Dark Humanisms, Surplus Visuality | Sept 12

Dark Humanisms | Surplus Visuality
Rizvana Bradley
History of Art and African American Studies, Yale University
Thursday, September 12, 2019 
Visual Resource Center, Room 308A, Doe Library, UC Berkeley
(for directions, see below)


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. She holds a BA from Williams College and a PhD from Duke University. Before coming to Yale, Bradley was as an Assistant Professor at Emory University, and a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of the History of Art at the University College London. Born in Kenya, and raised in the U.K., Germany, Poland, Tanzania, and the U.S., Bradley’s research and teaching focus on the study of contemporary art film, and performance also at the intersections of literature, poetry, feminist and gender studies and postcolonial studies. Her scholarly approach to artistic practices in the fields of African-American cultural production, as well as the wider black diaspora expands and develops frameworks for thinking across these contexts, specifically in relation to global and transnational artistic and cinematic practices.

Bradley is currently at work on two new scholarly book projects. The first is a recipient of a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and offers a critical examination of the black body across a range of experimental artistic practices that integrate film and other media. Bradley guest edited a special issue of the journal Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, and has published articles in TDR: The Drama Review, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, Black Camera: An International Film Journal, and Film Quarterly. She was a Helena Rubinstein Critical Studies Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Directions to 308A Doe Library (Visual Resource Center)

Accessible entrance : Enter Doe Memorial Library via the SOUTH ENTRANCE, located off Campanile Way. Doe Memorial Library is located behind Bancroft Library. An automatic door opener is present at this entrance. 

Take the first left after the Information Desk. Proceed down the hall, you will pass Staff offices and the South/Southeast Asia Library on your left. You will also pass a staircase on your right.

Take a right at the end of the Hall. The Accessible elevator will be down the hall on your right. Note: there is another elevator on the opposite side of the hallway that you will pass as you turn the corner.

Take the elevator to the 3rd floor. Exit into the entrance of the Art History/Classics Library. Take a right and the entrance to 308A will be the second door on your left.