[-empyre-] spatial flow

Sarah Cervenak sjcerven at uncg.edu
Thu Apr 28 10:41:25 AEST 2016

Thanks Johannes for your questions and to Lauren for further elaboration of
a great project.  Super interesting-- how to think the intersection between
"what some might call crazy" Black social life (wanting to hold the 'what
some might call' and "crazy" together  to index how such ableist
figurations reductively respond to a perception of a bent or askewed
modality of physical, gestural, or cognitive comportment) and the
architectural.  How might the architectural invite a return to the spatial,
the geometric and with it what Katherine McKittrick might call the "bad
made measure"?

This  “bad made measure” whereby the new world presumed the endless
calculability of black life—was evidenced in the unending weight blackness,
following Saidiya Hartman’s work, as ‘fungible’ commodity was originarily
made to bear.  And in the “post”/bellum era, blackness still figures as a
heaviness (everywhere from the fleshly (and bestial) magnifications made by
Darren Wilson to explain his fear of Michael Brown to the discursive
(blackness and race, more broadly, bears a heaviness that our supposed
postracial moment can’t and shouldn’t withstand.)  That said, there has
been a long history of Black artists engaged in sculptural, visual,
performative acts of abstraction that query what Leonardo Drew calls “the
weight of being,” the weight of black social life that eludes measure.  What
might it mean to concede the weightedness and lightness, what Jay Carter
and I have called 'black ether' with respect to the latter, of Black
other/wordly inhabitation--another spatial relation that exceeds the
axiomatics of this world’s scale?  How would that challenge the barometric,
scalable claims to (anti) black knowability integral to racial and sexual

Thanks, Sarah

On Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 4:07 PM, Lauren Michelle Cramer <
lmcleod2 at mygsu.onmicrosoft.com> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Johannes, thank you for your questions and to Sarah, thank you for another
> stunning post.
> First a point of clarity-- I do not want to suggest there is
> weightlessness available for the black body even when terms like liquidity
> or suspension seem to evoke images of effortless or uninhibited movement.
> Instead, I am interested in how the pliant materials and flexibility that
> is part of the post-modern architecture that you describe may be the form
> of the suspension of disbelief.
> I am happy to have the opportunity to clarify this point because I think
> it helps connect my work to Sarah’s post. I am interested in identifying
> the architectural logics of forms of black cultural expression because it
> is a radical act to gather, sing, dance, rap, build, etc. within the space
> of dispossession that defines the spatiality of blackness. To me,
> committing to living in homelessness is part of what Sarah calls “crazy
> Black social life.” Any form of relationality within this space would mean
> suspending blackness between the poles of social death and (an
> inaccessible) political life.
> I would argue that architectural theory is already invested in race, even
> when it is not mentioned, because of its emphasis on rationality and
> solving the problem of housing (protecting the body). So I am trying to
> make architecture a reading strategy for hip-hop visual culture, where some
> of these “mad” designs can actually be constructed.  For example, I am
> particularly attracted to the glare or ‘bling’ of hip-hop music videos
> produced in the mid-1990s because their glare allowed images of black
> artists to be reflected until they fill the cinematic space. These videos
> are criticized in hip-hop culture for their superficiality, but to me they
> are exciting because they are not insisting on black humanity by rejecting
> histories of commodification. Instead, they mimic the schizophrenic
> appearance of architectural hypersurfaces (i.e. morphing, screen-based,
> commercial architectures like Times Square). As a result, these video
> images glide between vapidity and fullness. Consider one of the biggest
> hip-hop stars during the time, Puff Daddy, who renamed himself again and
> again over the course of his career. The artist and producer is a marketing
> genius, but I would like to put public relations aside--in these videos it
> looks like Puff Daddy is dancing beside his many monikers: Puffy, P. Diddy,
> and Diddy and these reflected images are not entirely under the control of
> the artist. That is crazy, but it is also a celebration.
> Lauren M. Cramer
> Doctoral Student, Moving Image Studies
> Associate Editor, InMediaRes
> Editorial Board, liquid blackness
> Department of Communication
> Georgia State University
> ________________________________________
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au <
> empyre-bounces at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> on behalf of Johannes
> Birringer <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2016 1:26 PM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] spatial flow
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> thanks for the first postings this week from you all, Sarah's last one
> will take many hours to ponder and grasp,...
> may I go back and thank the first two postings by Lauren and Sarah on
> spatiality and gathering/ungathering (can't wait to hear Kameron on racial
> capitalism's fraudulent communions and gatherings).
> my question is more mundane, in the spirit of our discussion on
> dance/movement and
> space (and someone just posted Tommy deFrantz on facebook dancing
> virtually on a wall at
> Detroit Institute of Arts, a projected dance that makes him look tall and
> elongated and distorted)
> Lauren, what is gained by racialized space or thinking of the physics or
> the "laws" of suspension?
> (<< you wrote: spaces can be racialized by the bodies and objects that
> move through them. My work on blackness and architecture tries to recognize
>  how a space can be designed with the spatial logics of blackness (i.e.
> curvilinearity and continuity, the appearance of transparency, and kinds of
> surface appeal).
> >>
> I love the poetic sensibilities in the writing I saw this week, both in
> Lauren's and Sarah's. From an architectural or scenographic point of view,
> suspension
> yes is related to tension (and tensegrity, as think some architects now
> ponder flexinamics and bent or curvable dynamic space, built space that can
> move
> or behave reacting to presences in the atmospheric environment, human or
> non human objects moving through, across, as across suspended bridges?),
> but what is it in your view on black/spatiality that makes you think of
> inconsequential lightness, or heaviness?
> what actual forms are produced?  and even from ballet we know of course
> that moving bodies (black or not black) cannot be weightless? we cannot
> flow away
> that is the problem.. we shall (need to) be gathered?
> Johannes Birringer
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Sarah Jane Cervenak, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Women's and Gender Studies and African American and
African Diaspora Studies

*Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom*
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