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Anteaesthetics: Black Aesthesis and the Critique of Form

Book Presentation with author Rizvana Bradley

Join author Rizvana Bradley for a talk on her book Anteaesthetics: Black Aesthesis and the Critique of Form, published in 2023 by Stanford University Press in the new series, Inventions: Black Philosophy, Politics, Aesthetics.

In Anteaesthetics, Bradley begins from the proposition that blackness cannot be represented in modernity's aesthetic regime, but is nevertheless foundational to every representation. The book problematizes the phenomenological and ontological conceits that underwrite the visual, sensual, and abstract logics of modernity.

Moving across multiple histories and geographies, artistic mediums and forms, from nineteenth-century painting and early cinema, to the contemporary text-based works, video installations, and digital art of Glenn Ligon, Mickalene Thomas, and Sondra Perry, Bradley inaugurates a new method for interpretation—an ante-formalism which demonstrates how black art engages in the recursive deconstruction of the aesthetic forms that remain foundational to modernity. Foregrounding the negativity of black art, Bradley shows how each of these artists disclose the racialized contours of the body, form, and medium, even interrogating the form that is the world itself. Drawing from black critical theory, Continental philosophy, film and media studies, art history, and black feminist thought, Bradley explores artistic practices that inhabit the negative underside of form. Ultimately, Anteaesthetics asks us to think philosophically with black art, and with the philosophical invention black art necessarily undertakes.

Rizvana Bradley is Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies and Affiliated Faculty in the History of Art Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and is the 2023-24 Terra Foundation Visiting Professor for American Art at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Bradley’s book, Anteaesthetics: Black Aesthesis and the Critique of Form, was published in 2023 by Stanford University Press. Her art criticism has been published in The Yale Review, Artforum, e-flux, Art in America, and Parkett.