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Between Nothingness and Infinity

“I feel my soul as vast as the world, truly a soul as deep as the deepest of rivers; my chest has the power to expand to infinity. I was made to give and they prescribe for me the humility of the cripple. When I opened my eyes yesterday I saw the sky in total revulsion. I tried to get up but eviscerated silence surged toward me with paralyzed wings. Not responsible for my acts, at the crossroads between Nothingness and Infinity, I began to weep.” (Fanon 1967, 119)

What if the ‘state of being’ for Black subjects lies between nothingness and infinity? What is at stake if we thus renounce our claim to be Human? Will we search for a ‘new default position’, or will we simply reclaim the idea of being Human from philosophies and discourses that excluded the Black subject? How would it be to think through the body or the ‘possibilities of the Flesh’, as described by Feminist scholar Hortense Spillers, to discover new modes of being?

Presented as part of NO HUMANS INVOLVED, an exhibition by the artist collective HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN? on view at Witte de With until 16 August 2015, the symposium brings together artists and scholars to crack open the ‘nothingness’ of the historically produced dilemma of Blackness, both as a philosophical and factual position. This position of ‘nothingness’, as outlined by critical theorist Fred Moten, is connected to a quest for new modes of existence and builds on a long history and ongoing discussion that examines how the Black subject has been systematically written out of the notion of being Human; whether via Enlightenment philosophy which denied Africans both subjecthood and history, or through the ways in which Black bodies are caught in the realm of visual representation.

With Kara Keeling (Associate Professor of Critical Studies, American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern Carolina), Dawn Lundy Martin (Associate Professor of English, University of Pittsburgh and HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?), and Alexander Weheliye (Associate Professor of African American Studies, Northwestern University). Moderated by Nana Adusei-Poku (Curatorial Fellow, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art / Applied Research Professor, Cultural Diversity, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences).

[figure Kara Keeling]

[figure Dawn Lundy Martin]

[figure Alexander Weheliye]

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Creating 010 (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences)

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