Louis Chude-Sokei: Robot Means Forced Labor 2: Race and the Desires of Objects

This online lecture accompanies Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s exhibition “Inner Child” at Bergen Kunsthall.

The very drive to manufacturing a future in the West, one that depends on bodies and labor while promising escape from bodies and labor, ensnares technology in the problems of its past. This is precisely why metaphors of race, sex, labor, and reproduction—central to how bodies are imagined – are likely to entangle us forever in the material problems of imagining and inventing a future. These intersecting metaphors may depend on modern/modernist traditions of artistic representation for their cultural legibility as well as Science Fiction; but they are largely product of a drive to embodiment that is older even than modernity. Yet like Science Fiction, they would come to cultural and material fruition in the context of industrialism and chattel slavery in the 19th century. In that latter context the rhetoric and legal parameters of personhood would help suture the historical and material relationships between race, sex, labor, and machines.

What are the roles of race, sex, and desire in the rendering of certain bodies? And what role do bodies play in the movement from brute object to rights-bearing subject, from inhuman thing to potentially equal human being?

Louis Chude-Sokei is writer and scholar who teaches at Boston University and directs the African American Studies Program. His scholarly work includes the award-winning The Last Darky (2005), The Sound of Culture (2015) and the acclaimed memoir, Floating in A Most Peculiar Way (2021). He is the Editor in Chief of The Black Scholar, one of the oldest and leading journals of Black Studies in America. Chude-Sokei has collaborated with numerous artists and performers, including iconic Berlin electronic artists, Mouse on Mars with whom he has produced sound installations and the celebrated album Anarchic Artificial Intelligence (Thrill Jockey Records 2021). Chude-Sokei is also founder of the international sonic art/archiving project, Echolocution, and is the lead artist/curator of “Sometimes You Just Have to Give it Your Attention,” a year-long sound art project in Nuremberg, Germany, for which he won the Kulturstiftun Des Bundes Award from the German Federal Cultural Foundation. He is also a curator of Carnegie Hall’s 2022 Afrofuturism Festival.

Plattform is Bergen Kunsthall’s series of lectures and debates with artists and prominent thinkers. This season we present talks and conversations in connection with our winter exhibitions by Martine Syms and Sidsel Meineche Hansen. Plattform events are live streamed on kunsthall.no.

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