[-empyre-] Welcome to the -empyre- April 2016 Discussion: Liquid Blackness: Formal Approaches to Blackness and/as Aesthetics

Alessandra Raengo araengo at gsu.edu
Sun Apr 3 16:08:08 AEST 2016

I want to thank Derek Murray for this invitation to moderate this month’s discussion on the critical possibilities of the concept of “liquid blackness.”

“liquid blackness” is a concept I have been using to describe a particular critical attitude towards the way in which blackness is often encountered in contemporary visual and sonic culture, i.e. in “liquid,” immersive form. It is designed to act as a deliberate pressure point in order to think of blackness as something that is both “common place” (because it is constantly encountered in everyday mediated and unmediated interactions) and “commonsensical” (because produced or conjured up through the cooperation of everybody’s sensorium). Thus, “liquid blackness” understands blackness as a way to organize the human sensorium according to elaborate, flexible, and outrageously erratic sets of articulations that constantly draw and redraw what we would call the “color line.” Building on Mark Smith’s argument about how race is sensorially made, how sensorial experience is historically specific and how the sensorial construction of race is deployed in order for race to make sense, “liquid blackness” expresses an option for a formal and aesthetic approach to blackness, where “aesthetic” encompasses the sensible, the sensorial, and the sensate and the interactions between them. “Liquid blackness” claims this fluid sensorial terrain as its object of focus. 

“liquid blackness” makes an option also for materiality and spatiality. In order to think about “liquid blackness,” one has to think of blackness as a type of “thing” (or a substance, or a type of matter) that fills the space “in-between” people and things. In other words, “liquid blackness” takes seriously Harry Elam’s observation of the increased detachability of blackness in contemporary culture and its ability to circulate apart from black people, often at their expense, and seeks a way to attend to this process, including its frequent erotic charge. In this sense, liquid blackness can be seen as the aesthetic production of black fungibility. 

Finally, “liquid blackness” is also a way to think about the expansive possibilities of blackness and black cultural expressions—especially when blackness is let free to explore its own genius and its own possibilities. Here, liquidity can encourage a mercurial imagination of infinite potentialities. 

Here are the discussants for this month. I want to thank them for agreeing to do this and I am looking forward to the exchange. 
For the first week we will focus on the concept of “liquid blackness” and in the following weeks we will focus on aesthetics, materiality, and spatiality.

Charles P. (“Chip”) Linscott

Charles P. (“Chip”) Linscott works at the intersection of sound, image, and performance in black visual and expressive culture. He teaches at Ohio University, where he recently completed his PhD in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts. His dissertation, Sonic Overlook: Blackness between Sound and Image, examines objects ranging from black experimental cinema to hip–hop sampling to the musical and performative practices of Miles Davis in order to work through the ways in which sonicity intervenes in black visuality. Chip’s writing has appeared in liquid blackness, the anthology At the Crossroads, and is forthcoming in Black Camera and the edited volume Black Cinema Aesthetics Revisited. His piece for In Media Res, entitled “Southern Reconstruction,” was an Editor’s Pick for 2014, and he was recently invited to present at the symposium Arts and Politics of the Jazz Ensemble at Georgia State University. Chip’s current research focuses on how the mediatic implications of #BlackLivesMatter intersect with Afro-pessimism.  
Jenny Gunn

Jenny Gunn is a PhD student in Moving Image Studies at Georgia State University. Her research considers the implications of the selfie format for the ontology of photography and its disruption of photography’s gendered dynamics. She is interested in theorizing how the rise of the selfie can be related to the assertion of the female gaze and an aggressive femininity in recent American cinema. Jenny received her Masters degree in art history from the University of Georgia. She is a staff member of liquid blackness, a research project on blackness and aesthetics. https://gsu.academia.edu/JennyGunn  
Thomas F. DeFrantz

Thomas F. DeFrantz is Professor and Chair of African and African American Studies at Duke University, and director of SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, a research group that explores emerging technology in live performance applications. Books: Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance (Errol Hill Award, University of Wisconsin Press, 2002),  Dancing Revelations Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture (de la Torre Bueno Prize, Oxford University Press, 2004), and Black Performance Theory, co-edited with Anita Gonzalez (Duke University Press, 2014). Creative: Queer Theory! An Academic Travesty commissioned by the Theater Offensive of Boston and the Flynn Center for the Arts, and Monk’s Mood: A Performance Meditation on the Life and Music of Thelonious Monk, performed in Botswana, France, South Africa, and New York City.   He convenes the Black Performance Theory working group. In 2013, working with Takiyah Nur Amin and an outstanding group of artists and researchers, he founded the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance. which will stage the conference Dancing the African Diaspora: Afrofuturism in 2016. He recently taught at New Waves Institute in Trinidad, and ImpulseTanz in Austria.
Marisa Parham

Marisa Parham is a Professor of English at Amherst College. She is also the Director of the Five College Digital Humanities Initiative, which focuses both on helping artists and scholars to integrate technology into humanities scholarship and creative work and bringing those disciplines to influence technological growth and spread.  Her research and teaching focuses on texts that problematize assumptions about time, space, and bodily materiality, particularly as such terms share a history of increasing complexity in texts produced by African Americans. 
Derek Conrad Murray

Derek Conrad Murray is an interdisciplinary theorist specializing in the history, theory, and criticism of contemporary art, African-American and African Diaspora art and culture, Post-Black art and aesthetics, theoretical approaches to identity and representation, critical issues in art practice, and the methodologies and ethics of art history and visual studies. He is Associate Professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Murray has contributed to leading magazines and journals of contemporary art and visual culture such as American Art, Art in America, Parachute, Art Journal, Third Text, and Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (Duke University Press), where he currently serves as associate editor. Murray is also a member of the editorial advisory board of Third Text. Murray’s most recent article “Notes to Self: The Visual Culture of ‘Selfies’ in the Age of Social Media,” was published in Summer 2015 in Consumption Markets & Culture. Murray is the author of the book Queering Post-Black Art: Artists Transforming African-American Identity After Civil Rights (London: I. B. Tauris, 2015). 
Cameron Kunzelman

Cameron Kunzelman is a PhD Fellow in New and Emerging Media at Georgia State University who is housed in the Moving Image Studies program. His work centers on new materialism, materialist realism, and the application of those paradigms to videogame studies and new media studies. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Paste Magazine, and Itineration and the games that he has developed are housed at heylookatmygames.com. He tweets @ckunzelman.
Sarah Franzen

Sarah Franzen is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University in the Institute of the Liberal Arts. Her interdisciplinary research integrates theories of visual anthropology, race, and socio-economic development in order to examine community-based rural development, alternative agriculture, and social change. Specifically, she utilizes collaborative filmmaking to explore a network of African American farm cooperatives in the southeastern US, and their efforts to improve the livelihoods of Black farmers and family farmers. Prior to coming to Emory, Franzen received an MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Manchester, for which her thesis included an ethnographic film focusing on changing notions of the rural idyll among English sheep farmers. Outside of the academy, Franzen has worked for independent and non-profit film and television organizations and has taught media production for community-based organizations.  
Kenneth Rogers

Kenneth Rogers is Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Research at the School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design at York University, Toronto. He the author of The Attention Complex: Media, Archeology, Method (Palgrave Macmillan 2014) and has also published on a range of topics inlcuding alternative video, contemporary media art, crowd sourcing, critical pedagogy, and biopolitics. His current book project, Petromedia: Oil Culture and Media Culture, is an exploration of the historical interdependence of new media technology and finite energy resources through the emerging critical optic of environmental media studies. http://film.ampd.yorku.ca/profile/ken-rogers/
Erin Gray

Erin Gray is a PhD Candidate in History of Consciousness, with designated emphases in Feminist Studies and Visual Studies, at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Erin received her master’s degree from York University’s department of Social & Political Thought, and her bachelor’s degree in English and Social & Political Thought at York University. A recipient of fellowships from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, she recently held a President’s Dissertation Fellowship at UC Santa Cruz. Erin’s writing appears in Mute, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art, Open Letter: A Canadian Journal of Writing and Theory, The International Feminist Journal of Politics, and Upping the Anti: A Journal of Theory and Action.
Lauren Cramer

Lauren Cramer is a PhD candidate in the Moving Image Studies program in the Department of Communication at Georgia State University. Her research is focused on visual culture, space and architecture, hip-hop, and the aesthetics of the racial encounter. Her dissertation is entitled, "A Hip-hop Joint: Thinking Architecturally About Blackness." She is an Associate Editor of the collaborative online scholarship project, In Media Res, part of Media Common's digital scholarly network, for which she has coordinated several theme week on race and contemporary cinema. Lauren is also on the Editorial Board of liquid blackness, a research collective focused on blackness and aesthetics. 
Sarah Jane Cervenak

Sarah Jane Cervenak is an Assistant Professor, jointly appointed in the Women’s and Gender Studies and African American and African Diaspora Studies programs at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.  Her areas of research and teaching are critical race theory, feminist theory, Black studies, performance studies, visual culture and philosophy.  Her current book project, tentatively titled Black Gathering: Toward an Aesthetic of (Un) Holding queries the Black radical, feminist potential of gathering in post-1960s Black literary and visual arts.  Essays connected to the new project are forthcoming in Feminist Studies and Women and Performance.  She is the author of Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom (Duke University Press, 2014). https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/clist.aspx?id=7660
J. Kameron Carter

J. Kameron Carter is an Associate Professor at Duke University Divinity School. His areas of research and teaching are black religious and theological discourses, critical race theory, feminist theory, Black studies, poetry, performance studies, visual culture and philosophy. He is bringing several projects to completion, the most immanent of which is Dark Church: A Poetics of Black Assembly which explores what might be called the theological protocols of racial capitalism as a practice of would be ge(n)ocide. Those protocols are churchly, that is, they enable racial capitalism as a violent practice of “congregation,” of fraudulent communion, of assembling a world by disassembling (another name for which is “settling”) the earth. Such violent assembly is a kind of “church” event, a violent practice of the sacred that demands normative coalescence. Dark Church considers the church-like protocols of such violent assembly-through-disassemblage but in the interest ultimately of thinking blackness appositionally or as as an ante-(and not merely anti-)churchical kinesis. “Church in the water,” as poet Ed Roberson puts it, blackness moves oceanically and atmospherically in racial capital’s break, in that cramped yet capaciousness zone that surrounds capital as the black outdoors in unstately communions outside of the state, black radical potentials of black assembly. J Kameron Carter is the author of Race: A Theological Account and is editor of Religion (2008) and the Futures of Blackness (a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, 2013). https://divinity.duke.edu/faculty/j-kameron-carter

> On Apr 1, 2016, at 9:43 PM, Derek Murray <derekconradmurray6719 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Welcome to our April discussion on -empyre- soft-skinned space, Liquid Blackness: Formal Approaches to Blackness and/as Aesthetics. 
> The moderator of this month’s discussion will be Alessandra Raengo (United States). We are thrilled that Alessandra Raengo’s exciting and timely research on race, aesthetics, and form has been the catalyst for this month’s topic, which highlights conceptual issues around the materiality of blackness as it expresses itself across various forms of cultural production, including: visual art, cinema, music, and photography. Thanks to you, Alessandra, and each of your guests for joining us this month.
> Moderator Bio:
> Alessandra Raengo is Associate Professor of Moving Image Studies in the Department of Communication at Georgia State University and coordinator of liquid blackness, a research project on blackness and aesthetics. Her work focuses on blackness in the visual and aesthetic field and her essays on contemporary African-American art, black cinema and visual culture, and race and capital have appeared in Camera Obscura, Adaptation, The World Picture Journal, Discourse (forthcoming) and several anthologies. She is the author of On the Sleeve of the Visual: Race as Face Value (Dartmouth College Press, 2013) and of Critical Race Theory and Bamboozled (Bloomsbury Press, 2016). With Robert Stam, she has also co-edited two anthologies on adaptation studies, Literature and Film and A Companion to Literature and Film (Blackwell, 2004 and 2005).
> We turn the discussion over to you now, Alessandra, to further introduce us to your topic, your exciting research on Liquid Blackness, and to share the bios of those guests who will be participating in the conversation this month.
> All best,
> Derek Conrad Murray
> Soraya Murray
> Co-Moderators, -empyre-
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