[-empyre-] Liquid Blackness, Matter & Flesh

Jenny Gunn jgunn7 at mygsu.onmicrosoft.com
Fri Apr 8 04:38:41 AEST 2016

 In response to Chip's thoughtful observations, I would argue that in regards to blackness (whether we are talking in relation to race or "mere" color) the metaphors that go along with it are relatively too stable and too easy (think for example of the standard thematic interpretations of chiaroscuro lighting in German Expressionist film). Part of what is refreshing about the work that liquid blackness does is in fact to dereify blackness, to turn away from understanding blackness as representation per se towards blackness as: form, material, space, sound, movement. These iterations of blackness in fact stymie the application of too easy connotations or stereotypical metaphors to reveal new potentialities—potentialities that reverberate and reform the readings we make of the more clearly representational modes of blackness.

Jenny Gunn
PhD Student, Moving Image Studies
Department of Communication
Georgia State University
jgunn7 at gsu.edu

From: empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> on behalf of Linscott, Charles <linscoc2 at ohio.edu>
Sent: Thursday, April 7, 2016 1:38 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Liquid Blackness, Matter & Flesh

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
Dear all,

Regarding Simon’s curiosity about metaphoricity (and to further the ongoing conversation with Murat) I would offer the following.

Perhaps the crux of the issue is found in the very notions of race and Blackness themselves, which, because they are largely understood representationally, are metaphorical by definition. The history of the construction of race is one of enormous complexity and variation and is a matter of utmost contention, of course. As W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, “Take, for instance, the answer to the apparently simple question ‘What is a Negro?’ We find the most extraordinary confusion of thought and difference of opinion.” Such is still the case, though the verbiage has changed. In this sense, Nahum Dmitri Chandler, following Du Bois, argues that “nothing comes on the scene on its own terms; which is to say, it comes on the scene on other terms.” Which is to say that the concept or idea of race (or Blackness, though these are not the same) has very real material and practical consequences despite its discursive, conceptual, and constructed (née metaphorical) nature. This foundational conjunction—between the discursive and material aspects of race—is something that Stuart Hall was always at great pains to point out. Blackness is and does many things. But, since the idea of Blackness often stands in for—or, per Fanon, is projected upon—the person, it is foundationally a metaphor in the sense of “analogy, symbol, or comparison.” Blackness exists as a relation and in-relation, as does metaphor. There follows a certain incommensurability whereby, to cite Chandler again, “the prose itself, by its syntax and the confusions of its meanings, remains not only the site of a question, but the very movement or form of a question.” None of this means that the ideas lack precision or rigor, I hope, but rather that the writing and thinking match the complexities of their concerns.


> On Apr 7, 2016, at 10:27 AM, Alessandra Raengo <araengo at gsu.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear Simon
> thank you for bringing up the question of the unavoidable figurality —“overpowering metaphoricity” as you call it -- of the language of color and the language of race that is necessarily part of the conversation we are trying to have about blackness.
> As my dialog with Murat might have began to explain, we are first and foremost invested in thinking about the racial dimension of blackness even when blackness is not used to describe black people. [I should explain that I say “we” to indicate the position that the research group assumes on these issues]
> But things are also more complicated than that. In my work I always tried to enter this figurality in a way that would explode and magnify its contradictions. So, for example, I tried to develop an approach to the “blackness” of "black cinema" from the “blackness” of the shadow as a black image, whose blackness is untethered from a supposed blackness of the body.
> The shadow is a quasi-photographic image (if one identifies photography with its indexicality) whose blackness is entirely independent from the body that produces it. When one tries to address it, one will have to negotiate a constant slippage between the literal, the figural, the material, the conceptual, etc. I find that this very process is important in helping us understand the racial dimension as well as the formal dimension of blackness
> Another example is in a recent essay I wrote for the journal Discourse (forthcoming in the next issue) which responds to Object Oriented Philosophy from the point of view of racial blackness. The argument is complicated but there is one methodological issue that might be helpful here: what I realized is that I had to first think of blackness as entirely divorced from race as OOO philosophers do, and then let their very idea of the “object” demand that we challenge it from the point of view of race. This is so because “black” (as a racial object/subject) is the being for which the definition of the object makes an ontological difference and therefore it is the one from whose perspective the object should be conceptualized (rather than simply providing a metaphorical foil for understanding of the object as minoritarian).
> In other words, as much as I attempted to deploy the idea of blackness and black as purely chromatic descriptions, their figural associations with connotations elaborated in a racial context (as I discussed in my response to Murat) continued to reassert themselves and attach themselves to these terms.
> Part of the work that “liquid blackness” attempts to do, in its very figurality, is to attend to the movements of blackness between the literal, the figural, the conceptual, the material, etc. within the very language we use to discuss it.
>> On Apr 6, 2016, at 7:47 PM, simon <swht at clear.net.nz> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space---------------------- Dear <<empyreans>>,

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