[-empyre-] aesthetics gestalten within and without

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Mon Apr 18 02:30:51 AEST 2016

hello all

moving images studies, Alessandra, this is your practice, yes? and I started to read your essay, the one you linked us to (strangely, the symposium & exhibition which seems to have been the cause of the catalogue, the formation of the "liquid blackness" group, etc, mentions many folks but actually not you – you excluded yourself?); the writing is beautiful and, having just started to read, I like your emphasis on the senses, on touch, skin, texture, smell and voice, and you are not so far from what Tommy spoke about, although I also need to time to reflect on what Tommy in motion points to (among many things pointing) - 

for example the scaffolding, Tommy, that you rightly critique:

.  we've had centuries of philosophical tracts created to stabilize black abjection 
we may have to stop relying on other people's labor in order to prove 'our' points. 

...the academy has been built on a certain scaffolding that points toward an elite rendering accessible to a certain few.  but black performance and black aesthetics are available to all, in some ways.  how could we construct theory that actually answers black aesthetics in an availability? >>>

the elite rendering has sometimes been of course the problem here too, on a listserv such as this, which is overdiscursive and sometimes exclusionary, and often undervalues performance or music or installations or other forms of artistic practice not referencing Deleuze/Butler/Foucault/Fanon/usw , and while I do agree, Alessandra, that the drawing of lines is not helpful, at the same time I wonder then how to understand "availability to all", as Tommy optimistically suggests (and I think rightly as black aesthethics have influenced hugely and were appropriated hugely - as a recent book on the centrality of black dance in the 20th century argues [ "America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk"]), and how that works across various political, economic and cultural contexts  (as Simon also pointed out), and (concretely) where in my location here in London one could not easily point to a singular or commonly understood black cultural aesthetic  (e.g. many of our students and families here are from the Middle East, Arab countries, from Muslim African nations and regions, or second or third generation immigrant Caribbean families, usw)

Incidentally, my posting last night, with the images, it all failed repeatedly and strangely.  I figured it must have been my basic effort to use some of Maori terms and words in Maori spelling, that flipped my "plain text" and resulted
in garbled (unreadable) code arriving at the empyre which then refused to publish the unreadable. Now isn't that ironic.

Johannes Birringer
[Alessandra schreibt]

[...] aesthetics is found in the work and in the practice, so, from the outside, it can only be read.

 [And I know Tommy would not like this, but some of us are not are practitioners, so we “read” for form and aesthetics, so that it might perform its cultural work beyond the strict circle of the art-makers….  Drawing such a sharp line between practitioners and “receivers” might not allow this aesthetics-in-practice to be felt outside of where it is strictly taking place]

With the idea of liquid blackness I suggest that aesthetics and form should be read by attuning oneself to the ways they modulate the affective sensorium implied or enacted by the work.

I don’t think that the essential ambiguity and ambivalence of liquid blackness resides in a collapsing of the aesthetics onto the analytic and vice versa. Instead,  I think this ambivalence is found in the realization that, many times, the same liquidity that promises fluidity of expansion, multiplicity, inclusiveness, etc. is also the liquidity that delivers the erotics of the racial encounter and therefore might undo these liberatory possibilities.

This ambivalence means coming to terms with the fact the two poles of liquid blackness might very uncomfortably touch somewhere, in a place where it becomes very hard to disentangle their two radically different directions.

Thank you, Johannes, for attaching an image of a Fred Wilson’s "Drip Drop Plop”, which I have written about in a forthcoming essay for the journal Discourse. I am looking forward to discussing it a bit more (and I am grateful to Derek for bringing it up and to Marisa for to that conversation as well) but I wanted to address Simon’s question first.

Still thinking about Tommy’s last post….

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