Justin Randolph Thompson, Director of SACI's Post-Bac in Studio Art Program, will lecture at the "Black Portraitures IV: The Color of Silence" conference at Harvard University on March 24th. Speaking as a representative of both SACI and NYU Florence, he will present his paper "The Medium is the Massage: Racialized Mediums" at Deknatel Hall (Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge MA) at 10:45 am.
In 1964 Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase the “Medium is the Message”1 examining the impact of new media, television in particular, on society with the thesis that the medium’s impact on social trends and norms is far greater and profoundly more important than any singular content it may be carrying. This paper examines Blackness as a “Medium” or as a contextual carrier whose impact, frequently predetermined, on the viewer of art carries more weight than any individualized content, form or technique employed. I will dive into what I call “Illusions as Allusions” in the viewership of “Blackness” in art referencing a range of interviews conducted over the past 9 years with artists of the African Diaspora about context and cultural classification. The interviews, the majority of which were conducted in Italy, center around shifting the socio-cultural frameworks of legibility. Reflecting upon conservative hyper-contexts and the disappearing of “Black" thought, an artistic desire for critical formal engagement and aspirations for displaced limpidity frame a continuum of countercurrents that seek less restrictive viewership. Artist, Nari Ward states that "Ambiguity in Contemporary Art is the space for conversation to happen”2, what happens to that “conversation” when prescribed contexts drain work of their ambiguities?
-Justin Randolph Thompson
1_ McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding media: a McLuhan sampler. Toronto, Toronto Education Quarterly, 1964.
2_ Topal, Hagan. “Nari Ward Interview.” Vimeo, Oct. 2011, vimeo.com/35229744. Accessed Sept. 2014.