Black Tensors

Active Cultures, Los Angeles

February 4, 2023

Documentation by Roadwork Studios

Presented at the premiere of TJ Shin’s Malaria, Devouring Mother for Active Cultures

Excerpts from Black Tensors: The Slave in/as the Libidinal Economy

So I write this not necessarily through a contradiction or a dialectic but a kind of irony. In Lyotard’s words, "this effect is not of duality but of duplicity." It is not that I am another Subject who stages yet another critique of the representational limit but proceeds anyway unto the gambit of semiosis but more that I am coerced into a usage of language as if it is dissimilar to the function or effect of minstrel fare. And so, what if this Lyotardian theatrical volume (which is to say the one he critiques), is indissociable from the minstrel stage or the auction block? What if the drive of modernity to immobilize intensities irreparably inherits its structure from the routines of making chattel?

If the theatrical volume follows only the “immobilization of the bar into stable disjunctions,” which works to fix and distill intensities into necessarily racialized (settled) significations, then we should not be reticent in taking up Lyotard’s own prognostic that the concept “will will its own extension” and locate (precisely by sacrificing the ability to) the extension of this very concept that is always already a signification in itself, meaning there is an impossibility it holds captive. In other words, it is the extension extension, as such, holds captive.

“The captive body,” as Saidiya Hartman tells us, “was [is] an extension of the imperial body of the master and the prized object of his enjoyment.” If indeed the World or the Human, in the rupture of the Middle Passage, cannot stabilize its systems (libidinal and economic; another treacherous appearance of the and) without the domination of the rupture’s object, without the global, disjunctive amusement in the imposition of its indiscernible, intensified character within which the object (according to its Master) finds delight, then is anti-Blackness not the principal grammar which shapes the drive to decelerate the intensity into sign and as a consequence delimits a trace that cries out from the Hold of deceleration’s paradigm? In a similar vein, is it better to refurbish jouissance as less a general theory of enjoyment against one's own good but a theory that specifies enjoyment's inextricable link to the operationalized making-voluminous of the Slave for the social Good? Or perhaps it is the making-voluminous of Nothing that eventually appears as, according to the theatrical volume of the Master, the hunger for the staged, injurious satisfaction Nothing sources from its own Nothingness. As Hartman reminds us, pleasure becomes a productive force in the regulation and production of slaves on the plantation. “In effect,” she writes, “plantation ceremony endeavored to make discipline a pleasure and vice versa.” And so “the slave’s good times were at the same time a performance for the slaveholder.” I remind us that we would be irresponsible readers to assume she is speaking strictly as a historian.


My hand does not tremble in pain while I write, and if it does, it is much less a tremble than a minstrel jig. My hand endlessly spins to the bellow of my captor's voluminous gut, which he tells me, tongue and mouth dripping with blood, has not been fed in days.