Chair: Camara Dia Holloway, University of Delaware


  • Ellen Yoshi Tani, Stanford University; Post-Race Atmospherics

Racial difference and representational politics have been largely dismissed as irrelevant twentieth century concerns in today’s media and cultural theory, where the terms “postracialism,” “post-soul,” and “post-black” characterize the twenty-first century as beyond race.  Yet the mainstream’s preferred mode of vision—colorblindness—presents a double bind for artists informed by the legacy of the Black Arts Movement and the political implications of racial identification; for certain contemporary artists, the racialized body is a site of recuperation and resistance. My paper discusses African-American artists who navigate this moment of racial fatalism by moving away from the visual politic of earlier generations: they work, instead, through the aural and spatial registers. In destabilizing the primacy of vision in aesthetic experience, such artists engage the atmospheric echo of race and its historical definitions and consequences, opening new discursive space for representation and its phenomenological considerations.

  • Charles Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Locating the Racial Frameworks of Architectural Style. An Alternative Intellectual History of Tectonics

In this paper, I propose an alternative intellectual history of tectonics that explicitly traces the racial frameworks for style established by architectural critics of the nineteenth-century.  Using Karl Bötticher, Gottfried Semper and Adolf Loos’s textual references to racial anthropology as a prompt, I produce a reading of the racial epistemologies that were embedded within tectonics between 1844 and 1910.  As a compliment to recent studies of the political functions of German architecture theory, my research pinpoints the ways tectonic theorists anticipated these political functions by promoting the theoretical integration of race (i.e. culture) and style (i.e. form).  Despite the shift in tectonics from type categories to evolutionary models of development in the twentieth-century, theorists continued to relate race and style well into the interwar period.

  • Sarita See, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; The Anti-Accumulative Aesthetics of ‘Helter-Shelter’: Michael Arcega’s Tent Sculptures

The multi-media artist Michael Arcega uses materials like tent poles, poly tarp, and utility ropes to create sculptures that eerily yet playfully dramatize nomadic existence in an apocalyptic era. With life-size tent sculptures that imitate and defamiliarize everyday urban objects, Arcega creates perfect if slightly deflated mimes of a postbox, a utility pole, a trash can, and a fire hydrant. A curator’s dream, the sculptures collapse easily, and they can be quickly dismantled and packed up into a highly portable exhibition. How do these tent sculptures help us reflect on the racialized and classed politics of anti-accumulative, nomadic shelter in an era of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the recent global economic meltdown? In particular, how might Arcega’s work illuminate the possibilities of anti-accumulative economies in relation to past and current eras of primitive accumulation or what David Harvey has called “accumulation by dispossession”?