Unraveling Politics/Contemplating Death: African Diasporic Performance Art and Contemporary Cultures

Myron Beasley’s work is about repositioning and reframing artists as cultural workers who engage in communicative actions that both translate and participate in their contemporary cultural politics. As an ethnographer, his work (also as a cultural critic and curator) is always informed by local culture and local epistemologies as to make sense of such work. In so doing, his writing is generative and forms a critique of Western ways of viewing and reading artistic production particularly from the African Diaspora. His presentation draws from his writing and research during the SAVVY Contemporary residency from his book project on the necropolitics and performance art in the African Diaspora.

Specifically the text is a collection of critical ethnographic essays as art criticism that interrogates the interrelationship between death and politics in the contemporary art of the African Diaspora. He engages with performance artist as cultural workers and theorists. Through performance and critical theory, he unravels the complex and multilayered concept of necropolitics as contemplated by Foucault and further developed most recently by Achille Mbemebe.

Myron Beasley, Ph.D. is a scholar, curator and performance artist. He lectures in the areas of Cultural Studies, African American Studies, and Women and Gender studies as associate professor at Bates College, USA. His ethnographic research includes exploring the intersection of cultural politics, art and social change, as he believes in the power of artists and recognize them as cultural workers; He has been awarded fellowships and grants by the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and most recently the Ruth Landes Award from the Reed Foundation, for his ethnographic writing about art and cultural engagement. The Ghetto Biennale (Haiti), CAAR Paris (France) are two examples of his curatorial work. His writing has appeared in many academic journals including The Journal of Poverty, Text and Performance Quarterly, Museum & Social Issues, The Journal of Curatorial Studies and Performance Research. At SAVVY he will be researching/writing his book on the topic of Ethnography, Necropolitics and Performance Art in the African Diaspora of which he was awarded the Ruth Landes Award to support this endeavour.