There have been few times in American history when the very concept of freedom of speech—its promise and its contradictions—has been under greater scrutiny. Studies into Darkness: The Perils and Promise of Freedom of Speech provides a practical and historical guide to free speech discourse and combines it with poetic responses to contemporary crises around free expression. Ultimately, this publication provocatively questions whether genuine communication is ever attainable.
Studies into Darkness emerged from a series of seminars guided by acclaimed artist, filmmaker, and activist Amar Kanwar at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School. This collection of newly commissioned texts, artist projects, and historic resources examines aspects of freedom of speech informed by recent debates around hate speech, censorship, sexism, and racism. “Darkness” here holds the promise of complexity, discovery and, in Kanwar’s words, “visions from within the depths.” Designed by Nontsikelelo Mutiti and Julia Novitch, the book itself plays with the concept of darkness as both a tonal variation and a factor of legibility, a space from which truth can be extracted or hindered.