Professor Tina Campt's Dynamic Semester of Courses, Events, and Initiatives Centers on Collaboration

May 22, 2023

Collaboration was at the core of: two courses, three events, two collaborator residencies, a student exhibition, and the launch of the Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics

Jointly appointed in both the Department of Art & Archaeology and the Lewis Center for the Arts, Tina Campt concluded a Spring 2023 semester that was as dynamic and inspiring as it was full. In addition to teaching an undergraduate course and a graduate seminar, Campt launched the Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics, hosting two artists-in-residence, holding three events, and launching the Collaboratorium  section on the Lewis Center website.

Tina Campt gestures with both hands to the group sitting at table

From left: Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, Ivana Onubogu, Torkwase Dyson, and Tina Campt

Reflecting on the impact the two spring courses had on her students, Campt said, “My primary hope is that students will take away tools that will allow them to be bolder in their thinking about contemporary art and more courageous about the way they make work, in particular about working more collaboratively. My goal was to stoke their imagination about what thinking with the concept of frequency might offer in relation to the theory and practice of art and I hope that each course gives them an appetite for both.”

"My primary hope is that students will take away tools that will allow them to be bolder in their thinking about contemporary art and more courageous about the way they make work, in particular about working more collaboratively." – Professor Tina Campt

ART 571: “Frequencies of Black life”

Tina Campt speaking at head of long table full of students and guest speakers

Professor Tina Campt addresses students and guests during a collaborative workshop with Brown University as part of ART 571 (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

Graduate seminar ART 571: “Frequencies of Black life” examined frequency as a lens through which to understand Black life across 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. 

"We collectively explored various sensorial registers...to imagine possibilities beyond the limitations of the visual." – A&A Graduate Student David Saiz

In keeping with Campt’s method, the course was an inter-institutional collaboration between the Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics and the Brown Arts Initiative, team-taught with Brown University Professor of Modern Culture and Media Alexander Weheliye. “Collaborative thinking is a crucial part of both my research and my writing practice so it's something I am eager to cultivate among grad students,” said Campt. Students explored frequency in response to anti-Blackness and as a force through which to see, hear, and feel the power of Black life's irrepressible desire and drive toward creating a different kind of present and future.

Group seated around long table in discussion

Artist and guest speaker Torkwase Dyson addresses participants of the collaborative workshop with Brown University as part of ART 571 (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

“Frequencies of Black Life was an extremely enriching course,” said A&A graduate student Nicole-Ann Lobo. “Professor Campt constantly reminded us to think not just through, but beyond the visual, an important task for art historians. Our attention to bodily attunement and frequential engagement enabled an interdisciplinary approach to art and life.” Fellow A&A graduate student David Saiz agreed, “we collectively explored various sensorial registers, such as the sonic and haptic, to imagine possibilities beyond the limitations of the visual,” he said, adding that the course “offered challenging and innovative new ways of thinking.”

Two students seated at long table discussing

A&A graduate student Nicole-Ann Lobo and Kennedy Jones of Brown University participate in an ART 571 collaborative workshop (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

“Collaborating with Brown students was wonderful. It was so rewarding to meet peers from other disciplines and to learn together in the context of both the classroom and events." – A&A Graduate Student Nicole-Ann Lobo

Both Lobo and Saiz particularly enjoyed the collaborative nature of the course. “Working both on Zoom and in person, each group of students traveled to each other’s universities to meet. On the first trip, we went to Brown, and (much to our surprise) participated in a dance party DJ’ed by our class guest, artist and scholar madison moore! It was a fun moment for all of us to dance and bond,” said Saiz. “Collaborating with my group for presentations was a joy,” he added. “We all brought unique perspectives and ideas related to our various fields of research including Architecture, English, and American Studies.”

“Collaborating with Brown students was wonderful,” Lobo agreed. “It was so rewarding to meet peers from other disciplines and to learn together in the context of both the classroom and events, from watching in rapt awe the poetics of Canisia Lubrin, Dionne Brand, Torkwase Dyson, and Christina Sharpe engaging with works of art, to madison moore's DJ set in Providence, hours after discussing techno and Blackness in the seminar room. I'm really grateful to have been part of this seminar and will take so much with me.”

VIS 424/ AAS 424/ ART 479 “Radical Composition”

Max Diallo Jakobsen addresses audience in front of large screen

Max Diallo Jakobsen '24 presents a multimedia work as part of the student exhibition Sound Images: Visual Frequency and the Black Imaginary (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

In Campt’s undergraduate course, VIS 424/ AAS 424/ ART 479 “Radical Composition,” students utilized various media, forms, and practices to bridge creative modalities including textual, artistic, and speculative composition – ultimately arriving at radical composition. “By modeling and exploring collaboration as radical composition,” said Campt, the course aimed to reframe collaboration “as more than a dynamic of participation and coordination, and to recognize it as a generative methodology for producing critical scholarly and creative work.”

With collaboration again playing a central role, each week students worked together to create work in response to assigned readings. “As an artist who usually works alone, this course has been a transformative experience,” said Max Diallo Jakobsen ’24, a history major pursuing certificates in African studies and visual arts. “Working with other student artists allowed me to explore mediums beyond my comfort zone, such as sculpture, film, and visual installation, and has fundamentally shifted my artistic practice,” he said. "This course has shown me that the most remarkable achievements in art are often born out of the most radical collaborations."

Four students present during student exhibition

From left: Evan Haley '24, Max Diallo Jakobsen '24, Isadora Knutsen '25, and graduate student Sade Abiodun present their work during the student exhibition Sound Images: Visual Frequency and the Black Imaginary (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

“This course has shown me that the most remarkable achievements in art are often born out of the most radical collaborations.” – Max Diallo Jakobsen '24

Guests of the class also left lasting impressions. “All semester long, I was consistently in awe of the many opportunities to meet and engage with talented artists, curators, and scholars, all made possible thanks to the wonderful Professor Campt,” said Diallo Jakobsen. “One of the most memorable moments was the week we read Ekow Eshun's book, 'In the Black Fantastic,' and created art pieces in response to it. To our amazement, Ekow Eshun visited our class that week and interacted directly with our artworks!”

African American Studies major Isadora Knutsen '25 agreed, “The kernels of wisdom from the guest speakers, such as Ekow Eshun’s warning: ‘Beware the seductions of the archive,’ exposed us to new ways of thinking, working, and collaborating.” Knutsen said. “I remember feeling especially affected by our conversation about Kodwo Eshun’s intervention—in his essay 'Further Considerations on Afrofuturism'—that the West not only essentializes Africa’s past, but also its future. It made me interrogate what I imagine to be possible and why.”

"There were multiple days when I left Tina Campt's class feeling revolutionized." – Isadora Knutsen '25

Student gestures to lit object on low table as two other students and Professor Campt look on

From left: Professor Tina Camp, Evan Haley, Isadora Knutsen, and Sade Abiodun at the student show Sound Images: Visual Frequency and the Black Imaginary (Photo/Kirstin Ohrt)

Each class also included a critique of student work, culminating in an end-of-semester exhibition.  “One of the many highlights of the course was the weekly critique,” said Diallo Jakobsen. “Throughout the semester, we had the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions about our art pieces and projects with Professor Campt and notable visiting artists, who all offered invaluable feedback and insights.”

The resulting group show, titled Sound Images: Visual Frequency and the Black Imaginary, featured five collaborative artworks exhibited in the Forum in the Lewis Arts complex. “The student show was a fantastic way to showcase the results of our collaborative efforts, and I am proud of what we accomplished together,” said Diallo Jakobsen. “Our artworks, many of which incorporated sonic elements, resonated throughout the entire building. It was a show that you literally could not miss.”

A&A graduate student Fatih Tarhan who came to the show’s opening commented, “I was genuinely touched by each artworks' personal flavor from the students that provoked the viewers to ask themselves: who am I? I appreciated the students who actively stepped out of their comfort zones within the classroom and experimented collaboratively. Huge respect!” 

Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics

In parallel - and often conjunction with - her courses, Tina Campt also launched the Princeton Collaboratorium for Radical Aesthetics; the semester included hosting two 2023 collaborators-in-residence, holding three events, and launching the Collaboratorium section of the Lewis Center website. 

Panel of five women on stage at the Lewis Center

On stage from left: Torkwase Dyson, Christine Sharpe, Tina Campt, Canisia Lubrin, and Dionne Brand in discussion during the "Ekphrasis" event at the Lewis Center for the Arts (Photo/Hope VanCleaf, Lewis Center for the Arts)

2023 Collaborators-in-Residence Dionne Brand and Christina Sharpe participated as guest speakers and collaborators in Campt's courses as well as contributing to the Collaboratorium events, which took place at the Lewis Center for the Arts.

"Thinking from Black is a continual practice and an active state of doing and living a certain kind of work. When we think from Black, we do so not collectively, not in a single voice, but collaboratively in a multiplicity of voices embracing that multiplicity and embracing all of its incumbent tensions ruptures and specificities.” – Professor Tina Campt

The first event, "Think from Black: A Lexicon," took place from January 26th to 28th in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Centre for the Study of Race, Gender & Class of the University of Johannesburg (RGC), in collaboration with the Practicing Refusal Collective (PRC), hosted the three-day convening, which was co-sponsored by the Princeton Collaboratorium and the Columbia University Institute for Research on Women and Gender Studies.  Participants were encouraged to contribute “terms and practices that animate black life… [and] articulate the multiple/intricate textures of Blackness,” or put another way, terms that “think from Black.” 

Panel of four women seated in front of screen

From left: Christine Sharpe, Canisia Lubrin, Dionne Brand, and Tina Campt in discussion during the "Thinking from Black Part II" event at the Lewis Center for the Arts (Photo/Hope VanCleaf, Lewis Center for the Arts)

In Princeton, on April 20, Campt, Brand, and Sharpe were joined in conversation by artist Torkwase Dyson and poet Canisia Lubrin. Reflecting on their ongoing projects, the discussion, entitled “Ekphrasis: A Collaborative Experiment in Art, Writing and Thinking,” represented a meditation on the poetics of relation, questions of influence and collectivity, and the work of art and literature in the contemporary world.

The following week, on April 27, Campt, Brand, Lubrin, and Sharpe reconvened for “Thinking from Black Part II — The Practicing Refusal Collective.” Picking up where the January event in Johannesburg had left off, the group presented work from The Practicing Refusal Collective and the Sojourner Project on their collaborative publication: Think/ing from Black: A Lexicon. In this contemporary moment such a lexicon shows the continuously inventive space of Blackness. Each participant in “Thinking from Black Part II” presented new entries to the lexicon, followed by vibrant discussion involving audience members.

"Thinking from Black is a continual practice and an active state of doing and living a certain kind of work," said Campt. "When we think from Black, we do so not collectively, not in a single voice, but collaboratively in a multiplicity of voices embracing that multiplicity and embracing all of its incumbent tensions ruptures and specificities.” 

Tina Campt listens attentively

Professor Tina Campt listens to a student's comment at "Thinking from Black Part II" (Photo/Hope VanCleaf, Lewis Center for the Arts)

Infused with collaborative working, making, and thinking, the Spring 2023 semester has impacted and inspired participants. "It was a rollercoaster of excitement and challenges," said Diallo Jakobsen, "but the lessons I have learned about the immense potential of collaboration have left me forever transformed."

“It was amazing to watch both the eagerness and openness of students to embrace new ways of thinking and making and I learned immensely from the ways they work.” – Professor Tina Campt

"Professor Campt said to me at one point that collaboration is perhaps a 'more human' way of working," said Knutsen. "For me, the framework of collaboration foregrounds the ethical and political implications of not only the work itself but also of the process. I feel as though my group began to think more deeply about what we were trying to attune to, and in what registers, which transformed how we thought about the necessity of producing work." “There were multiple days when I left Tina Campt’s class feeling revolutionized,” Knutsen continued. “It was a privilege to study with Professor Campt and to be in the presence of such a brilliant thinker,” she said. 

As collaborator as well as instructor, Campt was impacted and inspired, too. “It was amazing to watch both the eagerness and openness of students to embrace new ways of thinking and making and I learned immensely from the ways they work.”