Center for the Arts and Humanities

The Black Extra/ordinary

Organized by Christina Knight
Haverford College, VCAM (Visual Culture, Arts, and Media)
October 6 & 7, 2017

“…because we are only usually singular, only the one, in an extraordinariness that from one point of view obscures suffering…and rarely ‘singular’ or ‘one’ in our putatively visible suffering or vulnerability despite that being, for some, all that there is to be seen”
–Christina Sharpe In the Wake: On Blackness and Being

This symposium, to take place on October 6-7th 2017, in Haverford College’s new VCAM facility, will center on blackness and visuality. In presenting work related to historical archives, social media, fine arts and other arenas, The Black Extra/ordinary will explore the poles of black representation, which too often telescope from spectacular accomplishment to mundane suffering with little attention to all that falls between.

Beginning on the evening of the 6th with a performative keynote address by Philly-based performance artist Jaamil Kosoko, day two of The Black Extra/ordinary will bring together artists, scholars and curators, primarily from the greater Philadelphia area, to workshop new approaches to the study, curation and imaging of blackness. The second day will conclude with an artist-led walk-through of Sadie Barnette’s Dear 1968,… exhibition at Haverford’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.

All events are free and open to the public. The Black Extra/ordinary is sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Minor in Visual Studies, VCAM (Visual Culture, Arts, and Media), the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and its Tuttle Creative Residencies Program, and the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Photo: Andrew Amorim

White State | Black Mind
Performance Keynote and Discussion with Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, and IMMA

Moderated by Christina Knight, Ph.D

7:00-8:15 p.m.
Founders Common Room
Free and Open to the Public

"We do know, however, what blackness indicates: existence without standing in the modern world system. To be black is to exist in exchange without being a party to exchange. Being black is belonging to a state organized according to its ignorance of your perspective - a state that does not, that cannot, know your mind.... It is a kind of invisibility."
- Bryan Wagner, Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery

Performance and other forms of creative practice can reimagine or reframe the world, but how does performance as an activist practice help us foreground and work through structural and systemic forms of violence and oppression, in particular as these relate to Black identities? What might queer, oblique and alternative readings of society reveal about the intricacies and multiplicities of Blackness? Jaamil Olawale Kosoko with collaborators IMMA and Jeremy Toussaint Baptiste discuss these issues and more with scholar Christina Knight.

This presentation will include a preview screening of the film White State | Black Mind: The Making of #negrophobia as well as an excerpt from Kosoko's newest work Séancers scheduled to premiere Dec. 6-9, 2017 at Abrons Arts Center in New York City. Come and join us for a discussion about Kosoko’s work and some of the broader critical issues and stakes it raises. (Please note: The film includes brief nudity and performance texts may include mature language).

White State | Black Mind is made possible through generous residency support from Haverford College, Bennington College, and the University of Sussex, Brighton with additional producing support from Sara Jane Bailes and funding support from the Princeton Arts Fellowship and independent donors and friends of Jaamil Olawale Kosoko. The film is edited by Marica De Michele with sound mixing by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

All events in VCAM Object Study/Media Production Classroom 201 unless otherwise noted.

8:30–9 a.m.


9–10:30 a.m.

Panel One: Black (Self) Fashion(ing)

Moderator: Lindsay Reckson: Assistant Professor of English, Haverford College

Imani Roach, “Good to Me as I Am to You: Soul moves from Detroit '67 to Aretha's fur.” Equal parts cultural criticism, artist's talk and homage, this paper explores the tactical interplay of restraint and abandon in soul performance as exemplified by Aretha Franklin. Reading her recent penchant for a dramatically discarded fur coat through her virtuosic recordings of the late 1960s, I consider the capacity and limitations of her body as both sonic vessel and liberatory figure.

Tanisha Ford, “Excessorizing: Black Girls, Violence, and the Pleasures of Getting Dressed.” Ford will discuss her new project on the pleasure and violence of getting dressed. Centering her presentation on Dajerria Becton, the Texas teenager who was brutally assaulted by officer Eric Casebolt on June 5, 2015, she will examine the power of the emotional and the role that trauma plays in how black girls and femmes remember their clothes and how they experience being dressed. Despite (and because of) this cycle of pleasure and violence, she contends, they continue to innovate with clothing, accessories, and hairstyling--often delighting in their own "excess."

10:30–10:45 a.m.

Coffee Break

10:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Panel Two: Displaying Diaspora: Blackness and Museums

Moderator: Juli Grigsby, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Haverford College

Brittany Webb, “Black Skin, White Gaze: On Visuality and Racialized Space.” Many institutions devoted to the collecting, researching and exhibiting of Black visual culture in the United States have origins tied to mid-twentieth century intellectual and political activism. These institutions were formed in response to the absence of Black exhibitions in major mainstream exhibiting spaces and designed to center Black history, subjectivity and creative production in their displays and in their target audiences. In this era of neoliberal cultural consumption, where diversity is now big business for most major institutions, I want to consider the ways current options for consuming Black visual culture has impacted the work of Black institutions, affecting how exhibitions presented in these spaces are read by their viewing audiences.

Monique Scott, “Exhibiting the African Imaginary.” Museums have long constructed an imaginary Africa through the reductive, metonymic and deeply embedded colonial context of the traditional anthropological exhibition. In this talk, Scott will share the research for her first book, Envisioning African Origins (2007). That work considered how visitors to exhibitions in New York City, London and Nairobi often continue to view African origins through the lens of color-coded narratives of progress from bestial African prehistory to a civilized European present. She also found that the sources of these teleological assumptions were complicated and dynamic, a product of culturally-encoded exhibition media and the cultural preconceptions that museum visitors bring with them to exhibitions, including those derived from the racial folklore circulating outside the museum that continues to stigmatize African peoples as bestial spectacle. Scott also considers how new exhibitions of African objects in Philadelphia’s art and anthropology museums both reaffirm and resist traditional approaches to exhibiting the African imaginary.

12:15–1:45 p.m.


VCAM Community Kitchen & Presentation Lounge

1:45–3:15 p.m.

Panel Three: Black Visual Art and the Political Imaginary

Moderator: William Williams, Audrey A. and John L. Dusseau Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Fine Arts, Haverford College

Kelli Morgan, “‘A Far More Familiar Figure’: How Curatorial Conversations Extend Well Beyond the Museum.” In this piece, Dr. Kelli Morgan, the Winston and Carolyn Lowe Fellow for Diversity in the Fine Arts at the Penn Academy of the Fine Arts, will discuss the cultural studies and social justice basis of her curatorial practice. Through specific examples from various exhibitions and programs she's organized, Morgan shows how historic works of American art present much more than meets the eye.

Raél Jero Salley, “Looking After Freedom: Dreams, Imagination, and Everyday Life.” The color, line, shape, mass, scale and composition of Looking After Freedom in art and visual culture is the story of this paper presentation. Central to this account is address to recent artworks by South African artists Dineo Seshee Bopape, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Zanele Muholi, and Mohau Modisekeng, which simultaneously acknowledge a (supposedly) universal sense of the distinction between abstract and concrete forms, while offering something else altogether: subjects that flicker in and out of graspable sight. This paper will examine the ways in which these artist’s pictures may be interpreted as “flickering” between extraordinary abstract forms and ordinary, mundane realisms. It will begin to suggest how critical artworks offer a substantive and independent alternative to the assumptions of critical archives that contextualize the works and their subjects in history. In this way, the artists’ contemporary visual practices participate in an ongoing, previous dialogue with a contemporary passed (and past), and subjects once again made relevant although they had been relegated to the past or to memory. My intention is to position dream work and critical imagination as promising bases for shaping looking, after freedom, so I address the complex activity of imagination, medium and body in visual imagery in ways that help to support my claim that no study of contemporary art in or out of Africa can afford to skirt these crucial issues.

3:15–4 p.m.

Coffee Break

4–5 p.m.

Artist + Curator Roundtable

Moderator: James Claiborne

Maori Karmael Holmes
Sosena Solomon
Tiona Nekkia McClodden
Jumatatu Poe

5:15–6:30 p.m.

Dear 1968,... Exhibition Walk-Through with Artist Sadie Barnette & Concluding Reception

Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Whitehead Campus Center


In Dear 1968,… artist Sadie Barnette mines personal and political histories using family photographs, recent drawings, and selections from the 500-page file that the FBI amassed after her father joined the Black Panther Party in 1968.

This immersive reimagining of the family album demonstrates that Barnette’s family story is not theirs alone. Examining the fraught relationship between the personal and the political, the everyday and the otherworldly, the past and the present, she reveals that the injustices of 1968 have not yet been relegated to the pages of history, but live on in new forms today.

Dear 1968,… originated at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis and was curated by Francesca Wilmott, associate curator. Support for its presentation at Haverford College is provided by The John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.

Visit the Dear 1968,... Site

Detail from The Living Room, 2017. Custom wall vinyl, installation dimensions variable. © Sadie Barnette. Courtesy of the Artist and Charlie James Gallery.


Sadie Barnette

Sadie Barnette is from Oakland, CA. She earned her BFA from CalArts and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally at venues including The Studio Museum in Harlem (where she was Artist in Residence), the California African American Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, The Mistake Room and Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles, and Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa. Barnette has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian UK, Artforum, Vogue, and Forbes, among other publications. Her work is in the permanent collections of museums such as The Pérez Art Museum in Miami, the California African American Museum, and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Barnette lives and works in Oakland, CA and Compton, CA.

James Claiborne

Native Philadelphian James Claiborne is a self-taught visual artist, curator and arts advocate. After spending 8 years with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance working to develop its community engagement and advocacy work, Claiborne served as the editor of, a multicultural tourism campaign for Visit Philadelphia.

Currently James Claiborne serves as the Public Programming Manager for the  African American Museum in Philadelphia—where he is charged with building thoughtful, relevant programs for adult audiences. As a curator, James has led the gallery program of black arts institution Art Sanctuary, presenting exhibits by James Dupree, Amber Arts, Richard Watson, Deborah Willis, Barkley Hendricks, among others. James also serves as a consultant, advisor and board member for several cultural groups throughout the city, including Art Sanctuary, FringeArts, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Photo: Andrew Amorim

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, originally from Detroit, MI, is a Bessie Award nominated Nigerian-American curator, poet, and time-based performance installation artist. He is a 2017 Princeton Arts Fellow, a 2017 Jerome Artists in Residence at Abrons Arts Center, a 2017 APAP Leadership Fellow, and a 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Fellow. He is a 2016 Gibney Dance boo-koo resident artist and a recipient of a 2017 and 2016 USArtists International Award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. His work has been presented throughout Europe and the United States. He has created original roles in the performance works of visual artist Nick Cave, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Keely Garfield Dance, Miguel Gutierrez and The Powerful People, Headlong Dance Theater, among others. Kosoko’s poems, interviews, and essays can be found published in The American Poetry Review, Poems Against War, The Dunes Review, Silo, Detroit Research v2, Dance Journal (PHL), the Broad Street Review (PHL), Movement Research Performance Journal, and Critical Correspondence (NYC). He continues to guest teach, speak, lecture, and perform internationally. His piece #negrophobia is currently touring throughout Europe with forthcoming dates in Belgium (Beursschouwburg) and Munich (Spielart Festival) Visit or for more information.  

Juli Grigsby

Juli Grigsby is an U.S.-based Anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Haverford College. Her areas of expertise include critical race theory, feminist and queer theory, urban ethnography, violence, women’s health and U.S Social Movements.  The past recipient of Davis Putter Fellowships and a Humanities, Arts, Science, Technology & Advanced Collaboratory Scholar (HASTAC) her photographic work has appeared in the Black California Dreamin’ journal and at the Metro Art Gallery in Pomona, California.  Her current book project is Grim Sleeper: Gender, Violence, and Reproductive Justice in Los Angeles, which explores black women’s experiences of structural violence and black women’s commitment to social transformation through reproductive justice.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden

Tiona Nekkia McClodden is a visual artist, filmmaker, and curator whose work explores, and critiques issues at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and social commentary. McClodden’s interdisciplinary approach traverses documentary film, experimental video, sculpture, and sound installations. Themes explored in McClodden's films and works have been re-memory and more recently narrative biomythography.

Kelli Morgan

Kelli Morgan, The Winston & Carolyn Lowe Curatorial Fellow for Diversity in the Fine Arts at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has recently received her doctorate in African American Studies and a graduate certificate in Public History-Museum Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As a critical race cultural historian, Morgan specializes in American art and visual culture. Her work then examines, critiques, and theorizes the ways in which American artists, art objects, art history, and art institutions both challenge and reify the systematic mechanisms of anti-Black violence and oppression in the United States. Morgan is also a recipient of awards from both the Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation.

Jumatatu Poe

Jumatatu Poe is a choreographer and performer based between Philadelphia and New York City who grew up dancing around the living room and at parties with his siblings and cousins. His early exposure to concert dance was through African dance and capoeira performances on California college campuses where his Pan-Africanist parents studied and worked, but he did not start formal dance training until college with Umfundalai, Kariamu Welsh’s contemporary African dance technique. His work continues to be influenced by various sources, including his foundations in those living rooms and parties, his early technical training in contemporary African dance, his continued study of contemporary dance and performance, his movement trainings with dancer and anatomist Irene Dowd around anatomy and proprioception, his sociological research of and technical training in J-sette performance with Donte Beacham. Through his artistic work, he strives to engage in and further dialogues with Black queer folks, create lovingly agitating performance work that recognizes History as only one option for the contextualization of the present, and continue to imagine options for artists’ economic and emotional sustainability. He is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College.

Photo: Tayarisha Poe,

Lindsay Reckson

Lindsay Reckson is Assistant Professor of English at Haverford College. She teaches and writes at the intersection of American literary and cultural studies, performance studies, media studies, and religion. She is currently at work on two book projects. The first, Realist Ecstasy: Religion, Race, and Performance in American Literature, examines the entanglements of race, reenactment, and ecstatic temporality in turn-of-the-century American realism. The second, Experimental Gestures, explores how minimal or routine gestures—touching a button, saluting a flag, going through the motions—become crucial sites of ethical inquiry in times of attenuated political possibility. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in American Literature, Arizona Quarterly, American Religious Liberalism (ed. Schmidt and Promey), the Los Angeles Review of Books, Material and Visual Cultures of Religion, The Pocket Instructor: Literature, and Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Before coming to Haverford, Lindsay Reckson was a Presidential Excellence Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Ph.D. in English from Princeton University in 2011, and her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from New York University in 2004.

Imani Roach

Imani Roach is a Philadelphia-based scholar, visual artist and musician. Across disciplines, her interests include the surveillance, consumption and containment of black emotion, vulnerability and entitlement practices in urban space, gender and the public/private divide, and aging bodies in the American imaginary. She is the Managing Editor of Artblog, an artist member at Vox Populi gallery and collective, a co-founder of The Lonely Painter Project (a bi-coastal performance collaborative), and an instructor at the University of the Arts, where she teaches the art of Africa and the black diaspora. She is also a doctoral candidate at Harvard, writing on the first generation of black South African photojournalists under Apartheid. She performs regularly as a vocalist in the soul, folk and jazz idioms.

Raél Jero Salley

Raél Jero Salley is a conceptual artist, cultural critic and art historian living and working in the USA and South Africa. Salley's work on modern and contemporary art analyses the making of visual culture and everyday imagination. Salley offers over a decade of diverse experiences in art, education, program development, research strategies, collaborative creativity and global impact.

Salley received a BFA degree from The Rhode Island School of Design in 1999, his MFA in Fine Art from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004, and a PhD in the History of Culture from The University of Chicago in 2009. He has exhibited and curated internationally. Salley is currently a Professor in Art History at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA); Visiting Faculty in African American Studies at the University of California in Los Angeles; and an Honorary Research Professor of Philosophy at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Salley’s work is represented by Gallery MOMO (South Africa).

Monique Scott

Monique Scott is an anthropologist with a career as both a scholar of museums and as a museum professional working within museums. After Monique Scott received her PhD in Anthropology from Yale University in 2004, she worked for more than ten years as head of cultural education at the American Museum of Natural History. Monique specializes in how diverse museum visitors make meaning of race and culture in museums, as well as how diverse audiences experience traditional anthropology and natural history museums as a whole, the basis for her 2007 book Rethinking Evolution in the Museum: Envisioning African Origins. Her recent research focuses on the representation of Africa in contemporary art and anthropology exhibitions—exploring the dense tension between African objects as art and artifact. At Bryn Mawr College, Monique teaches about museums in the History of Art and Anthropology Departments and is building a new interdisciplinary Museum Studies program, a model of engaged liberal arts. Monique is also a Consulting Scholar for the Africa Section at the Penn Museum, a Research Associate in Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History and is on the African-American Collections Committee at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Sosena Solomon

Sosena Solomon is an award winning social documentary film and multimedia visual artist from Ethiopia.

Intuitively selecting subjects and stories, she is particularly interested in spaces of transition and change, acting as a cultural preservationist. Her work, whether presented as a film or an immersive 3-dimensional experience, explores cross sections of various subcultures and communities in flux, carefully teasing out cultural nuances and capturing personal narratives via arresting visual storytelling and cinéma vérité stylings.

Sosena has worked for many years in the commercial and nonprofit sectors and has worked as a Director and Cinematographer on many short film projects including “Sole”, a documentary on sneaker culture that premiered on PBS affiliate MINDTV, and “MERKATO”, filmed on location in one of Africa’s largest open-air markets and exhibited internationally as an audio, visual, and sensory installation.

Sosena earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Social Documentary Film from The School of Visual Arts in New York, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Television Production from Temple University. She is a recipient of The Leeway Foundation Art and Change grant (2013) and the Transformation Award (2014).

Sosena is a freelancer currently lecturing in the Fine Arts Department at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design and in the Film and Video Department at the University of the Arts.  She has previously lectured at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication (SMC).

Brittany Webb

Brittany Webb is Curatorial and Research Assistant at the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) and a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at Temple University. Since 2012 she has worked on AAMP’s special exhibitions across several genres, including fine art, costuming, textiles and history. An anthropologist of visual culture and race, her research itinerary includes museum anthropology, material culture, exhibition history and the construction of heritage in the Americas. Her dissertation research examines Black exhibition production and its relationship to the sociopolitical landscape. She is the recipient of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Fellowship in Museum Practice and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Southern California.

William Williams

"Something happened here," you might say to yourself as you look at William Williams's photographs. Somehow, the sun soaked porch in his 1995 photo of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House is haunted by the echo of creaking floorboards where the author walked. Pictures of the Orantange River or springs in Delaware where once soldiers camped seem pregnant with stories. The viewer is obliged to re-examine the influence of terrain and architecture on the course of history when looking at Mr. Williams's photograph of Abraham Lincoln's boyhood room. Did Lincoln dream of becoming President after putting out a lamp after some late night reading? Is greatness stuck in the space between those rough beams? How could so much change be contained within such a tiny structure? Did Lincoln have any idea of the journey he was setting out on when he last passed through that sliver of a door? Mr. Williams's photos ask these questions, and in so doing bring ordinary life to larger-than-life history. Curiously, this transaction does not diminish the heroes, on which it focuses, but instead makes their achievements all the more remarkable. We can see how similar to us they were in the matter of fact aspects of life. And we can begin to wonder about what greatness, what capacity for change, and what power to pursue justice we may contain. The Esther Klein Gallery and the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia, Smith College, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio have all mounted solo exhibitions of Mr. Williams's work. His photographs have also been included in exhibitions at Historic Yellow Springs in Pennsylvania, the Baltimore Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Tampa Museum in Florida and the Princeton University Museum. Mr. Williams's photographs are on permanent exhibition at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art Washington among others. He has been honored with a grant from the Ford Foundation and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts. Mr. Williams has also received numerous faculty research grants from Haverford College, where he has been a professor of Fine Arts since 1978 and Curator of Photography since 1981.


Christina Knight

Christina Knight is Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at Haverford College as well as the Director of the Visual Studies Program. Before joining the Haverford faculty, she was a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow at Bowdoin College as well as a Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow. Knight’s work examines the connection between embodied practices and identity, the relationship between race and the visual field, and the queer imaginary. She is currently completing a book manuscript that focuses on representations of the Middle Passage in contemporary American visual art and performance. Additionally, Knight is working on a new project that examines the influences of drag culture on contemporary black art.