Charis welcomes Ekow Eshun in conversation with Jamal Batts for a discussion of In the Black Fantastic. A richly illustrated exploration of Black culture at its most wildly imaginative and artistically ambitious, In the Black Fantastic assembles art and imagery from across the African diaspora. This event is co-hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.
Embracing the mythic and the speculative, it recycles and reconfigures elements of fable, folklore, science fiction, spiritual traditions, ceremonial pageantry, and the legacies of Afrofuturism. In works that span photography, painting, sculpture, cinema, graphic arts, music and architecture, In the Black Fantastic shows how speculative fictions in Black art and culture are boldly reimagining perspectives on race, gender and identity.
Standing apart from Western narratives of progress and modernity premised on the historical subjugation of people of color, In the Black Fantastic celebrates the ways that Black artists draw inspiration from African-originated myths, beliefs, and knowledge systems, confounding the Western dichotomy between the real and unreal, the scientific and the supernatural. Featuring more than 300 color illustrations, this beautifully designed book brings together works by leading artists such as Kara Walker, Chris Ofili, and Ellen Gallagher; explores groundbreaking films like Daughters of the Dust and Get Out; considers the radical politics of pan-Africanism and postcolonialism; and much more.
Ekow Eshun is a writer and curator based in London. Formerly, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, he is the author of Black Gold of the Sun and Africa State of Mind.
Jamal Batts, PhD is a curator, writer, and scholar. His work considers the relation between black contemporary art, sexuality, and risk. Recently, he curated the 2022 University of Pennsylvania MFA thesis exhibition, Imperative of Struggle. He is currently a Stanford University IDEAL Provostial Fellow in the Department of Art and Art History. His writing appears in the catalogue for The New Museum’s exhibit Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Open Space, ASAP/J, New Life Quarterly, and SFMOMA’s website in conjunction with their Modern Cinema series. He is a 2020 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Scholar-in-Residence, a Center for Curatorial Leadership Mellon Seminar Member, a 2021-22 University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, a Curator-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, a 2020 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, and ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives LGBTQ Research Fellow. He is a member of the curatorial collective The Black Aesthetic who have organized four seasons of black experimental film screenings and published three edited collections. In 2019 he curated film screenings and conducted artist discussions for the SFMOMA exhibition SOFT POWER. Batts received his PhD from the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
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A richly illustrated exploration of Black culture at its most wildly imaginative, artistically ambitious, and politically urgent.