Phenomenal Difference grants new attention to contemporary black British art, exploring its critical and social significance through attention to embodied experience, affectivity, the senses and perception.
Much before scholars in the arts and humanities took their recent ‘ontological turn’ toward the new materialism, black British art had begun to expose cultural criticism’s overreliance on the concepts of textuality, representation, identity and difference. Illuminating that original field of aesthetics and creativity, this book shows how black British artworks themselves can become the basis for an engaged and widely-reaching philosophy.
Numerous extended descriptive studies of artworks spell out the affective and critical relations that pertain between individual works, their viewers and the world at hand: intimate, physically-involving and visceral relations that are brought into being through a wide range of phenomena including performance, photography, installation, photomontage and digital practice.
Whether they subsist through movement, or in time, through gesture, or illusion, black British art is always an arresting nexus of making, feeling and thought. It celebrates particular philosophical interest in:
- the use of art as a place for remembering the personal or collective past;
- the fundamental ‘equivalence’ of texture and colour, and their instances of ‘rupture’;
- figural presence, perceptual reversibility and the agency of objects;
- the grounded materialities of mediation;
- and the interconnections between art, politics and emancipation.
Drawing first hand on the founding, historical texts of early and mid-twentieth century phenomenology (Heidegger; Merleau-Ponty), and current advances in art history, curating and visual anthropology, the author transposes black British art into a freshly expanded and diversified intellectual field. What emerges is a vivid understanding of phenomenal difference: the profoundly material processes of interworking philosophical knowledge and political strategy at the site of black British art.
Reviews'A wonderfully erudite, powerfully argued, and fascinatingly researched book.'
Professor Celeste-Marie Bernier, University of Edinburgh
'Leon Wainwright applies a philosophical methodology to black British artists' work to break open the separatist straitjacket that has prevented much of this work from circulating in art canons as anything other than representations of a politics of identity. … [His] aim to proffer the perceptual dimension of black British art as part of a transformative anti-racist politics is admirable and the book is well researched and thought provoking.'
Maria Walsh, Art Monthly
'Cette publication qui est un ouvrage de référence crédible pour le public, les universitaires et les chercheurs, poursuitles recherches sur l’historiographie et les lieux visuels, ainsi que d’autres thèmes avec pour objectif premier de questionner la visibilité de l’art ; à savoir, comment créer un art qui suscite des questions pertinentes, qui devienne significatif, ce que Wainwright définit comme ‘un engagement esthétique plus approfondi’.''This publication is a serious work of reference for the public, academics and researchers, advancing research on historiography and visual contexts, as well as other topics, with the primary objective of exploring the visibility of art; namely, how to create an art that raises relevant questions, that becomes meaningful through what Wainwright defines as 'a deeper aesthetic commitment'.'
Suzanne Lampla, Association internationale des critiques d’art (AICA)
'Offers a thoughtful and persuasive examination of the ways in which the theoretical is necessarily underpinned and presupposed by the perceptual... [With] rich descriptions throughout the book ... Wainwright is at his best and his argument at its most convincing, as he brings his phenomenological approach to bear on works of art to unravel the complex relationships between art, artists and the viewer.'
The Burlington Magazine