranchisement and segregation inspired Black writers to pen narratives about international slave rebellions, secret, Black governments and powerful, long lost, African kingdoms. The second era occurred during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the work of Black writers of SF seemed to extrapolate on the possible futures that would occur as a result of the successes or failures of the Civil Rights or Black Power struggles. This documentary will explore how this current moment, which the filmmaker considers the third era of Black Speculation, compares and contrasts with the earlier two eras.

This timely documentary includes rare interviews with Black writers of SF like Samuel R. Delany, the late Octavia E. Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor, actors like Nichelle Nichols and Wesley Snipes, cultural organizers like Rasheedah Phillips and the AfroFuturist Affair, academics/artists like John Jennings and Nettrice Gaskins, social justice workers/artists like adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, as well as numerous other filmmakers, artists, academics, archivists, and fans. This one-of-a-kind project is essentially an archive of a “Who’s Who” of Black speculative fiction."
blackness  speculativefiction  sciencefiction  scifi  invisibleuniverse  film  documentary  maslidukan  octaviabutler  stevenbarnes  tananarivedue  nalohopkinson  nnediokorafor  nichellenichols  wesleysnipes  rasheedahphillip  afrofuturism  afrofuturistaffair  adrienne  mareebrown  walidahimarisha  johnjennings  nettricegaskins  history 
january 2016 by robertogreco
bell hooks: Buddhism, the Beats and Loving Blackness - The New York Times
"G.Y.: Absolutely. You’ve talked about how theory can function as a place of healing. Can you say more about that?

b.h.: I always start with children. Most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them. I think that theory is essentially a way to make sense of the world; as a gifted child growing up in a dysfunctional family where giftedness was not appreciated, what held me above water was the idea of thinking through, “Why are Mom and Dad the way they are?” And those are questions that are at the heart of critical thinking. And that’s why I think critical thinking and theory can be such a source of healing. It moves us forward. And, of course, I don’t know about other thinkers and writers, but I have the good fortune every day of my life to have somebody contacting me, either on the streets or by mail, telling me about how my work has changed their life, how it has enabled them to go forward. And what greater gift to be had as a thinker-theorist, than that?"



"G.Y.: Is there a connection between teaching as a space of healing and your understanding of love?

b.h.: Well, I believe whole-heartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love, and that includes teaching. I don’t do a lot of teaching these days. I am semi-retired. Because, like any act of love, it takes a lot of your energy."



"G.Y.: You’ve conceptualized love as the opposite of estrangement. Can you say something about that?

b.h.: When we engage love as action, you can’t act without connecting. I often think of that phrase, only connect. In terms of white supremacy right now for instance, the police stopped me a few weeks ago here in Berea, because I was doing something wrong. I initially felt fear, and I was thinking about the fact that in all of my 60-some years of my life in this country, I have never felt afraid of policemen before, but I feel afraid now. He was just total sweetness. And yet I thought, what a horrible change in our society that that level of estrangement has taken place that was not there before.

I know that the essential experience of black men and women has always been different, but from the time I was a girl to now, I never thought the police were my enemy. Yet, what black woman witnessing the incredible abuse of Sandra Bland can’t shake in her boots if she’s being stopped by the police? When I was watching that video, I was amazed the police didn’t shoot her on the spot! White supremacist white people are crazy.

I used to talk about patriarchy as a mental illness of disordered desire, but white supremacy is equally a serious and profound mental illness, and it leads people to do completely and utterly insane things. I think one of the things that is going on in our society is the normalization of mental illness, and the normalization of white supremacy, and the evocation and the spreading of this is part of that mental illness. So remember that we are a culture in crisis. Our crisis is as much a spiritual crisis as it is a political crisis, and that’s why Martin Luther King, Jr. was so profoundly prescient in describing how the work of love would be necessary to have a transformative impact.

G.Y.: And of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t find an important place in your work for rage, as in your book “Killing Rage”?

b.h.: Oh, absolutely. The first time that I got to be with Thich Nhat Hanh, I had just been longing to meet him. I was like, I’m going to meet this incredibly holy man. On the day that I was going to him, every step of the way I felt that I was encountering some kind of racism or sexism. When I got to him, the first thing out of my mouth was, “I am so angry!” And he, of course, Mr. Calm himself, Mr. Peace, said, “Well, you know, hold on to your anger, and use it as compost for your garden.” And I thought, “Yes, yes, I can do that!” I tell that story to people all the time. I was telling him about the struggles I was having with my male partner at the time and he said, “It is O.K. to say I want to kill you, but then you need to step back from that, and remember what brought you to this person in the first place.” And I think that if we think of anger as compost, we think of it as energy that can be recycled in the direction of our good. It is an empowering force. If we don’t think about it that way, it becomes a debilitating and destructive force.

G.Y.: Since you mentioned Sandra Bland, and there are so many other cases that we can mention, how can we use the trauma that black people are experiencing, or reconfigure that trauma into compost? How can black people do that? What does that look like therapeutically, or collectively?

b.h.: We have to be willing to be truthful. And to be truthful, we have to say, the problem that black people face, the trauma of white supremacy in our lives, is not limited to police brutality. That’s just one aspect. I often say that the issue for young black males is the street. If you only have the streets, you encounter violence on all sides: black on black violence, the violence of addiction, and the violence of police brutality. So the question is why at this stage of our history, with so many wealthy black people, and so many gifted black people, how do we provide a place other than the streets for black males? And it is so gendered, because the street, in an imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, is male, especially when it is dark. There is so much feeling of being lost that it is beyond the trauma of racism. It is the trauma of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, because poverty has become infinitely more violent than it ever was when I was a girl. You lived next door to very poor black people, but who had very joyful lives. That’s not the poverty of today.

G.Y.: How is the poverty of today different?

b.h.: Let’s face it, one of the things white people gave us when they gave us integration was full access to the tormenting reality of desire, and the expectation of constant consumption. So part of the difference of poverty today is this sort of world of fantasy — fantasizing that you’ll win the lottery, fantasizing that money will come. I always cling to Lorraine Hansberry’s mama saying in “A in Raisin in the Sun,” “Since when did money become life?” I think that with the poverty of my growing up that I lived with and among, we were always made to feel like money is not what life is all about. That’s the total difference for everyone living right now, because most people in our culture believe money is everything. That is the big tie, the connecting tie to black, white, Hispanic, native people, Asian people — the greed and the materialism that we all invest in and share.

G.Y.: When you make that claim, I can see some readers saying that bell is pathologizing black spaces.

b.h.: As I said, we have normalized mental illness in this society. So it’s not the pathologizing of black spaces; it’s saying that the majority of cultural spaces in our society are infused with pathology. That’s why it’s so hard to get out of it, because it has become the culture that is being fed to us every day. None of us can escape it unless we do so by conscious living and conscious loving, and that’s become harder for everybody. I don’t have a problem stating the fact that trauma creates wounds, and most of our wounds are not healed as African-Americans. We’re not really different in that way from all the others who are wounded. Let’s face it — wounded white people frequently can cover up their wounds, because they have greater access to material power.

I find it fascinating that every day you go to the supermarket, and you look at the people, and you look at us, and you look at all of this media that is parading the sorrows and the mental illnesses of the white rich in our society. And it’s like everybody just skips over that. Nobody would raise the question, “why don’t we pathologize the rich?” We actually believe that they suffer mental illness, and that they deserve healing. The issue for us as black people is that very few people feel that we deserve healing. Which is why we have very few systems that promote healing in our lives. The primary system that ever promoted healing in black people is the church, and we see what is going on in most churches today. They’ve become an extension of that material greed.

G.Y.: As you shared being stopped by police, I thought of your book “Black Looks: Race and Representation,” where you describe whiteness as a site of terror. Has that changed for you?

b.h.: I don’t think that has changed for most black people. That particular essay, “Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination,” talks about whiteness, the black imagination, and how many of us live in fear of whiteness. And I emphasize the story about the policeman because for many of us that fear of whiteness has intensified. I think that white people, for the most part, never think about black people wanting to be in black only spaces, because we do not feel safe.

In my last book, “Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice,” I really wanted to raise and problematize the question: Where do we feel safe as black people? I definitely return to the home as a place of spiritual possibility, home as a holy place.

I bought my current house from a conservative white male capitalist who lives across the street from me, and I’m so happy in my little home. I tell people, when I open the doors of my house it’s like these arms come out, and they’re just embracing me. I think that is part of our radical resistance to the culture of domination. I know that I’m not who he imagined in this little house. He imagined a nice white family with two kids, and I think on some level it was very hard for … [more]
bellhooks  2015  georgeyancy  buddhism  christianity  spirituality  religion  race  class  patriarchy  racism  classism  mentalillness  money  greed  mentalhealth  society  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  domination  power  gender  feminism  idenity  listening  love  humor  martinlutherkingjr  cornelwest  allies  influence  homes  intellectualism  theory  practice  criticalthinking  pedagogy  writing  children  unschooling  deschooling  teaching  howweteach  oedagogy  solitude  workinginpublic  publicintellectuals  narcissism  healing  malcolmx  blackness  whitesupremacy  abandonment  betrayal  anger  masculinity  markmcleodbethune  resistance  safety  whiteness  terror  wealth  imperialism  inequality  pathology  poverty  truth  truthfulness  sandrabland  thichnhathanh  activism  estrangement  everyday  humanism  humanization  humility  grace  change  changemaking  transformation  canon  empowerment  composting  desire  lotteries  lorrainehansberry  araisininthesun  culture  trauma  sorrow  leadership  psychology  self-determination  slow  small  beatpoets  jackkerouac  garysnyder  beatpoetry  ethics 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Black in Design Conference
"Harvard's first Black in Design Conference, October 9 - 10, 2015

The Black in Design Conference, organized by the African American Student Union (AASU) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) seeks to simultaneously recognize the contributions of African Descendants to the design field and broaden our definition of what it means to be a designer. In doing so, we must recognize that it is designers who construct our built environment, which in turn contributes to social inequity within our lived experience.

We believe that the first step towards addressing social injustice within design is including the histories of underrepresented groups in design pedagogy. We hope that this conference will serve as a call to action for the GSD to instill within each and every student who passes through its doors the responsibility to build just and equitable spaces at every scale."
design  race  africanamericans  harvard  blackness 
august 2015 by robertogreco
A Visit From Kendrick Lamar — Best Day Of School Ever? : NPR Ed : NPR
[See also the supplementary video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZTKOBElkyg ]

"Lamar is on top of the rap game at the moment. His latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, came out earlier this year and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's albums chart. It's a complex, multilayered piece of work that wrestles with themes around blackness and beauty.

That's why Brian Mooney decided to use To Pimp a Butterfly with his freshman English students as they studied Toni Morrison's novel, The Bluest Eye. The book is about a young black girl who yearns to have blue eyes.

"I was listening and I was like, wow, there are just so many themes that are the same," Mooney says. He's also a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University, working with a program exploring the use of hip-hop in education.

"The main character that my students spoke about, Pecola Breedlove, she's experiencing internalized oppression," Mooney explains. "And so Kendrick is speaking to that same concept with the song 'Complexion.' He's speaking to that same idea of pushing back against the dominant narrative that there's this mythological norm that is considered good and beautiful and valuable."

The lesson caught on with his students. They wrote essays, poetry and rap lyrics inspired by the book and album. Around Mooney's classroom, posters of Morrison quotes and Lamar's lyrics are paired with images of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Mooney was encouraged, so he wrote a blog post about the lesson. [https://bemoons.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/why-i-dropped-everything-and-started-teaching-kendrick-lamars-new-album/ ]

"It just took off, and it went across the Internet, and Kendrick Lamar got it and read it," Mooney says. "His manager reached out to me and said, 'I want to come visit your school.' So we made it happen."

Lamar, in a brief interview in the school's theater, says Mooney's blog post was fascinating. "I was intrigued how somebody can — other than myself — can articulate and break down the concepts of To Pimp A Butterfly, almost better than I can," he said.

The artist says he didn't just come here to perform, or just to mentor the students.

"Something even — for me — even bigger than mentoring is really listening," he says. "And when I do that, we have a little bit bigger connection than me being Kendrick Lamar and you being a student. It's almost like we're friends, you know? Because a friend listens and we learn off each others' experiences."

Throughout the day, Lamar listens. At a school-wide assembly students present the work they've done with Mooney. Ben Vock, Joan Tubungbanua and Sade Ford read their poetry and essays. Vock reads a poem about his own prejudices.

Lamar says he likes it.

"You know, the hardest thing for not only an artist but for anybody to do is look themselves in the mirror and acknowledge their own flaws and fears and imperfections. And put them out for people to relate to it," he tells the senior. "I can relate to you as well, you dig what I'm sayin'?"

After the readings, a group of students perform a dance number to a mashup of Lamar's songs.

Then it's his turn. Lamar grabs the mic and dives into "Alright," one of the tracks on To Pimp a Butterfly.

"It was very exciting" Sade Ford, a senior, says after the show. "And this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.""
literature  culture  hiphop  life  music  kendricklamar  tonimorrison  thebluesteye  education  howweteach  topimpabutterfly  2015  identity  blackness  beauty  oppression  cipher  rap  lyrics  writing  howwewrite  acknowledgement  race  racism  sexism 
july 2015 by robertogreco
fille de glissant: WOC vs. Black Women
"Why did these writers herald the film as a site of progressive representation of blackness despite Céline Sciamma's illuminating statements, despite the film itself and above all despite the criticisms of the film made by black French girls? Why did they keep praising the film after Céline Sciamma said that it was a traditional coming-of-age story, using alarming words like “universality,” confirming black French girls contextualized suspicion that this was just another white interpretation of the black suburban experience in France? Why was the spectatorship of non-black women of color centered instead of that of black women?  What lead to this usurpation?

The truth is that the film, being uncurious and vague about the black bodies and the suburban space it is looking at, was the fertile ground for the kind of appropriative, corny and self-indulgent pieces that were written about it by non-black women of color. The film used and decontextualized black, suburban French bodies to make a boring and botched statement on the universality of girlhood and these writers used and decontextualized a film that used and decontextualized black French bodies to make their own points about “brown girl exclusivity,” black female friendships or the importance of representation.

This specific lane swerving is not an isolated case but it was the first time that I seriously started asking myself questions about the meaning of solidarity between black women and non-black women of color.  How does solidarity serve black women? How does this solidarity manifest itself concretely in the world?"



"Are we supposed to feel grateful or flattered?
I only feel despair and disgust.

We are reduced to passive spectators whose voices are despoiled, asked to applaud and watch brown writers patting themselves on the back for pretending to care about black women’s humanity. Do they have any idea of what it looks like from where the rest of us stand? Maybe they believe that they are extending a hand. The intended results might be solidarity and inclusivity, and it might be within the small and self-absorbed writing bubbles these writers navigate in, but it produces quite the opposite: exclusion not exclusivity.

There is a dearth of published and paid black writers. There aren't enough spaces given to black film, art, music critics for you to think that you can speak over us and center yourself on issues that specifically concern black people.

Black women should have been paid to write on Girlhood. In France, thanks to institutional and constitutional colorblind ideology, most of the reviews were written by white men. In the U.S., thanks to WOC colorblindness and solidarity, most of the acclaimed and shared reviews written for so-called inclusive spaces were written by non-black women of color.

(Ironically, one of the only good and necessary reviews of the film written for a mainstream American publication was written by Richard Brody, a white man, for the New Yorker.)"



"The black experience is not universal. Black girlhood is not universal. A specific kind of racism and misogyny inform our experience. While it is true that people of color share the experience of marginalization, black women are on the periphery of the margins. The singularity of our experiences makes it almost impossible to appropriate them without diluting them, narrowing them, erasing them. Something that I have been confronting is that being a black girl, in the West, is very lonely. Being a French black girl in the suburbs of a major city is painfully lonely. Loneliness characterizes the human condition but it seems that black women are made to be conscious of this truth sooner than everyone else."



"Social media has exacerbated the idea that blackness is common property, a public good that must be shared and consumed by everyone. A public good to be profited off of — unless you're actually black. Black people shouldn't own anything. Nothing belongs to us — not even what we produce and invent. Not even our experience, our existence. Everything ours is yours (is there even such as thing as “ours”?). Blackness is constantly flied over by vultures, under threat of being decomposed, consumed and annihilated. When we do claim ownership, we are told we are venal, greedy. When we refuse this looting of our identity, experience and culture we are selfish and capricious.

Well, I am refusing. I am claiming my experience as mine. I am asking for black women to claim their experiences as their own. In an antiblack and misogynistic context there isn’t such a thing as being a capricious or territorial black woman. Our experience is the territory on which we should be sovereign. The loneliness that comes with being a black woman and the apathy the rest of the world has for our existence make us the only witnesses to our lives and it should afford us the right to be the only authorities on our experiences."



"I do not care about the pictures of black celebrities plastered all over your blog. I do not care about your Rihanna and Kanye West worshipping. I don’t care about your black friends. More than anything, I do not care about your compulsive James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Claudia Rankine and bell hooks quoting. It doesn’t signify anything. It doesn’t demonstrate that you have challenged your antiblackness. Fetishization is not love, it’s not respect. Turning black people into figurines and objects that you can use, and throw away as soon as you are done with them is not appreciation.

Here is what I want: instead of jumping on any opportunity to voice your “enthusiasm” for everything black, you should study the weird, neurotic, utilitarian relationship you have with blackness. You can take the Kardashians with you. Until then, until you do this introspective and analytical work, until you decolonize your idea and practice of solidarity, I’d very much like for you to stay away from us. "
girlhood  film  culture  blackness  fanta  fantasylla  célinesciamma  2015  fetishization  appropriation  poc  sarabivigou  woc  feminism  azealiabanks  mia  iggyazalea  heems  blackwomen  hiphop  loneliness 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Four Lessons About Pan-Africanism Today from Cecile Emeke's #Strolling -
"Cecile Emeke is taking the world by storm. A UK-based filmmaker, she has been capturing the attention of many through videos such as, “Fake Deep” and her web series, “Ackee & Saltfish,” which, in my opinion, is the best thing to hit YouTube since Issa Rae’s “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” But her mini-documentary series #Strolling is not one to miss. From the UK to France and onward to other countries, Cecile has been using her camera to capture the unfiltered musings of Black millennials to connect “the scattered and untold stories of the Black/African diaspora.”

Here are four things #Strolling shows about diasporic reconnection today.

1. We are going to learn to listen and speak in MULTIPLE languages.

Cecile’s series began in the UK, but she’s on the move. Right now she’s highlighting the voices of our Francophone siblings in France, and that means we’re going to use the French term for these instances of uninhibited streams of black consciousness: flâner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h3-sOFnLYY

Because here’s the thing: People of African descent are EVERYWHERE, and each place carries nuances and subtleties that do not translate exactly from one language to another. Even if our experiences are similar, they’re not the same. That’s where our magic lies. So sometimes that means we can’t use the same terms. Have you ever heard of “Fatou”? Learn a lesson from Gaëlle and Christelle [https://twitter.com/crystallmess ].

2. We will make room for all of our stories.

Diaspora isn’t just displacement. It also showcases dual (or multiple) rooted-ness. There are many reasons why we’ve each ended up where we are. Each one of those routes has its history, and each matters. We’re going to talk about slavery, colonialism, immigration, etc. as we navigate home in more than one way. We can’t always just privilege the African American slavery narrative, and the American experience cannot always adequately capture the experience of our siblings, as Fanta [https://twitter.com/littleglissant ] lays out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy0Uid9afM8

We’re also not going to ignore some of our elephants in the room, one of them being mental health. Listen to Simone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWmsZf4bBXo

3. We will be free and our freedom doesn’t have to be “respectable.”

Respectability politics is a real thing. Depending on who you are or where you’re at, that might be the hustle. Do you. But “respectability” is not the end goal. Our end goal is to create the space to become the most free version of ourselves. We are a constellation of dispersed dreamers, each of us connected by our inherent right to define ourselves in any number of ways and for any number of reasons that we, as respective individuals and as broader collectives, desire. Our gaze is and will be our own. If you don’t believe me, check Rianna‘s [https://twitter.com/xaymacans ] meditations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okAofXZppTE

And if you’re still not convinced, Kevin [https://twitter.com/Kevinmorosky ] will remind you why your addiction to boxes won’t work in your interest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0k9pCdPK4Q

4. We will tolerate absolutely no f*ckboys!

Yep, that’s right. Just watch Anne [https://twitter.com/FrenchHeaux ] lay it out below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5qyXZ46qBw

Today’s Pan-Africanism is going to be unabashedly feminist. Bringing the global diaspora together is not just about Black representation. We’re also going to unlearn the mechanisms we’ve inherited that separated us in the first place. Does that include racism? Yes. But we’re also going to address patriarchy. Strolling showcases how truly effortless it is to highlight the stories Black women, such as Vanessa [https://twitter.com/scarlet_voice ], tell in order to talk about ourselves as women and as Black people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnUYUczAhAM

But strolling also highlights how Black men must hold themselves to that same standard. You better be bout that bell hooks life for Black liberation for more than just the booty. Abe [https://twitter.com/abefeels ] gets it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7aAIAhHH1U "
cecileemeke  2015  pan-africanism  strolling  diversity  colonialism  migration  immigration  diaspora  africandiaspora  sexuality  respectabilitypolitics  bellhooks  feminism  patricarchy  blackness  blackwomen  gender  film  filmmaking 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Black Women Directors
"Black Women Directors was created in 2015 by photographer and cultural producer Danielle A. Scruggs as an online resource dedicated to highlighting and celebrating the work of self-identified women filmmakers of Black/African descent across the Diaspora."
film  women  daniellescruggs  tumblr  filmmaking  blackness 
may 2015 by robertogreco
"Girlhood" Film review - Black Girls Talking
"In Sciamma’s film there is a constant battle between the director’s desire to fictionalize and fantasize (which gives us the best scenes) and her desire to document, to be realistic and authentic, which trumps the other impulse and gives us the clichéd, rehashed tropes, images and dialogue. The greatest scenes are those where the director stops controlling the way the characters talk, lets the camera roll and observes the actresses improvising, so that the characters come to life as they interact with each other. These girls who are unable to live their girlhood publicly (because men! because society!) take refuge in a hotel room to drink, sing loudly to Rihanna and talk. The most radical move would have been to stay in that hotel room. I would watch a 3-hour movie that was a succession of static shots showing black girls talking shit, drinking, sleeping, and talking again until exhaustion. There is so much to explore, so much to say and imagine. It would be vertiginous and formally daring.

I do believe that only a black woman can direct this film, because it requires a certain empathy and therefore knowledge, which most people don’t have when it comes to telling stories about black women. Empathy demands patience, a listening ear and attentive eye. Though I was really moved by Sciamma’s desire to center the lives of black girls because she had also observed the violent absence of black female characters in French cinema, Girlhood is not enough."

[via: http://cecileemeke.tumblr.com/post/119623802527/abderrahmane-sissako-in-sciammas-film-there-is

Also noting that Cecile Emeke’s Stolling series and Ackee & Saltfish are very much what is solicited above.]
célinesciamma  film  girlhood  carefreeblackgirls  2014  power  improvisation  cecileemeke  women  gender  blackness  filmmaking  fanta  fantasylla 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Fred Moten Talk: "Blackness and Poetry" - YouTube
[30:47] “We've had a really hard time learning how to be on the earth. We're not doing such a good job. Or maybe a more precise way to put it would be we've had a hard time living in the earth or with the earth or living *as* the earth."
fredmoten  via:javierarbona  2015  poetry  blackness  race  sovereignty  democratization  democracy  demos  colonialism  colonization  settlers  phenomenology  subjectivity  objects  ownership  possession  possessiveness  poems  edouardglissant  extralegality  illegality  place  being  waysofbeing 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Interview: Robert Pruitt - Saint Heron
"The most immediate way that I get at pluralism is through juxtaposition. All the different outfits, hairstyles, headdresses and other objects are intended to do just that. They create multiple entryways into each figure’s interior world. Each figure’s personal choices of dress and adornment are intended to help the viewer create a narrative about the figure.

I think a less noticeable way is through the use of time. Most of the works have some reference to the Past, Present and Future. A Victorian dress can be matched with an 80’s fade, or a pair of dunks and traditional sculptures from Africa can be used in space exploration. This idea is to collapse time. These figures exist in all times at once. I’ve always kind of felt that black folks more than anyone are troubled by time. We can be obsessed with trying to reconstruct our past from the fragments of information we have, while at the same time having to move on without any real sense of that past. I think sometimes we spend our lives moving between these two notions."



"I wanted to create this lineage of black, matriarchal, power, expressed through portraiture. The guns could operate as “un-alarming” because they are meant to be defensive as opposed to offensive. Black Self defense has had a tumultuous public presence. Black people are not really allowed to be defensive. Here, the weapons are so passively placed that they can almost seem disarming. Still, those are violent objects.

The signifying would be the correlating of Western aristocracy with that level of embedded violence. I don’t often make references to Western cultures in my work but here, because of the history of photography and portraiture that I am working from, it was sort of unavoidable. I would hope the viewer would read these images as not only an “ode” to black power, but also read the form as Western and a nod to the violence and power within those forms."
robertpruitt  art  power  tanekeyaword  2015  interviews  blackness  race  matriarchy  pluralism  juxtaposition  time  atemporality  violence 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Root [Image of the Black Archive & Library]
"The Image of the Black Archive & Library resides at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The founding director of the Hutchins Center is Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is also co-founder of The Root. The archive and Harvard University Press collaborated to create The Image of the Black in Western Art book series, eight volumes of which were edited by Gates and David Bindman and published by Harvard University Press. Text for each Image of the Week is written by Sheldon Cheek."
via:robinsloan  art  history  arthistory  blackness  race  collections  henrylouisgatesjr  davidbindman  sheldoncreek 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Review: UK Filmmaker Cecile Emeke's 'Ackee & Saltfish' Okayafrica.
"Cecile Emeke has a talent for dialogue. In the opening scenes of Ackee & Saltfish, when best friends Olivia (Michelle Tiwo) and Rachel (Vanessa Babirye) banter over breakfast or on the hunt for Jamaican take-out, they’re easily able to explore topics both intimate and broad without losing a beat. These seamless conversations allow Tiwo and Babirye’s spot-on comedic instincts to shine, forming the backbone of Emeke’s smart but highly relatable brand of comedy.

Emeke’s portrayal of two young Black women is unlike anything else on TV or the web right now. Yet something about it feels familiar. There’s no contrived romantic subplot, no barriers the characters need to overcome, no existential crises they need to work through. Rather, Emeke has the confidence and skill to let her characters do what two young Black women are so rarely allowed to do on screen – just hang out.

Prior to Ackee & Saltfish, Emeke worked primarily with short documentary style films, including the equally stellar  Strolling series. This latest project is fictionalized, but shot more like a series of mini docs, with each episode playing like a snapshot, wholly contained, and tied up nicely at the end. While there is no overarching narrative that ties the pieces together (nor with the film), each installment broadens our understanding of the emotional core into Rachel and Olivia’s characters and friendship. Olivia, the bleeding heart of the pair, is upfront with her progressive politics, and Rachel is the embodiment of the carefree black girl as the two broach issues related to race, class, gender and ethnicity with subtlety. The effects of gentrification, for example, are manifested in Olivia’s frustration at not being able to find a Jamaican food joint in her neighborhood. Through deft storytelling, Emeke makes bigger picture problems specific and personal without losing their social and cultural implications.

Emeke’s approach to filmmaking is lean. There‘s no excessive dialogue, no unnecessary scenes. It feels natural to get comfortable in the company of Olivia and Rachel. By the time the film closes you don’t really care if the friends finally manage to get their hands on some ackee and saltfish– you’re just glad you got to tag along."
cecileemeke  ackee&saltfish  2015  adwoaafful  dialog  film  filmmaking  television  tv  comedy  friednship  politics  storytelling  blackness  women  gender  conversation 
february 2015 by robertogreco
A True Picture of Black Skin - NYTimes.com
"These images pose a challenge to another bias in mainstream culture: that to make something darker is to make it more dubious. There have been instances when a black face was darkened on the cover of a magazine or in a political ad to cast a literal pall of suspicion over it, just as there have been times when a black face was lightened after a photo shoot with the apparent goal of making it more appealing. What could a response to this form of contempt look like? One answer is in Young’s films, in which an intensified darkness makes the actors seem more private, more self-contained and at the same time more dramatic. In “Selma,” the effect is strengthened by the many scenes in which King and the other protagonists are filmed from behind or turned away from us. We are tuned into the eloquence of shoulders, and we hear what the hint of a profile or the fragment of a silhouette has to say.

I think of another photograph by Roy DeCarava that is similar to “Mississippi Freedom Marcher,” but this other photograph, “Five Men, 1964,” has quite a different mood. We see one man, on the left, who faces forward and takes up almost half the picture plane. His face is sober and tense, his expression that of someone whose mind is elsewhere. Behind him is a man in glasses. This second man’s face is in three-quarter profile and almost wholly visible except for where the first man’s shoulder covers his chin and jawline. Behind these are two others, whose faces are more than half concealed by the men in front of them. And finally there’s a small segment of a head at the bottom right of the photograph. The men’s varying heights could mean they are standing on steps. The heads are close together, and none seem to look in the same direction: The effect is like a sheet of studies made by a Renaissance master. In an interview DeCarava gave in 1990 in the magazine Callaloo, he said of this picture: “This moment occurred during a memorial service for the children killed in a church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1964. The photograph shows men coming out of the service at a church in Harlem.” He went on to say that the “men were coming out of the church with faces so serious and so intense that I responded, and the image was made.”

The adjectives that trail the work of DeCarava and Young as well as the philosophy of Glissant — opaque, dark, shadowed, obscure — are metaphorical when we apply them to language. But in photography, they are literal, and only after they are seen as physical facts do they become metaphorical again, visual stories about the hard-won, worth-keeping reticence of black life itself. These pictures make a case for how indirect images guarantee our sense of the human. It is as if the world, in its careless way, had been saying, “You people are simply too dark,” and these artists, intent on obliterating this absurd way of thinking, had quietly responded, “But you have no idea how dark we yet may be, nor what that darkness may contain.”"
tejucole  photography  2015  civilrightsmovement  color  blackness  roydecarava  édouardglissant  elireed  carriemaeweems  deeree  andrewdosunmu  avaduvernay  bradfordyoung  danaigurira  davidoyelowo  1940s  1950s  1960s 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it... - Science - News - The Independent
[Compare to "Beetles so bright, you gotta wear shades"
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:3b1b4eb0b979 ]

"Puritans, Goths, avant-garde artists, hell-raising poets and fashion icon Coco Chanel all saw something special in it. Now black, that most enigmatic of colours, has become even darker and more mysterious.

A British company has produced a "strange, alien" material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the "super black" coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss.

If it was used to make one of Chanel's little black dresses, the wearer's head and limbs might appear to float incorporeally around a dress-shaped hole.

Actual applications are more serious, enabling astronomical cameras, telescopes and infrared scanning systems to function more effectively. Then there are the military uses that the material's maker, Surrey NanoSystems, is not allowed to discuss.

The nanotube material, named Vantablack, has been grown on sheets of aluminium foil by the Newhaven-based company. While the sheets may be crumpled into miniature hills and valleys, this landscape disappears on areas covered by it.

"You expect to see the hills and all you can see … it's like black, like a hole, like there's nothing there. It just looks so strange," said Ben Jensen, the firm's chief technical officer.

Asked about the prospect of a little black dress, he said it would be "very expensive" – the cost of the material is one of the things he was unable to reveal.

"You would lose all features of the dress. It would just be something black passing through," he said.

Vantablack, which was described in the journal Optics Express and will be launched at the Farnborough International Airshow this week, works by packing together a field of nanotubes, like incredibly thin drinking straws. These are so tiny that light particles cannot get into them, although they can pass into the gaps between. Once there, however, all but a tiny remnant of the light bounces around until it is absorbed.

Vantablack's practical uses include calibrating cameras used to take photographs of the oldest objects in the universe. This has to be done by pointing the camera at something as black as possible.

It also has "virtually undetectable levels of outgassing and particle fallout", which can contaminate the most sensitive imaging systems. The material conducts heat seven and a half times more effectively than copper and has 10 times the tensile strength of steel.

Stephen Westland, professor of colour science and technology at Leeds University, said traditional black was actually a colour of light and scientists were now pushing it to something out of this world.

"Many people think black is the absence of light. I totally disagree with that. Unless you are looking at a black hole, nobody has actually seen something which has no light," he said. "These new materials, they are pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine.""

[See also: http://newlaunches.com/archives/the_darkest_black_ever.php ]
color  black  blackness  light  materials  2014  via:debcha  vantablack  optics 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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