Past Event

IRAAS Conversations | A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See

March 3, 2022
6:30 PM
Event time is displayed in your time zone.

IRAAS Conversations
"A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How  We See"

Tina Campt, Brown University
Michel Gillespie, City College of New York
Tavia Nyong'o, Yale University
Christina Sharpe, York University

Registration Required

Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender at Columbia University
The Center for Ethnicity & Race at Columbia University
Institute for Comparative Literature & Society at Columbia University


In A Black Gaze, Tina Campt examines Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze. Their work—from Deana Lawson's disarmingly intimate portraits to Arthur Jafa's videos of the everyday beauty and grit of the Black experience, from Kahlil Joseph's films and Dawoud Bey's photographs to the embodied and multimedia artistic practice of Okwui Okpokwasili, Simone Leigh, and Luke Willis Thompson—requires viewers to do more than simply look; it solicits visceral responses to the visualization of Black precarity. Campt shows that this new way of seeing shifts viewers from the passive optics of looking at to the active struggle of looking with, through, and alongside the suffering—and joy—of Black life in the present. The artists whose work Campt explores challenge the fundamental disparity that defines the dominant viewing practice: the notion that Blackness is the elsewhere (or nowhere) of whiteness. These artists create images that flow, that resuscitate and revalue the historical and contemporary archive of Black life in radical ways. Writing with rigor and passion, Campt describes the creativity, ingenuity, cunning, and courage that is the modus operandi of a Black gaze.

Tina Campt is Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. She is a black feminist theorist of visual culture and contemporary art, and had the privilege of serving three extraordinary years directing the Barnard Center for Research on Women. Campt leads the Black Visualities Initiative at the Cogut Institute for Humanities, and is the founding convener of the Practicing Refusal Collective and the Sojourner Project. She is the author of four books: Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (University Michigan Press, 2004), Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (Duke University Press, 2012), Listening to Images (Duke University Press, 2017), and most recently, A Black Gaze (MIT Press, 2021).

Michael Boyce Gillespie is a film professor at The City College of New York and The Graduate Center, CUNY. His research and writing focuses on black visual and expressive culture, film theory, visual historiography, popular music, and contemporary art. He is author of Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film (Duke University Press, 2016) and co-editor of Black One Shot, an art criticism series on ASAP/J. His recent writing has appeared in Film Quarterly, The Criterion Collection, Film Comment, ASAP/J, and Ends of Cinema. His current book project is entitled The Case of the 3 Sided Dream.

Christina Sharpe is a writer, Professor, and Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University in Toronto. She is the author of Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Her third book, Ordinary Notes, will be published in 2023 (Knopf/FSG/Daunt). Recent essays appear in Art in America; Alison Saar Of Aether and Earthe; Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America; Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America; and Jennifer Packer: The Eye Is Not Satisfied With Seeing. “The abacus of her eyelids,” a critical introduction to Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems of Dionne Brand will be published in 2022. She is working on a monograph called Black. Still. Life.

Tavia Nyong'o is Chair and William Lampson Professor of Theater & Performance Studies, Professor of American Studies, and Professor of African-American Studies at Yale University. He is the author of The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (2009) and  Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life (2018). He is currently embarking on a study of critical negativity in recent black studies. For the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, Nyong’o serves as  the Curator of Public Programming.

The event will be closed captioned. This event will be recorded and available on our YouTube channel

Please email [email protected] to request any additional disability accommodations.
Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.