Named one of the Top Books of 2023 by FRIEZE.
In Anteaesthetics, Rizvana Bradley begins from the proposition that blackness cannot be represented in modernity's aesthetic regime, but is nevertheless foundational to every representation. Troubling the idea that the aesthetic is sheltered from the antiblack terror that lies just beyond its sanctuary, Bradley insists that blackness cannot make a home within the aesthetic, yet is held as its threshold and aporia. The book problematizes the phenomenological and ontological conceits that underwrite the visual, sensual, and abstract logics of modernity.
Moving across multiple histories and geographies, artistic mediums and forms, from nineteenth-century painting and early cinema, to the contemporary text-based works, video installations, and digital art of Glenn Ligon, Mickalene Thomas, and Sondra Perry, Bradley inaugurates a new method for interpretation—an ante-formalism which demonstrates how black art engages in the recursive deconstruction of the aesthetic forms that remain foundational to modernity. Foregrounding the negativity of black art, Bradley shows how each of these artists disclose the racialized contours of the body, form, and medium, even interrogating the form that is the world itself. Drawing from black critical theory, Continental philosophy, film and media studies, art history, and black feminist thought, Bradley explores artistic practices that inhabit the negative underside of form. Ultimately, Anteaesthetics asks us to think philosophically with black art, and with the philosophical invention black art necessarily undertakes.
About the author
Rizvana Bradley is Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Anteaesthetics is the study of black aesthetics I didn't know I sorely needed. Bradley offers a razor-sharp and sumptuous meditation on black aesthetics in, through, and vestibular to an anti-black world."
—Alexander Ghedi Weheliye, Brown University
"Rizvana Bradley's searching theory of black aesthesis traces black art's recursions through the violent origins of the aesthetic. Anteaesthetics opens a mode of reading for black art's non-instrumental exploration of abyssal descent. An incisive and energizing book through and through."
—Rei Terada, University of California, Irvine
"In this brilliantly conceived and exquisitely rendered study, Bradley offers a path-breaking analysis that will revolutionize how we approach, contest, and undo the Western visual field. Anteaesthetics offers an indispensable and undisciplined new frame for black feminist theorizing."
—Huey Copeland, University of Pennsylvania
"Incisive and compelling, Bradley's Anteaesthetics restores to thought and feeling a capacious sense of the aesthetic, revealing its tremendous and violent power as nothing less than foundational to a racially typified modern world."
—Shane Denson, Stanford University
"Anteaesthetics limns the depths of aesthetic and semiotic violence, refocusing our theoretical vision. This is an indispensable text—a tour de force."
—Calvin Warren, Emory University