Black Atlantis

Ayesha Hameed


"Black Atlantis"
Ayesha Hameed
Lecturer in Visual Cultures
Joint Programme Leader in Fine Art and History of Art
Goldsmiths University of London

For my talk I will present a series of sounds and images that I have been collecting in an assembly that I am calling Black Atlantis. Black Atlantis looks at possible afterlives of the Black Atlantic: in contemporary illegalized migration at sea, in oceanic environments, through Afrofuturistic dancefloors and soundsystems, and in outer space.

Black Atlantis combines two discourses: afrofuturism and the anthropocene. This combination follows Phil Sternberg’s critique of discourses of the Black Atlantic, which he points out focuses on surfaces rather than depths of the ocean. As a result the wetness of the ocean is lost and thus he argues, its haptic, tactile quality is lost.

Consequently this talk takes as point of departure Drexciya, the late 20th century electronic music duo from Detroit, and their creation of a sonic, fictional world. Through liner notes and track titles, they take the Black Atlantic below the water with their imaginary of an Atlantis comprised of former slaves who have adapted to living underwater. What wetness brings back to the table is a sense of the haptic, the sensory, the bodily, and the epidermal. What below-the-water, and Atlantis brings back is the bottom of the sea, the volume of the water, the materiality of the space of the ocean, other protagonists that inhabit the sea.

Using Walter Benjamin's concept of the dialectical image Black Atlantis examines how to think through sound, image, water, violence and history as elements of an active archive; and time travel as an historical method. This essay is this structured in fragments which juxtapose the elements above in unlikely pairs, leaving the reader to trace what residues these pairings leave.

Anthropocene - afrofuturism - walter benjamin - migration