In the Black Fantastic

Product Details
$39.95  $37.15
MIT Press
Publish Date
7.9 X 10.1 X 1.1 inches | 2.9 pounds

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About the Author
Ekow Eshun is a writer and curator based in London. Formerly Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, he is the author of Black Gold of the Sun and Africa State of Mind.

Michelle D. Commander is Associate Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York and the author of Afro-Atlantic Flight.

Kameelah L. Martin is Dean of the graduate school of African American Studies and English at the College of Charleston.
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"In this exciting, wide-ranging collection, Eshun presents speculative art and imagery from the African diaspora with a focus on folklore and Afrofuturism and explores works such as the paintings of Kara Walker and Chris Ofili and Jordan Peele's Get Out."
--New York Times Book Review

"Eshun offers a primer on what the "Black Fantastic" encompasses: works of art that incorporate myth, fantasy and science fiction to reimagine Black culture and identity."
--The Washington Post Book World

"This gorgeous, unique book explores Black culture through wildly imaginative art and photography."
--AARP, the Magazine

"The accompanying book, published by The MIT Press, is a bold and vital collection of artists working at the dissolving boundary between real and unreal, natural and supernatural. Curator and writer Ekow Eshun defines the Black fantastic as "works of speculative fiction that draw from history and myth to conjure new visions of African diasporic culture and identity," writing in his illuminating introduction of the way W.E.B. Du Bois's concept of "double consciousness" serves as "a prompt for Black people to imagine ourselves on our own terms." Besides an electrifying range of artwork, the book includes essays on Black feminist voodoo aesthetics, "Flying Africans, Technology, and the Future," and "Race in Space.""
--The Boston Globe

"Science Fiction and fantasy have long been understood as genres in which we can at once critique the existing social order and imagine a better one. In a contemporary world defined by crisis and chaos, the allure of these creative modes has grown even more powerful. And if you look at today's cultural landscape, you will find it saturated with a turn to the speculative and fantastic, splashed across everything from Marvel's box office ubiquity to TV dramas like "Eshun recycles and reconfigures elements of folklore, science fiction, spiritual traditions, ceremonial pageantry, and the legacies of Afrofuturism in this exploration of Black culture. The three sections--"Invocation," "Migration," and "Liberation"--feature works from leading artists such as Ellen Gallagher, Chris Ofili, and Kara Walker, and dozens of others, and celebrate the ways that Black artists draw inspiration from African myths, beliefs, and knowledge systems."
--Publishers Weekly

"Based on the first British exhibition dedicated to the work of imaginative Black artists (such as Nick Cave and Kara Walker) who incorporate fantasy, myth, sci-fi folklore and Afrofuturism to push boundaries and reimagine identity."
--The Globe & Mail

"Fortunately, for anyone who missed the show, this new book, edited by curator Eshun, provides not only a stunning approximation of the original spectacle but adds layers of historical context and conceptual insight..."It explores a vast territory of human experience, pursuing extremes of pain and hope in a dizzying array of concepts that flout conventions and expectations. In this sense, In the Black Fantastic is overwhelming in the most invigorating way possible, accruing an atmosphere of images and ideas that requires an iterative reading and viewing practice. The key, perhaps, is in the title: In the Black Fantastic beckons you into an immersive mode and mindset. While no book could capture what it must have felt like to be in the exhibition itself, this volume comes as close as any could. I spent hours turning these pages, returning repeatedly to the always surprising shuffle of images in-between my time with the text, often starting over to view the whole book anew after finishing reading a particular section. Never, even after all the words were done, did I feel a total comprehension of what I had viewed. Indeed, because, eluding paraphrase, the visual wealth of In the Black Fantastic must be seen and experienced to be appreciated."
--Full Stop

Reviews for In the Black Fantastic Exhibition at Hayward Gallery in the UK

"Eshun's Black Fantastic is an attempt -- informed by conversations he had with the exhibition's artists -- to define Black creativity and imagination on its own terms...At its core, the Black Fantastic grapples with a paradox every marginalized community faces: how to acknowledge the "other" as a construct while also celebrating the unique power of difference, and the imagination that pours forth from it. As a result, many of the works exhibited at the Hayward land somewhere between joy and grief, with jubilance and the macabre meeting in a soaring, melancholy overture."
--the New York Times

"Visually stunning, intellectually cohesive. Ekow Eshun's exhilarating exhibition shows black art on the move and creating fresh idioms."
--the Financial Times

"In the Black Fantastic at Hayward Gallery review: Unlikely to be a better show this year. This fascinating collection of artistic work is immediately stimulating yet deeply resonant."
--Evening Standard

"If we are to move towards a truly decolonized art world then we must realize that it should not require an artist to fit neatly or repeatedly into a category - especially those narrowly defined by geography, gender or any other shallow definition. Nor should it shoehorn artists into art historical movements and philosophies that deny their full human experiences. We must resist the trappings of the canon. Exhibitions like this show us how."
--The Guardian

"In the Black Fantastic Is The Must-See Exhibition Of The Summer. On 29 June, the Hayward Gallery hosted the opening of the highly anticipated new exhibition In the Black Fantastic. Curated by Ekow Eshun, the writer, broadcaster and chair of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group, it is the UK's first exhibition dedicated to the work of Black artists who use the realm of the fantastical - including mythology, folklore, spiritual traditions, science fiction and Afrofuturism - to explore racial injustices and identity. In Eshun's own words, it's "a way of acknowledging, a way of looking at the racialised everyday beyond the constraints that the Western imaginary has put around Black beings, Black personhood and Black experiences." He continues: 'In a world where we are constantly, as Black people, subject to the fantasies and myths of others, one of the ways through for us is to embrace the fantastic. Not as an escape from reality, but as a way to explore further the possibilities and the imaginative reaches of our own experience of being. Essentially, In the Black Fantastic is about saying there is no finite criteria or barrier to what being Black looks like.'"
--British Vogue

"In June, London's Hayward Gallery opened 'In the Black Fantastic' to immediate acclaim. Vogue hailed it the 'must-see exhibition of the summer, ' and the Guardian raved 'spectacular from first to last.' If you can't make it to the show, which features 11 artists of the African diaspora, before it closes Sept. 18, you might consider picking up curator Ekow Eshun's companion book. The book includes images of art in the exhibition, by the likes of Kara Walker and Nick Cave, as well as other works that explore similar worldviews. Eshun offers a primer on what the "Black fantastic" encompasses: works of art that incorporate myth, fantasy and science fiction to reimagine Black culture and identity."
-Washington Post