Acclaimed Poet and Playwright Claudia Rankine: "Meanwhile"

Claudia Rankine discusses multiple meanings of "Meanwhile" during three Berlin Family Lectures.
Image Caption
Claudia Rankine discusses multiple meanings of "Meanwhile" during three Berlin Family Lectures.

Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures 2022

Through three Berlin Family Lectures focused on the concept of Meanwhile, renowned poet and playwright Claudia Rankine extends historian Tina Campt’s theory of “felt sound,” which she defines as “sound that, like a hum, resonates in and as vibration,” into the realm of “felt time.” Rankine describes Meanwhile as the concurrent experience inside the everyday. This concept refuses amnesia given it is the existence that lives alongside and within the simultaneity of lived existence.

Conceptually, Rankine asks during these lectures:

  • What are the consequences of being made to experience time as both distinct and simultaneous?
  • How can one minute, five minutes, or a symbolic eight minutes and forty-six seconds, affect a lifetime?
  • How are the moments that are “a risk to life” for a victim concurrently transformed into a “risk to living,” for the witness (to use Harvard scholar Homi K. Bhabha’s risk terminology)?

Rankine will use the work of visual artist Jennifer Packer, artist and filmmaker Titus Kaphar, and Harvard scholar Homi K. Bhabha to explore the concept of Meanwhile.

Presenter: Claudia Rankine

Lecture 1

April 6, 2022, 6 to 7:30 p.m. CT
David Rubenstein Forum, Friedman Hall

Moderator: Anne Walters Robertson, Dean of the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago

Meanwhile in the Work of Artist Jennifer Packer

Though Jennifer Packer’s paintings are frequently described as psychological depictions of interior lives, this first Berlin Family Lecture will consider how her paintings inhabit the processing of historical time. How does trauma live in the bodies that are not its apparent victims? After witnessing and videotaping the murder of George Floyd, Darnella Frazier said: “Everybody is asking me how I feel, I don't know how I feel.”

How do utterances such as these sit within Packer’s work? Meanwhile, as we reckon with Frazier’s statement, how do Packer’s paintings manage and communicate traumatic time within the bodies of her subjects? How do her paintings exist in alternate spaces at the same time?

Lecture 2

April 13, 2022, 6 to 7:30 p.m. CT
David Rubenstein Forum, Friedman Hall

Moderator: Theaster Gates, Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago

Meanwhile in the Work of Artist and Filmmaker Titus Kaphar

Artist and filmmaker Titus Kaphar’s depiction of mothers with their children transports Harvard scholar Homi K. Bhabha’s rift on the “risk to life” into the body to the viewer. Kaphar’s paintings stop time—resting on a single moment—while simultaneously harnessing a past and future present. This presentation will consider the ways in which the “risk to living” becomes the living. Rankine will consider how Kaphar ultimately does away with Meanwhile as he visually collapses all time into a continuous present.

Lecture 3

April 14, 2022, 6 to 7:30 p.m. CT
David Rubenstein Forum, Friedman Hall

Moderator: Rachel DeWoskin, Associate Professor of Practice in the Arts in the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago

Meanwhile:  A Work in Process

Claudia Rankine will perform a dramatic reading from the text for an in-progress film, Meanwhile, a collaboration with Harvard scholar Homi K. Bhabha and filmmaker Catherine Gund (to be completed in 2023). This will be the first glimpse into Meanwhile, an experimental film that asks questions about the accumulative tolls of survival in a world committed to anti-Blackness.

About Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine wears a long-sleeved beige top and iridescent purple, mid-length skirt. She sitss on a goldenrod sofa with rust and chocolate colored throw pillows. She rests her chin on her right hand, with her elbow against her knee.

Claudia Rankine is a past recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” and the author of five books of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; three plays including HELP, which premiered in March 2020 (The Shed, NYC), and The White Card, which premiered in February 2018 (ArtsEmerson/ American Repertory Theater) and was published by Graywolf Press in 2019; and numerous video collaborations. Her recent collection of essays, Just Us: An American Conversation, was published by Graywolf Press in 2020. She is also the co-editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, Rankine co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Claudia Rankine joined the New York University as a Professor of Creative Writing in Fall 2021.

The Humanities in Practice

The Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures bring to campus individuals who are making fundamental contributions to the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences.

Each visitor offers an extended series of 3–5 lectures and develops a book for publication with the University of Chicago Press.