His Beautiful Dark Twisted Imagery: Kanye West’s Moving Image Aesthetic

deadline for submissions: 
August 7, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Brandon Arroyo. Concordia University, Montreal
contact email: 

Whenever someone tells me that they “hate” Kanye West I immediately ask them if they are familiar with his music, most of the time the answer is an emphatic: “no!” Granted, West seems to almost fetishize this self-created divide between his abrasive and confrontational public persona, and his introspective and heartfelt musical lyrics. However, this is due to his insistence on having both his public appearances and music act as provocations that actively question norms around masculinity, the black experience in America, and the life of an artist. For instance, West has justified this need for a tough public facade because of his position within society as a marginalized black man when he raps that he “found bravery in [his] bravado.” And the seemingly random and erratic nature of his transmedia art (as a musician, music video director, fashion designer and general rabble-rouser) reflect the wide scope of the cultural heritage he attempts to mine within his work. Towards this aim, he has written that “when you truly understand cultural settings, boundaries, and our modern day caste systems, then you can feel the glory and pain from the days of Kings in Africa to the new kings of the media.”

     So far, analysis of West’s work has been bifurcated, either considering him from a musical perspective (Kirk Walker’s book-length study of the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) or from a cultural studies perspective (J. Bailey’s The Cultural Impact of Kanye West). This panel’s aim is to coalesce these two approaches by analyzing West’s moving image oeuvre for the first time in a comprehensive manner. Instead of just reacting to West, the panel seeks papers that work to situate West’s imagery within a wider cultural context and/or position it within a moving image genre, like television studiesmusic video historypublic projections (“New Slaves” music video projections), the avant-garde (West’s direction of the Runaway and Fame music videos), political protest art (like his infamous live broadcast declaration that George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people”), or his reworking of the nature of the typical fashion show. West is a complex figure, and the panel is looking for work willing to engage with all the dynamic traits that he offers as an artist. 

           To apply you'll need to submit a 300-word abstract, 200-word biography, and 3-5 citations that you plan to utilize in the presentation. Send your abstracts to arroyo.brandon@gmail.com. This is your chance to write something current, bold and out of the box. I'm really excited about putting this panel together and I can't wait to read what you come up with!

          I'm putting together this panel for the 2018 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Toronto Canada. The conference takes place in late March. If accepted, you'll be responsible for travel, rooming and the conference registration fee.