Nana Adusei-Poku: 'Black Melancholia as Critical Practice'

Nana Adusei-Poku: 'Black Melancholia as Critical Practice'

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CalArts Campus

John Baldessari Studio Building Classroom

Installation image: from Black Melancholia, June 25–Oct. 16, 2022. Hessel Museum of Art, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Photo: Olympia Shannon, 2022.

The School of Art is pleased to welcome Dr. Nana Adusei-Poku as our inaugural Rosalind Harris Visiting Critic as part of the Charles Gaines Faculty Chair program for Spring 2023.

Nana Adusei-Poku is assistant professor in African Diasporic Art History in the Department of History of Art at UC Berkeley. She is immersed in the void, the abyss, and sunken places and how those articulate themselves in texts, bodies, images, and relations. The question “What are the conditions of our existence”, which Stuart Hall asked, remains core to her journey and inspires her to embody and develop an engaged pedagogical approach and to explore the performativity of nothingness and life “in the hold”. Her research on Cultural Shifts and how they articulate themselves through the intersections of Art, Politics, and Popular Culture; Artistic productions from the Black Diasporas, and curatorial practice as a research tool to shape art historical discourses. She is the curator of the exhibition Black Melancholia at the CCS Bard Galleries, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 2022, and curated a.o. the event Performances of No-thingness at the Academy of Arts Berlin in 2018 and the program: Longing on a Large Scale in conjunction with Todd Gray’s 3xhibition Euclidean Gris Gris at Pomona College Museum of Art 2019-2020. No Humans Involved was her first co-curated project at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, which she realized during her curatorial fellowship in 2015.

She is the editor of the book Reshaping the Field: Art of the African Diasporas on Display which was published by After all in 2022. The book expands the field of exhibition histories through a selection of pioneering exhibitions that have shaped Black art today. Her first Monograph Taking Stakes in the Unknown: Tracing Post-Black Art  (2021) contextualizes the term “post-Black” in its socio-historic and cultural contexts. Her articles have been published in Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art, eflux, Kunstforum International, Flashart!, L’Internationale, multitudes, Darkmatter, Afterall, and Yale Theater Magazine a.o. and translated in English, German, Portuguese, French, and Swedish.

Headshot: Nana Adusei-Poku 

Talk: Black Melancholia as critical practice, 6:30 pm

Black Melancholia was the title and theme of an exhibition which took place last summer at the Center for Curatorial Studies Upstate New York. The exhibition brought together the work of 28 artists of African descent to expand and complicate the notion of melancholy in Western art history and cultures. Adusei-Poku aimed to open a dialogue with traditional discourses around the representation of melancholia. The exhibition pushed beyond the iconography of melancholia as an art historical subject and psychoanalytical concept to subvert highly racialized discourses in which notions of longing, despair, sadness, and loss were not only pathologized, but also reserved for white cis (fe-)male subjects. In this presentation, Adusei-Poku will introduce the audience into the larger research project in which Black Melancholia is embedded in through the exhibition itself, various case studies as well as methodological challenges in African Diasporic Art History.

Contact the School of Art if you have questions about the event and Visiting Critic program.

Special thanks to Faculty Emeritus Charles Gaines and Eileen Harris Norton Foundation for supporting this program