Curatorial Statement


Black people, black communities and black experiences are the “dark matter” of Western history, and viewed in that context, African diaspora art is the instrument for rendering such dark matter visible, tangible and audible. In the past and more increasingly in the present, this instrument has also been weaponized in the global struggle for black lives.

Dark matter may refer to the materiality of blackness – to the artefacts and deposits of black material existence as well as to the materiality of a body that feels the violence of racialization: perforation, incapacitation, claustrophobia, asphyxiation, dismemberment, combustion, electric shock, unwanted touch, forced incision and insemination, haemorrhaging, infection, coerced labour, chronic fatigue, haulage, hunger, hypothermia, paranoia, terror, anguish, melancholia, shame, rage, outrage, nausea, nightmare, traumatic recollection, disorder, addiction, paralysis, progressive degeneration and sudden annihilation.

Yet dark matter can also be a name we give to those innumerable moments of black vitality, laughter and joy, spaces that have always sustained uniquely black and Afro-creole ways of living: play, dance, music, soul, carnival, communal gaiety, ritual and religious passion, salvation, possession, orgy, orgasmic and narcotic rapture, bacchanalia, mysticism, visions and dreams. The artists of the diaspora have always been witnesses, documenters, mediums and producers of such joy.

During our 2022 programme, all our events will be structured around ReSignifications: DARKMATTER, which is a festival of simultaneous conference panels, art events, and supporting programmes organized by the DARKMATTER Collective, New York University and Utrecht University, in collaboration with Harvard University. Our programming will take place from May 21 to June 5, 2022 in three major cities of The Netherlands, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam. We are convening artists and scholars working in and across a broad range of disciplines – including fine art, photography, art history, anthropology, African and African diaspora studies, ethnic studies, philosophy, gender studies, fashion, performance and engaged art – and from different geographic regions.




During our 2022 programme, including the conference, live events and exhibitions, we will explore the themes of PHENOMENA, MATTER, FABULATION and JOY. To ground, situate and enlinen our programming, the ReSignifications: DARKMATTER festival will include four consecutive days that are thematically and artistically structured according to these four themes.


PHENOMENA: Wonders and Witnessings

What is the stuff of black realities and of black daily existence?  What is the sensory landscape of black life? What is the nature of a black event or happening? With the theme of Phenomena: Wonders and Witnessings, we explore the things that black people experience, indulge in and endure.


MATTER: Remnants and Resonances

How can blackness be studied at the atomic level? What forms of matter indicate black presence in the world? How do we grapple with the “thingness” of being black? The theme of Matter: Remnants and Resonances invokes physics, chemistry, biology and archeology as ways of approaching and comprehending black life.


FABULATION: Conjurings and Concoctions

How are we transported by tricks of black imagination, performance and narration and by flights of black fancy? With the theme of Fabulation: Conjurings and Concoctions, we focus on the kinds of storytelling black artists engage in and the sorts of stories they tell.


JOY: Exultations and Ejaculations

What are the ways that black people seek healing, happiness, gratification and transcendence? How has black diaspora experience been shaped by sensuality and celebration? With the theme of Joy: Exultations and Ejaculations, we examine the subversive, resistive and restorative powers of black pleasure.


More Information




The DARKMATTER Collective originates as and is at its core a group of close friends, colleagues and collaborators who know each other through academia, activism and the Utrecht University Masters Arts & Society (MAAS) programme. Despite our diverse backgrounds and the various disciplines we practice in, we were strongly drawn to each other due to our shared academic passions, artistic visions and ethico-political values. Before its foundation, various group members have already shared extensive professional experiences through research projects, cultural event organisation, curation of art exhibitions, conference presentations, filmmaking and academic publications. While we have been collaborating on projects since 2017, Stichting DARKMATTER was officially founded as an organisation in October 2020. We have a large network of collaborators and professional advisors and are presently in the process of adding new members to our group.


ReSignifications HISTORY


ReSignifications has grown out of the acclaimed international conference and exhibition series Black Portraiture[s] founded by New York University (Dept. of Photography and Imaging/Tisch School of the Arts; Dept. of Social and Cultural Analysis; and Institute of African American Affairs) in collaboration with Harvard University’s Hutchins Centre for African and African American Research. The series offers a forum that gives artists, activists, and scholars from around the world an opportunity to share ideas from historical topics to current research. By the beginning of our festival there will have been eleven annual programmes hosted at international Universities and Cultural Organisations in Paris, Florence, Johannesburg, Boston, Toronto, New York and New Jersey. ReSignifications: DARKMATTER in the Netherlands will be the twelfth edition of this series. While broadly diasporic in scope, this multi-sited iteration for the first time in the series places a special focus on Afro-Dutch identity, aesthetics and activism.


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