Full-program video: The Black Aesthetic: April 26, 2018
Highlight video clips: Leila Weefur, from "The Dialectics of Black Space" | Ryanaustin Dennis, from "Three Gestures on Blackness"
"Our intention is to offer constructive speculation; our earnest hope to take up the love labor of the Black canons that laid these foundations in the past and provide guidance for the future."
— Zoé Samudzi, Introduction to The Black Aesthetic Season II
An evening of readings, performances, and conversations with The Black Aesthetic. This group of writers and artists started their work together around a series of film screenings, in the space at E. M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore in downtown Oakland. Their first publication, The Black Aesthetic Season One: Black Women in Film, emerged out of the dialogue that started to happen around their viewing of undeniable classics of independent Black cinema, works that were met with acclaim when released, and then became hard-to-find rareties. That publication struck a nerve, and quickly sold out. Their follow-up, The Black Aesthetic Season II, just appeared this Spring 2018, and it's an even more extensive assembly of original writings and photo-works in response to a new series of films (100 Boyfriends Mixtape by Brontez Purnell, Breathless by Anaiis Cisco, Day by Day and Man Who Feared by Jehnovah Carlisle, I gave myself space to go back by Yetunde Olagbaju, Good White People by Jarrod Willing-Cann & Erick Stoll, Short Films by Summer Mason, Lucid Noon, Sunset Blush by Alli Logout). We're devoting an evening to the artists who initiated these crucial conversations.
Jamal Batts is a doctoral student in the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley, with a Designated Emphasis in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. His work considers representations of morbidity, death, and disease in black and queer performance and visual culture.
Ryanaustin Dennis Founding member of The Black Aesthetic, Ryanaustin Dennis is an Oakland based curator/artist/writer. His practice is concerned with how 20th and 21st century experimental performance, film, and writing histories are shaped by the metaphysics of blackness. He has done curatorial work for E.M. Wolfman Bookstore and is a Southern Exposure Curatorial Council Fellow. He is currently working on a manuscript How to Bend a Nigger.
Malika "Ra" Imhotep is a black feminist writer/root worker from Atlanta, GA currently pursuing a doctoral degree in African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her thinking engages black femme performance aesthetics and cultural production throughout the Black Diaspora. Her creative praxis is invested in a textual and performative enjoyment of undisciplined movement, the historical present, black obscenities, black spiritual practices and other blackityblk happenings.
Zoé Samudzi is a writer whose work has appeared in a number of spaces including The New Inquiry, Warscapes, Truthout, ROAR Magazine, Teen Vogue, and Bitch Media, among others. She is presently a Sociology PhD student at the University of California, San Francisco in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her academic work includes biomedicalization theory, structural productions of race and gender, and transgender health. www.zoesamudzi.com
Leila Weefur lives and works in Oakland, CA. Weefur received her MFA from Mills College in 2016. She uses video and printmaking to investigate the phenomenology of Blackness. With materials and visual gestures that access the tactile memory she explores the abject, the sensual and the nuance found in the social interactions and language with which our bodies have to negotiate space. She is a recipient of the Hung Liu award, the Murphy & Cadogan award, and recently completed an artist fellowship at Kala Art Institute. Weefur has exhibited her work in local and national galleries including Southern Exposure and SOMArts Gallery in San Francisco, Betti Ono in Oakland, and Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, New York. She is the Audio and Video Editor in Chief at Art Practical. www.leilaweefur.com
From their website: "The Black Aesthetic is a creative organization, whose mission is to curate and assemble both a collective and distinct understanding of Black visual culture. We pose the question: What is the Black aesthetic sensibility and what does it look like to you?
"By working with artists, writers, filmmakers, and designers. We cultivate work that asks our audience to consider their relationship to Black art. Based in Oakland, we are invested in developing a community who will participate and engage with our mission. When you support The Black Aesthetic, you are actively supporting a network of Black Artists. Through film screenings, publications, and product development we want to add to a growing collection of artistic visions that are grounded in place, body, lived-experience, and are responsive to its respective environment." More here.
Photo: Lance Yamamoto, East Bay Express.
Front, left-right: Zoé Samudzi, Leila Weefur, Malika “Ra” Imhotep. Back, left-right: Jamal Batts, Ryanaustin Dennis.