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A Black Gaze


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Table of Contents

Prelude to a Black Gaze 1
Verse One
The Intimacy of Strangers 27
Verse Two
Black (Counter)gravity 43
Verse Three
The Visual Frequency of Black Life 77
Verse Four
The Slow Lives of Still-Moving-Images 109
Verse Five
Sounding a Black Feminist Chorus 145
Verse Six
Adjacency and the Poethics of Care 167
The Haptic Frequencies of Radical Black Joy 193
Acknowledgments 203
Notes 207
Index 215

About the Author

Tina M. Campt, a Black feminist theorist of visual culture and contemporary art, is Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University and a Research Associate at the VIAD (Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre) at the University of Johannesburg. She is the author of Image Matters- Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe, Listening to Images, and other books.


"Tina M. Campt's A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See is deeply invested in visibility. Through close engagement with the work of nine lens-based artists variously picturing Blackness, the book boldly articulates a new way of apprehending the visual order of everyday life....For her, a Black gaze is both a way of understanding how artists work and a term for the active modes of engagement demanded of attentive viewers...The signal contribution of A Black Gaze is its call to active engagement with art that depicts Black people not as objects but as agents. For Black viewers, it offers license to be at home in one's own skin. For non-Black viewers, it issues an invitation to action, not of a performative sympathy but of rigorous reflection. Personal identifications, Campt argues, are not the only bridges viewers can build between themselves and a work of art. One can bear witness. One can trust the vision of those who can see what you may never see."
-the Washington Post Book World

"Contemporary artists from all disciplines (Khalil Joseph, Deana Lawson, Dawoud Bey) reveal the shifting role of the viewer, from onlooker to participant - engaged, even implicated in the pain and wonder of Black life."
-New York Times Book Review

"A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See is a methodological offering, a theory of what Blackness brings to making and viewing art, and to perception in general. Campt meditates thoughtfully on eight contemporary artists and, along the way, models a positively disorienting approach to visuality, compelling us to think about the interplay between Black art and the ways we exist in the world. Rather than tethering racial identity to an essentialized mode of looking, Campt describes the Black gaze as a heuristic approach to visuality."
-Art in America

"Tina M. Campt's A Black Gaze helped me see Black visual art anew."

"Campt's new book, A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See (MIT Press), elevates the theoretical examination of visceral and unsettling art through a deeply personal and fresh perspective...With every meticulous, sincere description and explanation, Campt reveals how and why we must dismantle the White gaze to uncover the profusion of a Black gaze. She forces us to embrace the sounds and vibrations of disconcerting art, a practice that is requisite for genuine study and appreciation."
-Black Art in America

"In this beautiful volume, Black feminist theorist of visual culture and contemporary art Tina M. Campt disrupts the normative passivity applied to art and artistry to build an (inter)active, intimate, radical and necessary Black gaze. "

"Campt writes with elegance and probing intellect."
-the Boston Globe

"I devoured Tina Campt's scholarly, yet accessible A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See."
-Natasha Gural, contributor to Forbes

"Tina Campt examines what it means to exist within a Black gaze and how our interaction with visual art and curation nurtures that existence. Visual artists such as Deana Lawson, Arthur Jafa, Khalil Joseph and Dawoud Bey form their work in such a way that the viewer is forced to reassess the way they see Black art, but how it makes them feel.
-The Root

"Contemporary Black artists are dismantling the white gaze. This book is an exploration of that process, through the lens of contemporary Black artists like Deana Lawson and Kahlil Joseph. Curated by Tina Campt, a professor of humanities and modern culture and media at Brown University, A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See demands that we see Blackness anew."
-Fast Company

"Campt argues for the experiential over the historical, and in doing so, offers a comprehensive survey of contemporary Black artists...throughout the book, Campt skillfully unpacks the 'labor' of reading Black perspectives (it's 'a' not 'the' Black gaze) challenging the canonical view of art that prevents real and tangible connection."
-Aesthetica Magazine

"A Black Gaze demands that we deal with the difficulties that some art produces in us, asking us to think about the vastness of contemporary Black experiences, encouraging us to sit with them and reckon with what they stir up in us...a lyrical academic text that is alive, multidirectional and clear, even while asking readers to work with the tensions inherent in the theory she builds over the book's seven verses."
-New Frame

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