1_Dreams are Colder than Death_Arthur Jafa_2013

Figuring Suspension: A Study of Visual Recording Artist Storyboard P is a research project on movement, affect, synchronization, black performance, and animation centered on the work of “filmdancer” Storyboard P.[1] It was presented on February 9 2018 as part of Rendering (the) Visible III: Liquidity, a Conference organized by by Jennifer Barker, Alessandra Raengo, Angelo Restivo, and Ethan Tussey for the School of Film, Media & Theatre, with Professor Grant Farred, Professor Thomas F. DeFrantz, Marc Downie and Paul Kaiser (OpenEndedGroup), exploring the concept of liquidity as an innovative critical approach to the image’s relation to space, sensoriality, and digitality, as well as an aesthetic sensibility attuned to the political ontology of motion, form, matter, and noise.

Storyboard’s art is both part of the black aesthetic lineage traced by liquid blackness research projects over the last five years that bridge the gaps between popular culture and fine art, and a step in a new theoretical direction that explore the unique concerns of black performance art’s relationship to image-production, particularly as they regard the issue of the political ontology of (black) movement. This is the reason this research project developed in conjunction with the Rendering (the) Visible III: Liquidity Conference, which explores similar themes, and will feature Professor Grant Farred (Cornell University) as keynote speaker and Professor Thomas F. DeFrantz (Duke University) as respondent to Storyboard’s performance.

Born Saalim Muslim, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (NY), Storyboard P. is a street dancer and a star of flex, what The New Yorker describes as “a form of street dance characterized by jarring feats of contortion, pantomime, and footwork that simulates levitation.” He has been featured in and inspired groundbreaking art videos by Kahlil Joseph (Until the Quiet Comes, 2013 and Fly Paper, 2017), Arthur Jafa (Dreams are colder than Death, 2013 and 4:44, 2017), and has worked with artists such as Jay-Z and Erykah Badu. Writings in The New Yorker, The Guardian and The New York Times, have attributed his eclectic style to the appropriation of other forms of street dance—such as “the furious gestures of Los Angeles krumpers, the en pointe wizardry of Memphis jookers—mixed in with “classical moves, going from a sashaying vogue strut to a balletic flourish,” [2] as well as the gestural voguing of New York’s LBGT subculture in the 80s.[3] James Bartlett, the executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art, in Brooklyn, has compared him to Jean-Michel Basquiat, for his ability to link “the street and the soul, on one side, and quote-unquote ‘high art,’ on the other.”[4]

Influenced also by Jerome Robbins (“West Side Story”), the Nicholas Brothers, and, above all, Michael Jackson, Storyboard P conceptualizes his work specifically in relation to the “visual effects” he intends to produce, that is, by both anticipating and preempting the way the camera lens might render his dancing. One of Storyboard’s biggest inspirations, in fact, is stop-motion animation and he likes to disrupt his seemingly “impossible” fluid motion with tremors and twitches, so that he appears to flicker like a figure in a zoetrope or a glitching online video. As he has said, “Doing animation, you’re just cramping and uncramping.”

The practice, form and aesthetic of filmmaking is thus central to the conceptualization of his own practice; it inspires the chosen moniker, and fuels his desire to be recognized as a “visual recording artist.” Furthermore, by framing his own dancing style with reference to stop-motion animation, Storyboard locates his performance in a complex and provocative ground between inanimate object and soulful movement,[5] assertive artistic control and embodied avatar,[6] strategic liquidity and calculated pause.

liquid blackness became interested in Storyboard P for his work with two filmmakers the group has recently studied and who have come to present their work at GSU: Arthur Jafa (April, 2016) and Kahlil Joseph (October, 2016) (more here). Jafa, in particular, described Storyboard as successfully embodying the filmmaker’s theory of “Black Visual Intonation”—a condition for a truly black aesthetics—into actual movement. transpose to film “the beauty and alienation of black music,”Storyboard’s ability to produce “special effects” in his performance through the manipulation of speed, as if his movements were capable of performing the uncanny effect of slow motion by altering the frame rate.[7]

Figuring Suspension: A Study of Visual Recording Artist Storyboard P mobilizes a series of theoretical and methodological frames that might help understand the uniqueness of Storyboard’s performance style and the new possibilities that it opens for (or the new attitudes that it demands from) the location and gaze of the camera, the pace and phrasing of editing, and the possibility for the apparatus to abide by the gestural integrity of the performer rather than harness it to lubricate its own cumbersome functioning. Storyboard P, in other words, appears to place established formal and aesthetic protocols “in suspension,”[10] contributing to a reflection on movement that bridges, by blurring, the distinction between the performing body and the performing image (Maurice) at multiple scales.[11] That is, perhaps Storyboard’s dancing style can be regarded as a more liberated switch point between sound and image, as a self-directed movement, so that his extraordinary craft might offer a place to begin to think anew not only the way traditional sound and image relations have historically straightjacketed the black body in mainstream cinema but also the countless expressive possibilities that become available once synchronization is tossed aside, conventional speed is upended, and black gestural possibilities are kept intact, in all their unruly capabilities.

[Alessandra Raengo, January 17, 2018 with input from Lauren Cramer, Jenny Gunn and the liquid blackness group]

[1] Brannigan, Erin. Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
[2] Jonah Weiner, “The Impossible Body: Storyboard P, the Basquiat of street dancing,” The New Yorker (January 6, 2014):
[4] Ibid.
[5] Vivian Sobchack, “Animation and Automation, or, the Incredible Efforfulness of Being,” Screen 50, no. 4 (2009): 375-91.
[6] Uri McMillan, Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance (NYU Press, 2015).
[7] MIT APEX_TNEG, February 25, 2013
[8] Maurice, Alice. The Cinema and Its Shadow: Race and Technology in Early Cinema.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
[9] Raengo, Alessandra. “Blackness and the Image of Motility: A Suspenseful Critique.” Black Camera 8, no. 1 (2016): 191-206.
[10] For the idea of aesthetics of suspension see liquid blackness 4, no. 7 “Holding Blackness: Aesthetics of Suspension” as well as the research project, Holding Blackness in Suspension: The Films of Kahlil Joseph.
[11] “blurring” here is a deliberate reference to Fred Moten’s first volume Black and Blur: Consent not to be a Single Being (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017). Not knowing the content of the upcoming volume II and III in his trilogy, we remain hopeful there might be something on Storyboard P.)

Context I: Movement, Temporality and (A)effects of Presence

Jennings, Gabrielle, and Kate Mondloch. Abstract Video: The Moving Image in Contemporary Art. Univ of California Press, 2015.
Remes, Justin. Motion (Less) Pictures: The Cinema of Stasis. Columbia University Press, 2015.
Koepnick, Lutz. On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary. Columbia University Press, 2014.
Fowler, Catherine. “Obscurity and Stillness: Potentiality in the Moving Image.” Art Journal 72, no. 1 (April 1, 2013): 64–79
Smith, Shawn Michelle. “The Space Between: Edweard Muybridge’s Motion Studies”. At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen (Duke University Press, 2013).
Lippit, Akira Mizuta. Ex-Cinema: From a Theory of Experimental Film and Video. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
Brannigan, Erin. Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Väliaho, Pasi. Mapping the Moving Image: Gesture, Thought and Cinema Circa 1900.  Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010.
Young, Harvey. Embodying Black Experience: Stillness, Critical Memory, and the Black Body. The University of Michigan Press, 2010.
Sutton, Damian. Photography, Cinema, Memory: The Crystal Image of Time. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
Beckman, Karen, Jean Ma, ed. Still Moving. Between Cinema and Photography. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2008.
Keeling, Kara. The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense.  Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.
Mulvey, Laura. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
Doane, Mary Ann. The Emergence of Cinematic Time. Modernity, Contingency, the Archive.  Cambridge, Mass and London: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Agamben, Giorgio “Notes on Gesture” in Means Without Ends. Trans. V. Binetti and C. Casarino. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
Wagner, Anne M. “Performance, Video, and the Rhetoric of Presence.” October, no. 91 (Winter 2000): 59-80.
Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1986.
———. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1989.


Context II: Synchronization

Campt, Tina M. Listening to Images.  Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. [ See distinction between movement and motion also in her interview with AJ:, Charles “Chip” P. “In a (Not So) Silent Way: Listening Past Black Visuality in Symbiopsychotaxiplasm.” Black Camera 8, no. 1 (2016): 169-90.
Maurice, Alice. The Cinema and Its Shadow: Race and Technology in Early Cinema.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
Chude-Sokei, Louis, and Stephen Johnson. “The Uncanny History of Minstrels and Machines, 1835–1923.” Burnt Cork: Traditions and Legacies of Blackface Minstrelsy (2012): 104-32.
Chin, Elizabeth. “Michael Jackson’s Panther Dance: Double Consciousness and the Uncanny Business of Performing While Black.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 23.1 (2011): 58-74.
Pamela L. Caughie. “Audible Identities: Passing and Sound Technologies.” Humanities Research XVI.1 (2010): 91–109.
Brooks, Jodi. “Ghosting the Machine: The Sounds of Tap and the Sounds of Film.” Screen 44, no. 4 (2003): 355-78.
Hartman, S. V.  and Griffin, Farah Jasmine. “Are You as Colored as That Negro? The Politics of Being Seen in Julie Dash’s Illusions.” Black American Literature Forum 25, no. 2 (1991): 361-73.


Context III: Black Movement in Cinema

Thomas DeFrantz, Believe the Hype: Hype Williams and Afrofuturist FilmmakingRefractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media 29 (2017)
Arthur Jafa and Tina Campt, “Love is the Message, The Plan is Death,” e-flux Journal #81 – (April 2017), Alessandra. “Blackness and the Image of Motility: A Suspenseful Critique.” Black Camera 8, no. 1 (2016): 191-206.
Batiste, Stephanie L. “Affect-Ive Moves: Space, Violence, and the Body in Rize’s Krump Dancing.” The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen (2014): 199.
Maurice, Alice. The Cinema and Its Shadow: Race and Technology in Early Cinema.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
Marriott, David. “Waiting to Fall.” CR: The New Centennial Review 13, no. 3 (2013): 163-240.
Jafa, Arthur. “My Black Death” In Everything but the burden: what white people are taking from Black culture, 245-257. Edited by Greg Tate. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.
Jafa, Arthur. “Black Visual Intonation” in The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, 264-268. Edited by Robert G. O’Meally. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998
Jafa, Arthur. “Like Rashomon but Different: The New Black Cinema” Artforum International Vol. 31, no. 10 Summer (1993)

Context IV: Black Performance

Scriber, Abbe. “‘Those who know don’t tell’: David Hammons c. 1981.” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 29.1 (2019): 41-61.
Moten, Fred. Black and Blur. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.
Special issue of Women & Performance 27, no. 1
Gaines, Malik. Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible. NYU Press, 2017.
DeFrantz, Thomas F., and Philipa Rothfield, eds. Choreography and Corporeality: Relay in Motion. Springer, 2016.
Lepecki, André. Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance. Routledge, 2016.
McMillan, Uri. Embodied avatars: Genealogies of black feminist art and performance. NYU Press, 2015.
Brown, Kimberly Juanita. The Repeating Body: Slavery’s Visual Resonance in the Contemporary. Duke University Press, 2015.
Cervenak, Sarah Jane. Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom. Duke University Press, 2014.
DeFrantz, Thomas F., and Anita Gonzalez, eds. Black performance theory. Duke University Press, 2014.
Arning, B., Y. Bäcker, T.A.O. Nyongó, N. Beckwith, F. Sirmans, and C. Owens. Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 2013.
Lepecki, André. “Choreopolice and Choreopolitics: Or, the Task of the Dancer.” TDR/The Drama Review 57, no. 4 (2013): 13-27.
Smith, Cherise. Enacting Others: Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin, Nikki S. Lee, Adrian Piper, and Anna Deavere Smith. Duke University Press, 2011
Schneider, Rebecca. Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment.  New York and London: Routledge, 2011.a
Brooks, Daphne A. Bodies in Dissent. Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910.  Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006.
Lepecki, André. Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement.  New York: Routledge, 2006.
Lepecki, André, ed. Of the presence of the body: Essays on dance and performance theory. Wesleyan University Press, 2004.
Moten, Fred. In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition.  Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
Johnson, E. Patrick. Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity.  Duke University Press: Durham N.C., 2003.
Munoz, Jose Esteban. Disidentification: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 1999).
Piper, Adrian. Out of Order, out of Sight: Selected Writings in Meta-Art, 1968-1992. Vol. 1: MIT press, 1999.
Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
Ugwu, Catherine. Let’s Get It On: The Politics of Black Performance. Bay Press, 1995.
Phelan, Peggy. Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Context V: Animation, Ani-materiality, Ani-motion

Hawley, Anthony. “How Merce Cunningham Worked with Filmmakers to Make the Camera Dance.” Hyperalleric (February 21, 2019).
Moten, Fred. Black and Blur. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.
Sutil, Nicolás Salazar. Motion and Representation: The Language of Human Movement. MIT Press, 2015.
Esther Leslie. “The Peculiar Ecstasy of the Animated Object.” In Cinematographic Objects: Things and Operations. Ed. Volker Pantenburg. August Verlag: New York, 2015.
Sammond, Nicholas. Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation. Duke University Press: USA. 2015.
Barber, Tiffany E. “Ghostcatching and after Ghostcatching, Dances in the Dark.” Dance Research Journal 47, no. 1 (2015): 45-67.
Bell, John. “Playing with the Eternal Uncanny,” in The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance, ed. Dassia N. Posner, Claudia Orenstein and John Bell. Routledge, 2014.
Whissel, Kristen. Spectacular Digital Effects: Cgi and Contemporary Cinema. Duke University Press, 2014.
Beckman, Karen. Animating Film Theory. Duke University Press, 2014.
Flaig, Paul. “Life Driven by Death: Animation Aesthetics and the Comic Uncanny.” Screen54, no. 1, Spring 2013. 341-352.
Chen, Mel Y. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.
Crafton, Donald. Shadow of a Mouse: Performance, Belief, and World-Making in Animation. University of California Press: Berkeley. 2012.
e-flux #36 (2012) – special issue on “Animism”
Chude-Sokei, Louis, and Stephen Johnson. “The Uncanny History of Minstrels and Machines, 1835–1923.” Burnt Cork: Traditions and Legacies of Blackface Minstrelsy  (2012): 104-32.
Bukatman, Scott. The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit. Univ of California Press, 2012.
Sobchack, Vivian. “Animation and Automation, or, the Incredible Efforfulness of Being.” Screen 50, no. 4 (2009): 375-91.
Lamarre, Thomas. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis. 2009.
Brown, Bill. “Reification, Reanimation, and the American Uncanny.” Critical Inquiry 32 (2006): 175-207.
Cholodenko, Alan. “Still Photography?”Afterimage  (march/april 2005 2005): 5-7.
Moten, Fred. In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition.  Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
Ngai, Sianne. “”A Foul Lump Started Making Promises in My Voice”: Race, Affect, and the Animated Subject.” American Literature 74, no. 3 (2002): 571-601.
Sobchack, Vivian. Meta-Morphing : Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick-Change.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.
Lynn, Greg. Animate Form. 1 edition. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999.
Rakatansky, Mark. “Motivations of Animation.” Edited by Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos. ANY Magazine, Diagram Work: Data Mechanics for a Topological Age, 23 (June 1998): 50–56.
Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein on Disney. Trans. Alan Upchurch. Seagull Books: Calcutta. 1986.

Context VI: Trans-mutation/encounters with the object

Snorton, C Riley. Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Pilsch, Andrew. Transhumanism: Evolutionary Futurism and the Human Technologies of Utopia.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2017.
Salter, Chris, and Andrew Pickering. Alien Agency: Experimental Encounters with Art in the Making. MIT Press, 2015.
Masuzawa, Tomoko. “Troubles with Materiality: The Ghost of Fetishism in the Nineteenth Century.” By Anonymous. Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, no. 2 (Apr. 2000): 242-67.
Anzaldua, Gloria. The Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (Aunt Lute Books, 1987).
Pietz, William. “The Problem of the Fetish, Ii: The Origin of the Fetish.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 13 (1987): 23-45.
Pietz, William. “The Problem of the Fetish, I.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 9, no. 1 (1985): 5-17.
Thompson, Robert Farris. African Art in Motion: Icon and Act. Univ of California Press, 1974.

Storyboard P’s Main Videography
Fly Paper (Kahlil Joseph, 2017)
4:44 (Arthur Jafa and Elissa Blount-Moorhead for Jay-Z, 2017)
Until the Quiet Comes (Kahlil Joseph for Flying Lotus, 2013)
more videos @
Black Magic:
Everything is Dance
Soldier: A Freestyle featuring Storyboard P

Storyboard P’s Main Bibliography
The Impossible Body – The New Yorker:
Storyboard P: “I’m Pretty Animated y’know?” – The Guardian:

Dreams are Colder than Death (dir. Arthur Jafa, 2013)
Black Magic (dir. Cinque Northern, 2013)
Soldier: A Freestyle (dir. Cinque Northern, 2012)
4:44 (Jay-Z, dir. Arthur Jafa and Elissa Blount-Moorhead, 2017), with Okwi Okpokwasili
Fly Paper (dir. Kahlil Joseph, 2017), with Ben Vereen