Fred Moten on Observance and Observation

FORART Lecture 2023

Portrait of Fred Moten

For the 2023 FORART lecture, Fred Moten (New York University) discusses the question of observation in the context of violence and mourning.

Observance and Observation: Is the flaw in how, or in that, we observe? What’s the difference between observance and observation? Does it map onto the difference between poetry and criticism or, more precisely between poetry and critique (or, even more precisely, poetry and critical scrutiny)? These questions emerge at the nexus of violence, mourning, and showing. In the hope of addressing and refining them, I would like to present a progress report on some thinking I’ve been doing about Roland Barthes, Mamie Till-Mobley and the sound(ing) of photography.

Fred Moten is is an American cultural theorist, poet, and scholar whose work explores critical theory, black studies, and performance studies. Moten is Professor of Performance Studies at New York University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at University of California, Riverside.

His scholarly texts include The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (co-authored with Stefano Harney, 2013), In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (2003) as well as Black and Blur, Stolen Life and The Universal Machine  – the three volumes of his Consent to Not Be a Single Being series (2017-18). All Incomplete, again co-written with Stefano Harney, appeared in 2021.

Moten has published numerous poetry collections, including The Little EdgesThe Feel TrioB Jenkins, and Hughson’s Tavern. In 2020, Moten was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for “creating new conceptual spaces to accommodate emerging forms of Black aesthetics, cultural production, and social life.”

The FORART Lecture on Friday, September 1 (6:00–8:00 PM, Litteraturhuset, Nedjma Salen) will be followed by a poetry reading by Fred Moten at the Astrup Fearnley Museum on Saturday, September 2 in the early afternoon.