“Police killings captured on cell-phone video or photographs have become the hallmark of United States visual culture in the twenty-first century. In this book, I examine this transformation of visual culture from the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in the summer of 2014 to the inauguration of Donald Trump in 2017. As a person designated “white” by the color line in the United States, I do so from the perspective of anti-antiblackness. I study the formation of the space of appearance, that space where we catch a glimpse of the society that is to come—the future commons or communism. The first section analyses such spaces created by abolition democracy in Haiti, during Reconstruction and at Resurrection City in 1968. The second section considers the “persistent looking” used by Black Lives Matter protests from Ferguson on, especially “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” the die-in and the turning of backs. I then explore a simple form of visual activism, cropping photographs of crime scenes to exclude the fallen and broken bodies. It reveals the space of nonappearance, the no one’s land where people die in America. In the third section, I use the archive created by the grand jury hearings into the death of Michael Brown to map this space of nonappearance and how it is sustained by white supremacy. At present, that space is imagined as co-extensive with the boundaries of the republic. I still want a space in which to appear that doesn’t reproduce white supremacy, that doesn’t represent a prison, in which there isn’t expropriated labor, and there isn’t genocide. What would that look like? This book is a toolkit for doing that imagining.”
A limited edition print book with artwork by Carl Pope will also be released later this year.