Accepted Contribution:

After (Post)colonial Tragedy – Black Cinematics and Eco-Planetary Futurity  
Ashwani Sharma (London College of Commumication, University of the Arts)

Contribution short abstract:

The paper conducts a dialectical critique of abstract, poetic, archival Black essay films, such as John Akomfrah's The Vertigo Sea, with their (post)colonial temporality of 'melancholic tragedy'. Do they present a concrete negation of racial capitalism, historical futurity and utopian social life?

Contribution long abstract:

The mid-20th century optimism of Bandung and Afro-Asian independence from (neo)colonialism has been replaced by what David Scott has called ‘postcolonial tragedy’. For Scott ‘…tragic sensibility...appears pre-eminently in moments of collision of in-commensurable historical forces…Thus, far from being a period of seamless succession or transition, decolonization might well be thought of as a disorienting, inconclusive moment of rupture especially conducive to tragic consciousness.’

This paper focuses on examining the ‘out of joint’ of the contemporary by considering a significant strand of global art and screen media, which is engaging with archives, memory and history to re-imagine the temporality of western modernity and racial capitalism. In particular by positing the relationship between (post)colonialism and modernity as an ‘ecological tragedy’, can 'disjunctive', alternative, longer histories of environmental destruction and global racism be envisaged?

By especially analysing the essay film, a dominant, experimental, poetic documentary form, projects such as those of John Akomfrah’s, The Vertigo Sea(2015), and Purple(2017), Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s Serpent Rain(2017), and The Otolith Group’s The Radiant (2012) deconstruct the relationship between colonialism and histories of the environment. In these cultural works are pessimism, death, and disaster of tragic pasts constituting conditions for spatio-temporal ‘ruptures’ for a planetary futurity of hope?

The paper provides a dialectical critique of these films to examine if they are in their abstract, deconstructive forms, able to provide concrete negation of racial capitalism? Are the temporality of archival memories and melancholic tragedy able to present historical futurity and utopian social life?

Partner Event E02a
University of Sussex: Envisioning planetary futures through ethnography and multiple media
  Session 1 Wednesday 8 March, 2023, -