[-empyre-] aesthetics gestalten within and without

Alessandra Raengo araengo at gsu.edu
Mon Apr 18 06:46:19 AEST 2016

yes, my practice is moving image studies and the “Blackness, Aesthetics, Liquidity" essay was just a first attempt to outline the relationship between aesthetics and blackness described by the idea of liquidity on the eve of our first symposium on these issues. Given that I am not an artist, I did not include myself among them. I was just setting some parameters/provocations for a collective engagement among theorists, curators and artists, and I was playing host. 

I agree that Tommy’s question to which Johannes has returned—"how could we construct theory that actually answers black aesthetics in an availability?"--is absolutely crucial even though I don’t have an answer beyond the partial, and somewhat disciplinary specific answers I have been offering so far.

I do think that the best theory is a form of practice and the best practice is theory in action, so I am more interested in pursuing a constant exchange between them, rather than continue to remark their differences. We don’t all use the same tools but this does not mean that that tools that we use can't productively speak to one another in a way that continues to foster this interchange. In this sense, and returning to Tommy’s point about not lumping together various artistic practices, I would say that I agree but at the same time I remain hopeful that they can speak to one another precisely from their specificity and uniqueness. In other words, I would  not want an emphasis on their distinction to become an impediment to their being in dialog.

The question of elitism/scaffolding is not easy to resolve either. 

Derek’s discussion of Kalup Linzy’s work today suggests something I believe in firmly: that popular forms can be repositories of incredibly sophisticated thinking and practice. They are, in many ways, theory in action and here I wonder if “popular” (after Suart Hall….) can also comprise what Tommy described as "black performance and black aesthetics are available to all, in some ways.”

One point about Derek’s post I want to underline before I (tentatively) close this really rich thread and I invite us all to continue the conversation with a more dedicated focus on materiality:

Derek has discussed Linzy’s work within the context of post-blackness which for me is also a way to “unmoore" art practice from the sociological (not the political) imperatives of identity politics. Linzy’s work, as Derek described it, shows this unmooring whimsically in action. In doing that, it puts into focus two things:

the first concerns the mobility that blackness acquires in the process of being "commonly made" (through the understanding of aesthetics as the interaction between the sensorial, the sensible and the sensate I describe in my essay) and the second regards the repercussions this common “making” of blackness has on the question of representation. Linzy’s work puts in circulation a variety of affects that become performances of mobility: voice detached from body, representational markers detached from identity, genre detached from its customary mode of production, and so on. For me, his is a performance of an extraordinary mobility as if he was “riding”, so to speak, a liquid material/affective substance he has constructed through his very performance. If there is indeed “liquid blackness” in his work, as Derek argues there is, then it is both the condition for what he is able to achieve AND its end product. 

Thank you all for such an engaged and powerful conversation this week. I’ll shortly send a post to introduce our next discussants. 

All the best

Alessandra Raengo, PhD
Associate Professor, Moving Image Studies

> On Apr 17, 2016, at 12:30 PM, Johannes Birringer <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> 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.
> regards
> 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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