The Shape of Humidity: Performing Black Atlantic Theory Making


  • Genevieve Hyacinthe Parsons School of Design and School of Visual Arts



humidity, airy poetics, prana, healing, theory-making-as-performance, black Atlantic aesthetics, diaspora, yoga-philosophy, santería, art-and-ritual


Following bell hooks’ submission that theory making is “a location for healing” (2017, 59) “The Shape of Humidity: Performing Black Atlantic Theory Making” riffs upon the historically critical and widely circulated subject of the black body politic and Atlantic waters informing but non-exclusive to performance, art history, and visual cultural discourses. The theory making performed here alternatively frames the black Atlantic body in relation to humidity, illustrating what Deleuze and Guattari might call the “possibles” evoked  through “a contraction of earth and humidity” (Deleuze 1994, 76–78). The theory is shaped upon a discussion of Winslow Homer’s The Gulf Stream (1899), included in Kara Walker’s cultural-political opus, Kara Walker: After The Deluge (2006), mounted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Theory making confronts the painting’s adherence to the hegemonic tradition of rendering the black Atlantic body as a perennial form in peril, whose destiny in this instance is as matter consumed by the thermodynamic sublimity of the waters. Alternatively, the action of theory making here collapses space-time separations among black Atlantic flora, the healing processes of artists Lygia Clark and Wangechi Mutu, and modes of breath activation, to access states of limitlessness actualized through bodily openness to humidity’s grace. 

Author Biography

Genevieve Hyacinthe, Parsons School of Design and School of Visual Arts

Genevieve Hyacinthe earned her PhD at Harvard in West African Diaspora Art. An MFA faculty member at School of Visual Arts and Parsons, and Anikaya Dance board member, her current publications include: Radical Virtuosity: Ana Mendieta and the Black Atlantic, MIT, Fall 2019; “Young Aunty is Working: Nigerian Feminine,  and the Crafting of Contemporary Art Space,” SMIJAR, Stella Maris, January 2019; “‘I Am Basquiat’”: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Alterity and Activism in Paint and Performance,” African American Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity, Bucknell, Fall 2018; “Love is the Message: Barkley Hendricks’ MFSB Portrait Aesthetics,” Open Cultural Studies: De Gruyter, January 2018. 


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How to Cite

Hyacinthe, G. (2019). The Shape of Humidity: Performing Black Atlantic Theory Making. Performance Philosophy, 4(2), 434–451.