Professor Tina Campt Launches Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics

April 12, 2023

Under the leadership of Princeton University’s Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor of Humanities Tina Campt, the Lewis Center for the Arts and Department of Art and Archaeology have launched the Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics. Two special events will inaugurate the new initiative on April 20 at 7:00 p.m. in the Forum at the Lewis Arts complex and April 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the CoLab at the Lewis Arts complex. The events are free and open to the public. The Forum and CoLab are accessible venues. Guests in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at [email protected] at least one week prior to the event date.

Tina M. Campt

Professor Tina Campt (Photo/Dorothy Hong)

Campt, a noted Black feminist theorist of visual culture and contemporary art, joined the Princeton faculty in July in a dual appointment between the Lewis Center and the Department of Art and Archaeology. Most recently, she served as the Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she led the Black Visualities Initiative at the Cogut Institute for Humanities. She is founding convener of the Practicing Refusal Collective and the Sojourner Project. Her early work theorized gender, racial, and diasporic formation in Black communities in Europe and southern Africa, and the role of vernacular photography in historical interpretation. Campt has published five books including A Black Gaze (MIT Press, 2021); Listening to Images (Duke University Press, 2017); Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (Duke University Press, 2012); and Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (University of Michigan Press, 2004). Her co-edited collection, Imagining Everyday Life: Engagements with Vernacular Photography (with Marianne Hirsch, Gil Hochberg and Brian Wallis Steidl, 2020), received the 2020 Photography Catalogue of the Year award from Paris Photo and Aperture Foundation.

Campt notes that while collaboration is celebrated in many contexts, the actual work of intellectual and creative collaboration is rarely discussed or modeled. The Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics fills this gap by creating a space for scholars and artists to think, work and create collaboratively, allowing students to learn what collaborative processes look like from the inside and develop invaluable skills for their own creative and scholarly practice. It convenes multidisciplinary and multi-modal configurations of artists, scholars, writers, curators, performers, and practitioners interested in exploring the radical possibilities and transformative potential of reinventing aesthetics through innovative approaches to making and thinking about art.

The Princeton Collaboratorium will be a co-curricular space driven by innovative research, ideas, and imagination. Unlike earlier invocations of the term in the context of scientific inquiry, empirical or quantitative research and data do not serve as its driver. Conceived as a studio space modeled on the artist’s studio, the project is designed as a platform for incubating collaborative thinking and making that merges history, theory and creative practice.

The Princeton Collaboratorium will host public dialogues and seminars that explore what might constitute a radical aesthetic and what such a redefinition of this concept might yield for research, teaching, and learning at Princeton and beyond.

On April 20 the Collaboratorium will host a conversation between longtime collaborators interdisciplinary artist Torkwase Dyson and poet Canisia Lubrin and 2023 Collaborators-in-Residence Dionne Brand and Christina Sharpe. Reflecting on their ongoing projects, the discussion, entitled “Ekphrasis: A Collaborative Experiment in Art, Writing and Thinking,” will be a wide-ranging meditation on the poetics of relation, questions of influence and collectivity, and the work of art and literature in the contemporary world.

On April 27, “Thinking from Black Part II — The Practicing Refusal Collective,” will feature a conversation with Brand, Sharpe, Lubrin, Campt, and Francoise Vergès on the work of The Practicing Refusal Collective and the Sojourner Project on their collaborative publication: Think/ing from Black: A Lexicon, a book that imagines a set of words, terms and practices from some of the manifold positions of blackness that locate and animate black life. They will discuss what it means for the Collective and its collaborators to undertake such a lexical endeavor, while offering their own reflection on their contributions to the project. Think/ing from Black is at once a lexicon, a collection of definitions, and a set of practices found in and arising out of the languages and experiences that speculate on the im/possibility of living free. Consisting of long and short entries from writers and artists from around the world—North America, Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and elsewhere—these terms enunciate an evolving lexicon for understanding the modalities through which blackness sustains and regenerates itself in the face of multiple manifestations of antiblackness in times and spaces where and when black people seek to live unbounded lives. The Black Diaspora has generated many languages and concepts that influence, shape and intervene in modernity, many terms and references. The Lexicon seeks to define some of those concepts, both as quotidian practices and the specialized bodies of inherited knowledge. Words and concepts that may have meanings in a “general” lexicon hold other meanings in a Black lexicon. In this contemporary moment such a lexicon shows the continuously inventive space of Blackness.