In Black and Blur—the first volume in his consent not to be a single being trilogy—Fred Moten engages in a capacious consideration of the place and force of blackness in African diaspora arts, politics, and life, exploring a wide range of thinkers, musicians, and artists.
The publication of Black and Blur feels like nothing less than an ecstatic occasion—both in and of itself, and as a promissory note of more to come ... Simply put, Moten is offering up some of the most affecting, most useful, theoretical thinking that exists on the planet today—a true leg out of the rut so much criticism has fallen into of pointing out how a certain phenomenon has both subversive and hegemonic effects ('kinda hegemonic, kinda subversive,' as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick once put it) that has proven so durable since (at least) Foucault ... As moved and impressed as I am by Moten’s writing—its spectacular range, its unending nuance, its voluminousness, its flashes of pique...its swerve and song—I’m perhaps even more inspired by its felt understanding and communication of what it means to be 'sent by sociality to sociality,' and its depth of commitment to enmeshment, manifest in its style, orientation, and sound ... Moten’s essays bypass the paranoid logic that has come to characterize 'the academy of misery' and instead snowball forth via odd procedures like rubbing, blurring, deviation, infodump, and accretion.
The project of consent not to be a single being goes something like this: Take on all these institutions, but not in the order in which they usually present themselves; invent a new idea of order that is improvisational and fluid, that defies and even replaces the practice of systematic argument. Black and Blur is most explicitly focused on music, poetry, and visual art ... An engagement in experimental reading, where my own doubts about the possibility of the project only strengthen my sense of wanting to get back into it, to do the work.
In spite of whatever handle you’ve come to grab it by, the book will continue to elude, will keep escaping. You can try to apprehend each chapter, essay by essay, follow each twist and turn with linear and 'deadening rigor' ... The pieces are discreet, written for different publications, mostly seeded by a concrete moment of cultural production: a film, a piece of music, a performance, an artist’s retrospective. The essays encounter things in the world and do the work of criticism. But the book accumulates and undermines the distinction between essays ... If the book is about anything, it is about spiraling through the cultural implications of keeping the 'we' in 'me' ... Readers who don’t happen to be graduate students might never make it past the first few essays, never get to reconsider those essays in light of the genre-bending, formal riskiness that creeps into the book’s latter half ... Some readers will come here to encounter a brain that is at once more erudite, generous, capacious, fierce, jokey and infuriating than most others on the planet right now.