The support of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts... has come in the form, mainly, of allowing me to convene what I like to call the 'experimental band' I I have been trying to form with some friends who include my longtime work partners Harney and Laura Harris as well a newer group of international co-conspirators... I was able to pay for the accommodations and travel expenses of this far-flung group with the help of the Foundation, and will continue to use the remainder of my grant to further this collective project... I am grateful to the Foundation for seeding the work I want to do in the next phase of my career, but I am most happy in my determination to continue to use and share those resources in ways that will extend far beyond any projects I could simply call my own.
- Fred Moten, December 22, 2018
Fred Moten is a teacher and writer whose areas of study and practice include Black Literary, Aural and Visual Culture, Critical Theory, Performance Studies, and Poetry and Poetics. He is especially concerned with the social force and social origins of black expressive cultural practices. In particular, Moten is interested in the relation between insurgent social movement and experimental art, and has been preoccupied with understanding these fields of endeavor as indissolubly linked and irreducibly popular.
Over the last 25 years, Moten has addressed these concerns, by way of poetry and criticism, in a number of books, including In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Hughson's Tavern (Leon Works, 2009); B. Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010); The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014); The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2015); The Service Porch (Letter Machine Editions, 2016); and consent not to be a single being (Duke University Press, 2017, 2018).
Moten is engaged in long-term collaborations with theorist Stefano Harney and artist Wu Tsang. With Harney, he is co-author of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2013) and A Poetics of the Undercommons (Sputnik and Fizzle, 2016), and with Tsang, Who touched me? (If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want to be Part of Your Revolution, 2016). Tsang and Moten are also co-workers in the project Gravitational Feel, iterations of which have been shown or performed at venues including If I Can't Dance I Don't Want To Be A Part of Your Revolution, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; and the New Museum, New York. Moten has also collaborated with the artists and artist collectives Arika, Freethought, Andrea Geyer, Arthur Jafa, MPA, Ultra-red, and Suné Woods.
Moten lives in New York with his partner and long-term intellectual collaborator, Laura Harris, and their children, Lorenzo and Julian. He has served on the editorial boards of Callaloo, Discourse, American Quarterly, and Social Text; as a member of the Critical Theory Institute at the University of California, Irvine; on the board of directors of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York; and on the advisory board of Issues in Critical Investigation, Vanderbilt University. Moten received an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University. Following his FCA support, Moten was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship (2020).
I try to closely read, and listen to, and look at, literature, philosophy, music, and all kinds of visual art. If I can pay close enough attention, things start to blur toward the point of a disappearance that makes it possible to see through them. In this regard, art isn't a mirror but a window, or a lens; and criticism is heightened, but always mediated, attention to our common earthiness and its cosmological implications. I am particularly invested in the phonic materiality of written texts and I have also worked to establish ways of theorizing and paying attention to the presence and force of sound in visual art, as well. But I'm also interested in what sound says, sometimes in silence, and in how it looks, and in how it looks. The great thinker Manolo Callahan speaks of the need to renew our habits of assembly. I am interested in the sensual conditions of that renewal.
- December 2017