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Circuits of Belonging: Rerouting Blackness in the Imaginary at the College Art Association

  • College Art Association Los Angeles Convention Center Drive Los Angeles, CA, 90015 United States (map)

In collaboration with the wonderful M. Liz Andrews and Noel Anderson, I am presenting a paper on the work of Julie Mehretu. Come to our panel at CAA in LA! Here is a brief description of my talk, entitled BLACK CITIES, MIGRANT MAPS: 

What are the aesthetic mappings of diasporic subjectivities? How does the diasporic subject, born in one place and moving to and from others, challenge cartographic ways of knowing space and geographic coordinates? The oversized paintings and drawings of Ethiopia-born and Detroit raised artist Julie Mehretu catalyzes these questions around spatial belonging, particularly within the multi-faceted African diaspora. Through a mediation on her series Black City (2007) and Landscape Allegories (2003-04), this paper argues for Mehretu’s works as abstracted cartographies of bodily memory, plotted through fragments of cities, gestures, and bodies visually layered onto one another. Her paintings refuse singular direction in service to deconstructing routedness and rootedness altogether. Black City and Landscape Allegories collapses the time, space, and environments of migratory patterns, and in doing so, they revise art historical understandings of what and how landscape images must represent and be interpreted. Landscape becomes a character wherein it consumes how bodies negotiate, identify and transform space, which ultimately involves relations of power. With a particular attention to how the racialized migrant moves across cityspaces, I read Mehretu’s works through the mobile frame of refugees, immigrants and migrants who have been forced to rethink belonging altogether. Importantly, this paper links form and content: the scale and method through which Mehretu creates Black City and Landscape Allegories, asks the body to spread, stretch, and reach beyond human height through physical forms of large canvases, and at the same time, the chaotic content illustrates the boundless realm of migrant cartography.