<p>Rajkamal Kahlon, <em>This Bridge Called My Back, </em>2019, detail, courtesy of the artist</p>
<p>Rajkamal Kahlon, <em>This Bridge Called My Back, </em>2019, detail, courtesy of the artist</p>

No. 29: Images and Imageries of Race: Histories

Managing editors: Katarzyna Bojarska,

Rajkamal Kahlon, This Bridge Called My Back, 2019, detail, courtesy of the artist

This issue was supported by the Film School in Łódź, Polish Studies Department of the University of Warsaw, and the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, from the Fund for the Promotion of Culture.

Table of Contents

Introduction

  1. To Imagine History

    ”To Imagine History”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2364

    Introductory comments to the issue devoted to images and imageries of race, racism, and blackness from a historical perspective.

    keywords: race; whiteness; blackness; universalism; history; racism

Viewpoint

  1. The Invisible. History of the Impossible

    Agata Grzybowska, ”The Invisible. History of the Impossible”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2374

    Presentation of Agata Grzybowska's The Invisible. History of the Impossible

    keywords: Haiti; history; vodou; revolution; race; blackness

  2. The Invisible. White Women and Haiti

    Dorota Sajewska, ”The Invisible. White Women and Haiti”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2363

    The article accompanies a project Invisible by photographer Agata Grzybowska. The author runs a parallel narrative of Grzybowska's visual practice and Maya Deren's presence in Haiti, her filming and her negotiating the "look" on Haiti and its people. 

    keywords: Haiti; Agata Grzybowska; Maya Deren; spirituality; vodou; photography

Closeup

  1. Chagall’s Green and Yellow Jews: Painting Race in Russia and Post-Dreyfus France

    MC Koch, ”Chagall’s Green and Yellow Jews”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2334

    In early twentieth century Paris, the Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall began a series painting Eastern European Jews in hues of green, yellow, and red. The paintings were based upon Chagall’s childhood memories, as well as his personal encounters with Jews in the shtetl. They were also portraits of a universal social type. I argue that Chagall’s experiences as a Jew in both France and Russia influenced this series. He repeatedly depicted archetypes of the Jew such as Rabbis and klezmers. Yet he visibly altered these archetypes via non-naturalist hues of green, yellow, and red. This play on skin color served to both signify and destabilize perceptions of racial differences that underscored French and Russian society at the time. These perceptions included a range of Jewish phenotypes, and, particularly in France, took their most extreme form in the dichotomy between blackness and whiteness. Chagall’s multicolored images of Jews illuminate the roles of both the individual and the collective imagination in shaping these perceptions of race. As such, these paintings offer a compelling view of racial identity as existing somewhere between the psychic and the social. That is, they reveal racial identities as phantasms—illusions that, despite their immaterial nature, are linked to the social sphere. In emphasizing this phantasmatic aspect of race, they offered a form of political resistance to the racial politics that, coursing through post-Dreyfus France and Russia, would have widespread and devastating consequences on Jews and other dispersed populations throughout Europe in the decades to come. In more general terms, this analysis of Chagall’s paintings of Jews demonstrates the power of art and visual culture as a means of both producing and reconfiguring notions of identity within political and social spheres.

    keywords: identity; phantasm; Marc Chagall; race; Jewish

  2. Ashantis in Warsaw: Notions of “Blackness” in Polish Society at the Turn of the 20th Century – A Preparatory Contribution to Polish Colonial History

    Agata Łuksza, ”Ashantis in Warsaw”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2344

    The author recognizes Włodzimierz Perzyński’s comedy Aszantka as a meaningful remnant of „blackness” in the history of Polish theatre, and therefore she uses it as a point of entrance into a broader inquiry about the entanglement of Polish society into European colonial project, and the ideas, values, and cultural practices it entailed. That is why in the article the author attempts to reconstruct possible concepts and images of “blackness” which Warsaw dwellers might have shared at the end of the 19th century by analysing the reception of the performances of alleged representatives of Ashanti people in the Warsaw circus in 1888. From “Ashanti” performances on, the popularity of this type of entertainment – so called ethnographic shows or human zoos – grew in the colonized capital of the Kingdom of Poland. The author points to “savageness” and “nakedness” as constitutive traits of “blackness” which she understands as a specific human condition, experienced both by overseas colonized societies as well as subaltern social groups (to which “Aszantka” from Perzyński’s comedy belonged) in European societies.

    keywords: Ashanti; colonialism; ethnographic shows; race; Warsaw

  3. “Stranger in One’s Own Country”: Afro-Germans and Post-Unification Memory Contests in Laura Horelli’s "Namibia Today" and the Works of Ingrid Mwangi Hutter

    Justyna Balisz-Schmelz , ”"Stranger in One's Own Country"”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2341

    The article offers an analysis of the situation of black German men and women after 1989 in the context of post-unification contests of memory. In contrast to the wide-spread and relatively consensual policy of remembering the Second World War and the Holocaust, which was aimed at unification of the German society divided for 40 years, the works of Laura Horelli and Mwangi Hutter discussed in the article are examples of alternative discourses around the definition of the contemporary German identity. They question the dominant and coherent narratives present in numerous post-unification publications and exhibitions treating the specificity of Germanness and German art, and constitute an appeal to broaden the symbolic borders of Germanness.

    keywords: Afro-german men; Afro-german women; German memory contests; postunification Germany; black Germaness; German identity

  4. The King's Two Bodies

    Darby English, ”The King's Two Bodies”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2370

    The article is a chapter of Darby English's book To Describe a Life. Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror, University of Chicago Press, 2019. It focuses on the analyses of Martin Luther King's interratial rhetoric and its usefulness for the attempt to rethink historical accounts of his time. The argument is based on the close reading of a miniature of the Lorraine Motel (the place of King's assasination), created by Boym Partners in 1998. English's aim is to question the dominance of the separatist vision of Black identity by reelaborating the memory of the peace protest movement and its cultural stakes. 

    keywords: Martin Luther King; interracialism; peace movement; Black identity; contemporary art

Perspectives

  1. Whose West and Whose Universal? Ana Teixeira Pinto in conversation with Katarzyna Bojarska

    Ana Teixeira Pinto, Katarzyna Bojarska, ”Whose West and Whose Universal?”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2349

    A conversation with Ana Teixeira Pinto, a co-curator of "The White West", a series of conferences, podcasts, publications and interventions.

    keywords: white west; universalism; racism; capitalism; art; fascism; supremacy

  2. Story, Cartography, Imagination. Towards a Non-Eurocentric History of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź

    Jakub Gawkowski, Natalia Słaboń, ”Story, Cartography, Imagination”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2346

    This article, a glimpse into the rich history of Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, focuses on artworks and stories which help to broaden the usual Eurocentric narrative about the institution. First part of the article is devoted to the paintings by Guyanese artists Frank Bowling and Aubrey Willams donated to the Muzeum Sztuki in 1975. Analysis of the works and biographical facts reveals how the paintings can be interpreted as testimonies of the era of the 1960s decolonization. Second part of the article focuses on the historical collaboration of Muzeum Szutki with institutions in Central and South America. Among others, this text tells the story of Muzeum Sztuki’s contribution to international project of Museo Internacional de la Resistencia Salvador Allende and asks how this history can be utilized for a political imagination today.

    keywords: Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź; decolonisation; Frank Bowling; Aubery Williams; Museum of Salvador Allende

Panorama

  1. America’s Fascination With The Ku Klux Klan. “BlacKkKlansman” and “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America”

    Aleksandra Jehn-Olszewska, ”America’s Fascination With The Ku Klux Klan”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2329

    Because of the rich historical and cultural associations, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a subject frequently represented by American filmmakers. After a short historical introduction about the group, this article explores the past and present shape of KKK’s representation in film and relates it to the discourse on race and ethnicity representation in the United States. It conducts a comparative examination of two contemporary cinematic productions: Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (2018) and Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America (2016) directed by Matthew Ornstein. Both pictures tell the stories of a controversial close relation of a black man with KKK. The conscious aesthetic and meta-cinematographic techniques employed by the films are analyzed through the lens of the two related concepts: Brecht’s reflective spectatorship and Shklovsky’s defamilarization in art. The aim of these techniques is to create a sense of distance in the spectators in order to address them as conscious and reflective subjects. In this way the two films shock the audience with the question of what happens if a black person becomes a member or a friend of the Klan? The two stories challenge the long-established ideology and traditional image of the the white hood.

    keywords: Ku Klux Klan; race in American film; reflective spectatorship; Spike Lee; BlacKkKlansman; Daryl Davis

  2. Colorblindness and Masculinity: "Lethal Weapon" and the Construction of a Postracial Reality

    Jakub Olech, ”Colorblindness and Masculinity”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2337

    Hollywood buddy cop action films reached great popularity among American audiences of the 1980s. The genre offered something more than entertainment: it offered a vision of a country where race was no longer a meaningful concept – a vision of a post-racial society. In the wake of the biggest protests against racial injustice in decades, which in 2020 swept the United States and spread to parts of Europe, it is worth revisiting the genre which significantly contributed to the development of popular imagination about race. This article provides a closer look at a staple of the buddy cop genre, the 1987’s Lethal Weapon. While ostensibly a progressive production, a deeper analysis shows the film to not only call upon traditionally racist portrayals of black people, but to justify a color blind approach to policing. Thus, the article shows how Hollywood worked to disavow the racialized reality of the 1980s. This disavowal is very much a current in society today.

    keywords: popular cinema; action film; racism; war on drugs; color blindness; post-racial society; United States

  3. On the Fever of the Stefania Gurdowa's Photographic Archive. A Polemic with Dariusz Czaja

    Wojciech Michera, ”On the Fever of Stefania Gurdowa's Photographic Archive”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2326

    In 1997, in the attic of an apartment building in Dębica, a collection of over a thousand glass negatives was discovered. These were portraits of the town's former inhabitants taken by pre-war photographer Stefania Gurdowa. The article is a polemic with Dariusz Czaja, who desires to “bring back life” to these photographic figures. The author of the article emphasizes the materiality of the photographic images and their irreducible alienness, which requires, first and foremost, a restrained cognitive approach. The key interpretative category here is developed from the notion of archeological “treasure” which is treated as a phantom deposit that cannot be wholly retrieved and „archived”. So the concept of „archive fever” (or rather „pain”, „sickness”) of Jacques Derrida also becomes a vital point of reference.

    keywords: photography; archive; Stefania Gurdowa; portrait; glass negatives; death; memory

Snapshots

  1. "Nothing Other Than Dependence Exists.” A Reflection on Historicity

    Katarzyna Bojarska, ”"Nothing Other Than Dependence Exists.””, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2360

    This article is an attempt to critically compare and discuss two exhibitions held simultaneously in Warsaw: Tu Muranów (Polin) and Rhizopolis (Zachęta). The author looks at the evolution of the practices and philosophies of two artists, Joanna Rajkowska and Artur Żmijewski, from their joint trip to Israel/Palestine at the beginning of the 21st century to the present-day realisations interpreted as a stage in their work with memory, historicity and space. 

    keywords: Joanna Rajkowska; Artur Żmijewski; art; memory; underground; historicity

  2. Not only Frederick Douglass. Photography, modern visual culture, and the politics of race in nineteenth-century America

    Łukasz Zaremba, ”Not only Frederick Douglass”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 29 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.29.2366

    Critical discussion of books Visualizing Equality. African American Rights and Visual Culture in the Nineteenth Century by Aston Gonzalez, published by The University of North Carolina Press in 2020 and Exposing Slavery. Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America, by Mathew Fox-Amato, published by Oxford University Press in 2019.

    keywords: American slavery; XIX c.; photography; lithography; abolitionism; race politics; early-modern visual culture; abolitionist iconography