Skip to main content

Kodwo Eshun: An Interview

Video Data Bank

2001 01:00:00 United StatesEnglish4:3DV video


British-Ghanaian, writer, theorist and filmmaker Kodwo Eshun (b.1967) is known for his interest in the electronic mythology of sound. In this interview, Eshun discusses his desire to challenge the predominance of sociological inquiries into the historical and stylistic development of music.  Eshun seeks to establish a model of inquiry that is much more concerned with the materiality of sound.

Deeming this type of analysis ‘sonological,’ Eshun goes on to describe its dependence upon “a self-awareness of technological mediation,” as in the way hip hop depends upon audience recognition of the techniques used in its own creation. Eshun goes on to discuss Afro-futurism, and the way in which its use of anachronism reflects the electronic politics of resistance that has always lain at the heart of hip hop music.

– Kyle Riley

Eshun's writing deals with cyberculture, science fiction and music with a particular focus on areas where these ideas intersect with the African diaspora. He thinks of his science fiction work as “theory on fast forward.” His debut book More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction (1999) is a manifesto that espouses alienation via technology and machine culture. For Eshun, “the key thing to do now is to move into a new field. I’ve stopped calling myself a writer, for the book I’m just going to call myself a concept engineer. What we’re doing is engineering, is grasping fictions, grasping concepts, grasping hallucinations from our own area, translating them into another one, mixing them, and seeing where we go with them.”

Eshun has contributed to a wide range of publications, including The Guardian, The Face, The Wire, i-D, Melody Maker, Spin, Arena, Frieze, CR: The New Centennial Review and 032c. He currently teaches on the MA in Aural and Visual Cultures in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Interview conducted by Romi Crawford in November of 2001, edited in 2014.

The Video Data Bank is the leading resource in the United States for videotapes by and about contemporary artists. The VDB collection features innovative video work made by artists from an aesthetic, political or personal point of view. The collection includes seminal works that, seen as a whole, describe the development of video as an art form originating in the late 1960's and continuing to the present. Works in the collection employ innovative uses of form and technology, mixed with original visual style to address contemporary art and cultural themes.

Founded in 1976 at the inception of the media arts movement in the United States, the Video Data Bank is one of the nation's largest providers of alternative and art-based video. Through a successful national and international distribution service, the VDB distributes video art, documentaries made by artists, and recorded interviews with visual artists, photographers and critics.