black performance has always been liquid, or post, or excessive, or many other things because it is concerned with adornment and elaboration, individual expression within a group dynamic, and responsiveness to its own communities. black performance does not arrive in ultimate consideration of its form, which makes it so elusive and concrete at once; so water-to-ice-to-mist, to keep with the liquid-ing metaphor.
black performance offers a thinking-through-experience-with-others by way of aesthetic invention.
over time i’ve grown bored with employing white theoretical lenses to dissect white cultural products to imagine a mobilized black possibility. for me, these methods highlight how many theoretical modes are most interested in white readerships. if i’m going to craft theory for black people to refer to, it will be angry, outrageous, unruly, and it will not cite authors I know that its readers will likely not care about. bell hooks offered us this possibility when she stopped using footnotes in her writing; i find that many younger researchers now feel there might be enough critical theory circulating to follow suit. SO, for me, literary theory is found in the singing of the spirituals (which still happens, even as historical performance); and the pre-mains of psychoanalytic theory might be evident in line dancing or J-setting. of course there will always be space held for academic language as its own thing, that requires a politics of citation that sends readers digging in the crates to try to make sense of a reference. but blackness is surely saturated by experience, and its experience in presence, and in breath, creates possibilities that seem worthy of attention.
i refer to black performance in order to construct modes of theorizing around black lives. so my question would be, what if we took this as a prelude to theorizing black presence? instead of looking at ‘white work’ or white responses to or creations of black objects (which is what the film sounds like in your various renderings of it); what if we pay attention to how we experience aesthetic possibilities and inventions that are of and for emergent black communities?