Travel & See

Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s

Travel & See

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 111 color illustrations Published: April 2016

Author: Kobena Mercer

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Cultural Studies

Over the years, Kobena Mercer has critically illuminated the visual innovations of African American and black British artists. In Travel & See he presents a diasporic model of criticism that gives close attention to aesthetic strategies while tracing the shifting political and cultural contexts in which black visual art circulates. In eighteen essays, which cover the period from 1992 to 2012 and discuss such leading artists as Isaac Julien, Renée Green, Kerry James Marshall, and Yinka Shonibare, Mercer provides nothing less than a counternarrative of global contemporary art that reveals how the “dialogical principle” of cross-cultural interaction not only has transformed commonplace perceptions of blackness today but challenges us to rethink the entangled history of modernism as well.


"Travel & See benefits from a retrospective gaze; Mercer’s 30-year career gives him a judicious distance on some highly charged aesthetic movements and issues.... Mercer’s volume ... does not simply collect his past writings; it forces us to see international modernism in a way that has implications for future scholarship both within and beyond the field of black diasporic art. Travel & See posits Mercer as a chronicler not only of the field of contemporary art of the Afro-modern world, but of the inextricable ties of black diasporic and modernism itself." — Sarah Lewis, Art in America

"Travel & See is an essential addition to any art historian’s library.... With Travel & See, Mercer further establishes himself as a leading figure in the field while also modeling the type of work that still needs to be done. The volume shows how Mercer’s writing redefined contemporary art history just as much as it shows how black diaspora artists changed contemporary art." — Uchenna Itam, Shift

"Mercer's optimistic spirit encourages the reader to dare to travel in space and time in order to see better." — Maureen Murphy, Critique d'art

"Subtleties of thought and elegance of expression are characteristic of Mercer's writings, read avidly by those art historians who have sought insight into Black British Cultural Studies, increasingly influential over the last thirty years. Mercer's essays offer a welcome contrast to art-historical scholarship aimed at the specialist, and also to criticism on the contemporary arts of the African and Asian diasporas." — Amna Malik, Art History

"Kobena Mercer's work here is no less than a discourse on the transformation from multiculturalism to globalization. Beautifully marrying theoretical framings through psychoanalysis, sociology, and cultural studies with close readings of specific artists and objects, Mercer offers amazing materialist definitions of diaspora that readers will be mining for years to come. A phenomenal book, Travel & See will be incredibly useful to seasoned and new scholars alike."  — Kellie Jones, author of EyeMinded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art

"In Travel & See, his second eagerly awaited collection of writings, Kobena Mercer offers a probing and multifaceted exploration of how the dialogics of black diaspora art at once instance and reframe the deep structures of modern and contemporary culture. Featuring thematic accounts as well as essays on individual artists and exhibitions from across the globe, this volume represents a vital contribution to aesthetic discourse from a compelling writer whose journeys and reflections over the last two decades have become models of critical engagement."  — Huey Copeland, author of Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America

"In Travel & See Kobena Mercer breaks open some of our most trenchant binaries—politics and art, primitive and modern, Europe and America—by showing us that the black diaspora, with its crisscrossings of the Atlantic and its dense network of affiliations, movements, and practices, is predicated on the polyphony of difference, rather than structural oppositions. Released from this ‘either-or’ thinking, Mercer has written a trenchant yet delicate account of how artists of the black diaspora have demonstrably shaped the art of our time, bestowing it with a layered and rich meditation on some of the most pressing questions we ask of ourselves: who are we, and, perhaps, more importantly, who would we like to be?"  — Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator, The Museum of Contemporary Art

"A marvelous work, Kobena Mercer's Travel & See has the potential to introduce a whole new audience to the work of several artists of the black diaspora, while at the same time shifting our understanding of their artistic practice by radically reframing how we understand the very concept of diaspora and diasporic art. Mercer's persistent challenge to an equation of the diasporic histories of these artists with any semblance of identity or identity politics is a soaring accomplishment." — Tina M. Campt, author of Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. He is author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, editor of Cosmopolitan Modernisms, among other titles, and an inaugural recipient of the 2006 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations  ix

Acknowledgments  xiii

Introduction  1

Part I. Art's Critique of Representation  37

1. The Fragile Inheritors  39

2. Busy in the Ruins of Wretched Phantasia  50

Part II. Differential Proliferations  87

3. Marronage of the Wandering Eye: Keith Piper  89

4. Mortal Coil: Eros and Diaspora in the Photographs of Rotimi Fani-Kayode  97

5. Avid Iconographies: Isaac Julien  129

6. Art That Is Ethnic is Inverted Commas: Yinka Shonibare  147

Part III. Global Modernities  155

7. Home from Home: Portraits from Places in Between  157

8. African Photography in Contemporary Visual Culture  170

9. Ethnicity and Internationality: New British Art and Diaspora-Based Blackness  186

10. Documenta  11  207

Part IV. Detours and Returns  215

11. A Sociography of Diaspora  217

12. Diaspora Aesthetics and Visual Culture  227

13. Art History after Globalization: Formations of the Colonial Modern  248

14. The Cross-Cultural and the Contemporary  262

Part V. Journeying  277

15. Postcolonial Trauerspiel: Black Audio Film Collective  279

16. Archive and Dépaysement in the Art of Renée Green  294

17. Kerry James Marshall: The Painter of Afro-Modern Life  310

18. Hew Locke's Postcolonial Baroque  321

Bibliography  347

Index  357
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6094-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6080-3
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