Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s
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.
Through a close reading of the film Testament (1988), about a woman who makes a journey of return to Ghana after years of political exile, this chapter investigates montage strategies that are distinctive to the poetic handling of archival materials in the Black Audio Film Collective oeuvre. In view of John Akomfrah’s notion of “black necrophilia,” which unsettles the psychoanalytic distinction between mourning and melancholia so as to address the ghosts of colonial history, the analysis closely engages Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of history, which arose from his reading of allegory in baroque mourning plays as revealing the “fallen” condition of a secular modernity that must continually grapple with the human condition of transience and decay.