Unworlding: Architecture, Technics, and the Logic of Value

Drawing on her book, Anteaesthetics: Black Aesthesis and the Critique of Form (Stanford University Press, 2023), Rizvana Bradley reads the recent work of Sondra Perry to develop an anteaesthetic critique of the metaphysical architecture of worlding. Bradley argues for the importance of attending to the ulterior force of unworlding as a racially gendered emergence or submergence that is anterior and antithetical to worlding. The first part of the talk undertakes a reading of Perry’s immersive video installation Typhoon coming on (2018), which deconstructs the phenomenological body-subject of worldly inhabitation, and its aesthetic reproduction in and through the logic of value. The second part of the talk turns to Perry’s Flesh Wall (2016–20), which utilized ninety-two massive digital displays in Times Square to produce a media architecture from a finely modulated image of her own skin, cut, splayed, and magnified. Demonstrating that, in Perry’s work, the dissimulated ‘black body’ begins to blur into the enfleshed existence it conceals, and drawing upon deconstructionist critiques of architecture and expositions of the racial genealogy of architectural forms, Bradley argues that Perry’s Flesh Wall traces the antephenomenal existence of blackness, signaling a radical critique of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of “the flesh of the world” and the phenomenological body-subject who would inhabit this chiasmus. In short, Bradley insists that Perry’s work stages the unworlding that is vestibular to “the flesh of the world.”

Rizvana Bradley is Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies and Affiliated Faculty in the History of Art and the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as the 2023-24 Terra Foundation Visiting Professorship for American Art at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. Bradley’s book, Anteaesthetics: Black Aesthesis and the Critique of Form, was published in 2023 by Stanford University Press. Her scholarly work has been published in Diacritics: A Review of Contemporary Criticism, Film Quarterly, Black Camera: An International Film Journal, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, TDR: The Drama Review, Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, and Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. Her art criticism has also been published in The Yale Review, Artforum, e-flux, Art in America, and Parkett.