Sounding the Open Secret
Fred Moten, poet and philosopher of Blackness, is among the most influent thinkers of his generation. His word created new spaces for emerging forms of black aesthetics, cultural production and social life, through the study of the history of systematic oppression, race issues and forms of resistance.
Moten will be on the stage of Short Theatre with a recital – conceived for the occasion – that revisits his poetic production. The language of poetry – and its refined opacity bordering on noise – challenge traditional poetic conventions, subordinating the semantic to the sound via instantaneous transitions between registers. His deliberate commitment to a musical poetics – meant as a political form – reveals itself through his writing, full of voices, images of aggregation, geographical locations and mentioned individuals, all assembled in an unspecified community and continuously rebuild. His production is the result of fertile interchanges, with poetry imbued with historical references and philosophical issues and the constant research of a vibrant lyricism.
In the poetry recital Sounding the Open Secret, Fred Moten voices a word that happens in the acoustic reverberation where it prepares for an open secret, on the edge of sense.
The right to love refusal: Fred Moten and politics of poetics
Fred Moten in dialogue with Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’ and Justin Randolph Thompson
Consecutive translation by Sylvia De Fanti
One of the leading contributors to the field of Black studies, Fred Moten cross-fades a political engagement around Blackness as fugitivity and Blackness as refusal with the form and function of art. Through this political-poetic practice capable of disrupting language, Moten has coined and redefined terms that have become commonly used in spaces of critical social and cultural reflection.
The dialogue places Moten in conversation with two figures advancing socially engaged work in the cultural realm in Italy as it pertains to people of African descent. Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’, a researcher and activist that employs an antiracist lens in relation to education, diffusion of marginalized narrations and intersectional fights. Justin Randolph Thompson, artist, co-founder and director of Black History Month Florence and The Recovery Plan, employs the lens of contemporary artistic production to embrace new templates for centering the histories and cultures of people African descent in the Italian panorama.
The conversation reframes the understanding of Blackness as resistance to structural racism looking to the fugitivity of semantics to assist with these forms of psycho-spiritual evasion. Blackness that Moten discusses not as racial identity, but as the possibility of rejection, autonomy and self-determination, a condition for radical transformation across the entire social spectrum.
Watch the talk here.
Fred Moten is an American cultural theorist, literary critic and poet. A Professor at New York University since 2018, he previously taught English and Afro American Studies at Riverside University in California. His work combines political theory, aesthetics and philosophy with which he investigates forms of systemic domination, class and power. Characterized by an experimental style and artistic sensibility, his prose breaks the boundaries between genres. He has written several books of poetry and criticism as In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003); Hughson’s Tavern (2009); B. Jenkins (2010); The Feel Trio (2014), finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and winner of the California Book Award; The Little Edges, finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2015); The Service Porch (2016); Black and Blur: consent not to be a single being (2017); All That Beauty (2019); and Perennial Fashion Presence Falling (2023).
Black and Blur was awarded honourable mention for the William Sanders Scarborough Prize of the Modern Language Association and the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin. The second volume of the series, Stolen Life: consent not to be a single being (2018) was a finalist for the Poetry Foundation’s Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism. He co-authored with Stefano Harney The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (2013) published in Italy by Tamu/Archive Books (2022), A Poetics of the Undercommons (2016), and All Incomplete (2021). Moten is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, the Stephen E. Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the African American Literature and Culture Society, a MacArthur fellowship and of the Roy Lichtenstein Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow. Moten is member of Wu Tsang’s performance/cinema troupe Moved By the Motion that presented its works at If I Can’t Dance in Amsterdam, the Tate Modern in London and the Whitney Museum in New York.
Mackda Ghebremariam Tesfau’ is a Social Science researcher and activist. She obtained her doctorate at the University of Padua with a thesis entitled Why don’t you take them to your house? Antiracism and everyday life in the experiences of coexistence solidarity. (Perché non li porti a casa tua? Storie di accoglienza tra rifugiati e locali), in which she analyzes racism and anti-racism in an attempt to explain the connection between everyday practices and systems of domination. Mackda is adjunct professor at the IUAV University of Venice, Stanford Florence and NYU Florence and research collaborator at the University of Padua. She is resident curator at Centrale Fies as part of the “Agitu Ideo Gudeta” artistic residency fellowship. Mackda is actively involved in the anti-racist debate in Italy, particularly in the fields of education and outreach.
Justin Randolph Thompson is an artist, cultural facilitator and educator based between Italy and the US since 1999, he is Co-Founder and Director of Black History Month Florence and The Recovery Plan. Thompson is a recipient of a 2022 Creative Capital Award, a 2020 Italian Council Research Fellowship, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, a Franklin Furnace Fund Award and a Visual Artist Grant from the Fundacion Marcelino Botin amongst others. His work and performances have been exhibited widely in institutions including The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and The American Academy in Rome and are part of numerous collections including The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Museo MADRE. His life and work seek to deepen the discussions around cultural stratification and the arrogance of permanence fostering projects that connect academic discourse, social activism and DIY networking strategies in annual and biennial gathering, sharing and gestures of collectivity
Lorenzo Mari lives and works in Bologna. He has published several books of poetry, the most recent of which is Soggetti a cancellazione (Arcipelago Itaca ed., 2022), and some essays, such as Il taccuino dell’intellettuale. Disegno e narrazione nell’opera di John Berger (Mimesis, 2020). He translates from English and Spanish, as in the case of the essay Riot sciopero riot. Una nuova epoca di rivolte (Meltemi, 2023) by Joshua Clover and the book of poetry Trilce by César Vallejo (Argolibri, 2021). He is editor of the online magazine Pulp Magazine.
The preview of Short Theatre 2023 continues with an Opening Party at EXP, one of the city’s venues where contemporary art and nightlife meet on a daily basis. we will get into the long wave of the days to come with DJ BLCKEBY and the evening’s special guest, Marseille DJ Mystique.
in collaboration with Black History Month Florence
ph. Kari Orvk
La sonora reticenza (The sounding reticence) is the title of the collection of poems by Fred Moten, translated into Italian by Lorenzo Mari with the supervision of Justin Randolph Thompson, for the third publication in the Short Books series of NERO editions. The presentation will be held on the 29th in the American Academy, for more details click here.