Phenomenal Difference grants new attention to contemporary black British art, exploring its critical and social significance through attention to embodied experience, affectivity, the senses and perception. Much before scholars in the arts and humanities took their recent ‘ontological turn’ toward the new materialism, black British art had begun to expose cultural criticism’s overreliance on the concepts of textuality, representation, identity and difference. Illuminating that original field of aesthetics and creativity, this book shows how black British artworks themselves can become the basis for an engaged and widely-reaching philosophy. Numerous extended descriptive studies of artworks spell out the affective and critical relations that pertain between individual works, their viewers and the world at hand: intimate, physically-involving and visceral relations that are brought into being through a wide range of phenomena including performance, photography, installation, photomontage and digital practice.
Whether they subsist through movement, or in time, through gesture, or illusion, black British art is always an arresting nexus of making, feeling and thought. It celebrates particular philosophical interest in:
- the use of art as a place for remembering the personal or collective past;
- the fundamental ‘equivalence’ of texture and colour, and their instances of ‘rupture’;
- figural presence, perceptual reversibility and the agency of objects;
- the grounded materialities of mediation;
- and the interconnections between art, politics and emancipation.
Drawing first hand on the founding, historical texts of early and mid-twentieth century phenomenology (Heidegger; Merleau-Ponty), and current advances in art history, curating and visual anthropology, the author transposes black British art into a freshly expanded and diversified intellectual field. What emerges is a vivid understanding of phenomenal difference: the profoundly material processes of interworking philosophical knowledge and political strategy at the site of black British art.
Dr Leon Wainwright is Reader in Art History, The Open University.
'A wonderfully erudite, powerfully argued, and fascinatingly researched book.'
Professor Celeste-Marie Bernier, University of Edinburgh
239 x 163 mm
45 colour illustrations
April 30, 2017
Value: Art: Politics 13