While the globalized mass media machine feeds us manufactured experiences fueled by the scarcity-excess axis of fear and lust, the depth, complexity and gravity of our experiences are often sugar coated, erased to death. What is the work of art in a world divided by extreme rifts and ravaged by relentless ecological, military, political and economic disasters? As we hover on the brink of apocalypse, how do we find meaning beyond these existential threats? Our collective of writers, thinkers and artists grapples with stripping away centuries of harmful intellectual and artistic systems generated by imperialism, slavery and the military and carceral industrial complex—what bell hooks described as the “imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy.” In flight from this legacy, decolonial, antipatriarchal and abolitionist perspectives re-envision the place of culture—and love—in local and global communities.
Against the cliché, dissonance echoes the chaos we are engulfed in, the lack of listening. It opens up portals towards aesthetic, theoretical and affective responses to tragedy that refuse essentialization, binaries and market logics. Noise glitches systems of control, surveillance, monitoring, trading and censorship. In Free Jazz, improvisation and play connect harmony and atonality, rhythm and its breakdown, ecstasy and melancholy, modernity with ancient traditions. This ethos has inspired us to contemplate the shocks we are experiencing through poetics—alchemizing grief into movements, rhymes, meditations, and action.
This volume’s essays dismantle Western-centric codes and narratives, opening up gaps for radical reinterpretation—imagining a freer kind of art criticism. We explored questions that directly impact our local community, and engaged with collaborators that connect contemporary theory and the world. Marcela Guerrero and Roque Salas Rivera reflect on the artistic resistance in Borinquen, otherwise known as Puerto Rico, coping and rebuilding in the aftermath of hurricanes and political upheaval. danilo machado looks at three artists who unmap familiar places in a strident critique of heteropatriarchal imperialist systems. Anabelle Johnston writes about Asian artists and poets—including Oscar Yi Hou, Ocean Vuong and Wu Tsang—attacking the lethal gaze perpetuated by pop culture, introducing vastness to identities. Re’al Christian uncovers abolitionist art as a roadmap for disobedience. Shirine Saad imagines Arab feminist aesthetics of rage as ongoing revolution and disruption rooted in the Ghazal. JaLeel Porcha captures their own racialized and gendered trauma through the blurs and accidents of self-portraits on film photographs. zuri arman talks to Alexander Weheliye about his upcoming book on R&B, Feenin: R&B Music and the Materiality of BlackFem Voices and Technology, and the importance of this genre for contemporary Black experiences. Jazzmin Imani discusses the impact of performance art in abolitionist movements, discussing Dr. Lisa Biggs’ new book, The Healing Stage: Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation (2022). And composer Vijay Iyer pens a letter to his great friend and mentor, the late visionary musician and writer Greg Tate, who inspired the making of this platform. We hope you find pleasure, inspiration and stimulation in reading these articles and the others on the site.
Perhaps these wild gestures of dreaming and undoing reveal powerful bodies of knowledge that have been buried. We might then feel the lyricism beyond the ruins, the toxic wastelands, the robotic production loop, penitentiary complexes and checkpoints. Doesn’t it exist within us all and in nature, emerging and flowing in community, expression, and care? We call this, doin’ poetics. Or, poetic justice.