Coming Spring 2023 - ART 571: Frequencies of Black Life

Nov. 7, 2022

ART 571 / ENG 590 / AAS 571: Frequencies of Black Life

“The course is intended as a space for an interdisciplinary consideration of how we might use the idea of frequency as an analytic framework across multiple fields of study. Collaborative thinking is a crucial part of both my scholarship and my writing practice so it’s something I am eager to cultivate among grad students. The collaborative structure of the seminar is a teaching practice that students have found extremely generative in previous classes, and my hope is that it will be equally valuable to students enrolled in the course this year.” —Professor Tina Campt

This course takes as its starting point that Black life consists of among other things a series of discontinuous frequencies. Understanding Black life’s frequencies as both complexly material and deeply abstract, we ask: What can frequency offer us as a way of understanding Black life? What insights does it provide for responding to anti-Blackness? How might it help us to see, hear, and feel the power of Black life's irrepressible desire and drive toward creating a different kind of present and future? Lastly, how might attending to Black frequencies offer us new sites of possibility?

Part of an inter-institutional collaboration between the Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics and the Brown Arts Institute, this seminar will be team-taught by Tina Campt (art & archaeology/Lewis Center for the Arts) and Alexander Weheliye (modern culture and media/Brown Arts Institute). It engages the idea of frequency as a conceptual framework in a range of fields including sound and media studies, Black studies and critical theory, studies of the Anthropocene and social ecology, art history and criticism, and among contemporary artists working in multiple media. The seminar will include a combination of separate meetings at each respective institution, joint in-person meetings (student travel and lodging will be funded by BAI and the Princeton Collaboratorium), and joint zoom meetings. Joint in-person sessions of the seminar will be structured around conversations with guest artists and scholars who will present their work at public events and seminar meetings at the host institution.

The course will explore four overlapping layers of the multivalent frequencies of Black life:

  1. Sonic Frequencies examines intellectual and creative practices that require listening closely to how sound, technology, and space serve as conduits for the frequential possibilities of Black life.
  2. Temporality, Afrofuturism, and the Black Fantastic explore how frequency has been articulated by artists and scholars conjuring alternate worlds and realities as a core component of Afro-Futurism and ideas of the Black Fantastic.
  3. Visual Frequencies takes a multisensory approach to attending to the resonances of images that register beyond looking and seeing, focusing on questions of illumination, vibration, affective labor, and alternative calibrations of the visual.
  4. Anthropocenic Frequencies will excavate how the earth and its differing vibrations are thoroughly enmeshed in the vicissitudes of Black life. The section considers what frequency might offer for theorizing the Anthropocene and interdependent social ecologies that rely on the planet to sustain them.

ART 571 / ENG 590 / AAS 571 course details