Talk by Rizvana Bradley, Dark Humanisms | Surplus Visuality
– 7:00 pm | 9/12/2019
Rizvana Bradley, Professor of History of Art and African American Studies, Yale University
This talk explores the way visual art archives generate surplus material that work to both construct and interrogate an image of the human. The talk opens by revisiting Saidiya Hartman’s central query from the essay, “Venus in Two Acts” (2008). There, Hartman asks: “What are the stories one tells in dark times?” At stake is the role of art in the valuation of human life, and, in contradistinction – if perhaps unconsciously – the revaluation of the human. Central to the talk is a consideration of the way art’s frequent aestheticization of suffering is bound up with a manipulation of formal concerns that appear medium specific. Bringing Hartman’s question to bear on material from film, photography, painting, and other media, I explore whether art’s dark return to the archive of colonialism ensures a dangerous form of epistemological closure, so that to see and to know the history of the colonized is to violently repeat the biopolitical reduction of the colonized to specific signatures of dispossession.
Rizvana Bradley is Assistant Professor of the History of Art and African-American Studies at Yale.