Cogut Institute for the Humanities

Black Visualities Initiative

Directed by Tina Campt, Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media, from 2019 to 2022

Black Visualities Initiative logoThe Black Visualities Initiative (BVI) queried the gendered and racialized politics of looking, seeing, erasure, and visibility. Its title is both a practice and a provocation. It is a practice that refuses to look away from the long history of precarity lived in the afterlife of slavery and encourages radical forms of active witnessing instead. It is a provocation to engage in the creation of new forms of visibility, awareness and encounter. Bringing together artists, theorists, critics, writers and poets, the BVI sought to create a generative critical space for realizing the radical possibilities of black visuality as a political praxis of living otherwise.

The BVI was launched as a signature initiative of the Cogut Institute of the Humanities at Brown when Tina Campt joined the university as the Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media in Fall 2019. The initiative became an intra- and inter-institutional collaboration through an ongoing dialogue between Campt and Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa, Graduate Program Director of Photography at RISD. The collaboration expanded to encompass RISD students through a partnership that provides robust and expansive possibilities for academic and cultural improvisation and innovation among students at both institutions.

Collaboration was the core mission of the BVI. Its impetus and commitment were first and foremost about bringing artists, students, scholars and activists into conversation to think through the role of visual culture both in relation to the long history of Black dispossession, as well as its potentially transformative role in creating new possibilities for living and imagining black life otherwise. Since racial slavery and subjugation have been foundational to American culture, they are of essential importance in any effort to cultivate a generation of thinkers and makers attentive to the disparate differences that structure American social and political life. The image, and active intentional practices of imagination are central to any liberatory future, and the BVI cultivated gatherings to collectively undertake this work.

BVI YouTube playlist

BVI was a partner in the Black Studies Mobile Academy initiated by the Practicing Refusal Collective.
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