On Ephraim Asili

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | February 22, 2018

We are delighted to welcome Zach Vanes of the Video Data Bank to write for us. In this essay, Vanes discusses The Diaspora Suite, a series of films on the African diaspora by Video Data Bank artist Ephraim Asili. Screening this week at Conversations at the Edge, these films bring together archival research and Asili’s travels to chart cultural connections across time and space.

Ephraim Asili, still from Many Thousands Gone, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and the Video Data Bank.

Ephraim Asili’s five-part Diaspora Suite was created over the course of seven years.  While every film in the series has a unique rhythm, each is built around a specific amalgam of footage shot in American and international locations–each site an important within the African diaspora. In Forged Ways (2011) it’s Harlem and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; in American Hunger (2013), it’s Philadelphia, Ocean City,  and Cape Coast, Ghana; in Many Thousands Gone (2014), it’s Harlem again and Salvador, Brazil; in Kindah (2016), it’s Hudson, New York, and Jamaica; and in Fluid Frontiers (2017), it’s Detroit and Windsor, Canada.

Asili edits his 16mm films by mixing and matching footage from the two locations. Often, he shuttles the viewer thousands of miles with his cuts. One trip fragments into dozens, each with differing emotional textures and tenors. Sometimes, as in the self-deprecating end of American Hunger, the effect can be humorous. Here, Asili cuts between a foam-headed Mr. Frosty mascot in Philadelphia and a group of Ghanaian school kids. Both wave to the camera with big smiles–only in America the grin is painted on. At other points, the change of location communicates an bemusement toward the isolation of American life. For example, in Kindah, an empty apartment and looming brick walls in Hudson provide a somber note of impasse in comparison to a constantly moving Jamaican parade. More often than not, transitions between the American locations and their international counterparts happen so smoothly that the differences are registered only through Asili’s subtle inclusions of national markers–an American flag in the distance or a Yankees hat in the crowd. Through the disidentification brought on by the incessant cutting between “here” and “there,” Asili encourages the viewer to recognize difference as a projection of lingering colonial fantasy and disrupts geopolitical borders and the visual regime that supports them.

Ephraim Asili, still from American Hunger, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist and the Video Data Bank.

The most recent work in the collection, Fluid Frontiers, provides both a fitting end to the cycle and a marvelous leap forward.  Asili reaches for more than cinematic hybrid cities and countries. Against the two geographic locations that anchor the film (Detroit and Windsor), Asili creates a third, cinematic, space– the black screen. In an essay on the films of Kevin Everson, Emmanuel Burdeau suggests: “The black screen is the abyss where…cinema catches its breath: an annihilation, but also a reservoir of images, the neutral gear through which every film passes before starting up again.”

Throughout the Diaspora Suite the black screen is at once a cinematic wellspring and bearer of the inscriptions of history and theory. Starting with American Hunger, Asili fills the black screen with the theoretical writings of Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and Hollis Frampton. In Many Thousands Gone, Asili presents a homily by the fictitious Saint Tula, patron saint of cinema; in Kindah, the beat poetry of Bob Kaufman.  He juxtaposes these free-wheeling textual intervals with  ruminative scores. Experimental jazz musician Joe McPhee contributes a rasping, strangled live score to Many Thousands Gone, and Kindah features a similarly breathy woodwind and percussion track. The combination of increasingly poetic texts and breathless music communicate a struggle to speak. It also expresses the desire to project a voice rather than merely bear the inscriptions upon the black screen.

Ephraim Asili, still from Forged Ways, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and the Video Data Bank.

Asili seizes this voice Fluid Frontiers. Text completely disappears. Instead, it is translated into speech and infused into nearly every moment of the film.  Unlike previous works, Asili intervenes within the space by enlisting Detroit and Windsor citizens to read the poetry of Margaret Walker, Sonia Sanchez, Haki R. Madhubuti, Dudley Randall and others published by the Detroit-based Broadside Press. In an interview with Ekrem Serdar, Asili stated, “I told them that I don’t care how long it takes you to read the poem, just that you don’t stop no matter what. Even if you get a word wrong. [It’s about] this idea of people struggling or not struggling with language on camera.” Parallel to locating a shared geographical and historical lineage, the Diaspora Suite charts a movement from decoding to encoding, writing for oneself to speaking aloud, documenting difference to creating within the landscape.  Another way of saying this might be through the words of poet Haki R. Madhubuti, read by Teajai Travis, and recorded by Ephraim Asili: “not quiet now- trying to speak,/ What did he say?/ ‘Back again,/ BLACK AGAIN,/ Home.”

Ephraim Asili, still from Fluid Frontiers, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and the Video Data Bank.

Zach Vanes is the Distribution Manager at Video Data Bank. While at VDB, he has presented video art programs at the Cairo Video Festival and Oberhausen Short Film Festival. He’s also a volunteer projectionist at Doc Films and an MAVCS candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

February 22 – Ephraim Asili: The Diaspora Suite

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | February 16, 2018

Ephraim Asili, still from Many Thousands Gone, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and the Video Data Bank.

In 2011, New York-based filmmaker, DJ, and traveler Ephraim Asili began an extraordinary series of films on the African diaspora. These films—Forged Ways (2011), American Hunger (2013), Many Thousands Gone (2015), Kindah (2016), and Fluid Frontiers (2017)—bring together archival research and Asili’s travels through Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, and the United States to chart cultural connections across time and space. Fluid Frontiers, for example, explores ideas of resistance and liberation through Detroit’s Broadside Press, one of the most important presses for Black poetry. Asili asks residents of Detroit and nearby Windsor, Ontario, to read these poems without rehearsal, potently collapsing history, contemporary politics, and art through their magnetic performances. In earlier works like American Hunger, Asili knits together images from downtown Accra, Ghana’s coastal slave forts, and the Jersey Shore in an effort to understand his own relationship with Western colonialism and US imperialism.

Presented in collaboration with SAIC’s Video Data Bank.

2011–17, multiple countries, digital file, ca 92 min + discussion
Ephraim Asili in person

Ephraim Asili’s films have screened in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival; Toronto International Film Festival; Ann Arbor Film Festival, Michigan; San Francisco International Film Festival; Milan Film Festival, Italy; International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Netherlands; MoMA PS1, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Whitney Museum, New York. As a DJ, Asili can be heard on his radio program In The Cut on WGXC, or live at his monthly dance party Botanica. Asili currently resides in Hudson, New York, and is an Assistant Professor in the Film and Electronic Arts department at Bard College.

On Latham Zearfoss

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | February 15, 2018

Our spring 2018 season premieres today with work by Chicago-based artist and School of the Art Institute of Chicago alum, Latham Zearfoss (BFA 2008).

Zearfoss produces time-based images, objects, and experiences about selfhood and otherness. Outside of the studio, they contribute to collective motions toward joy and reflection through social projects.

This week, we welcome School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate student Evan Fusco to examine Zearfoss’ work in a reflective essay interlaced with additional insight from artist Aay Preston-Myint

Latham Zearfoss, still from Three Scenes from Last Summer, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

(This essay on the work of Latham Zearfoss can be read four different ways: first is reading only the interview I conducted with Latham’s friend/collaborator Aay Preston-Myint), second is just the essay that I have written on the work of Zearfoss, third is all the way through, allowing the interview to interrupt your reading of the essay and inform it, and fourth is to read the essay through, and then the interview, so as to not allow either to interrupt the other. In this way, you have the opportunity to choose how you read and understand this essay, giving you a certain amount of power in interpreting. I don’t want my voice to be the only one heard.)

In attempting to understand what makes a good artist I wonder if it’s someone who understands what they’re talking about and exists within the spaces they want to work. Rather than taking up a position of absolute authority on any particular subject, this artist allows their unique position in the world to dictate the work. They position their point on a level playing field with that of the viewer, creating a dialogue as opposed to preaching from a pulpit. The artist Latham Zearfoss truly embodies this kind of artist, modeling their approaches to art on the way they want to see the world.

Evan Fusco: First, I want to ask you about your relationship with Latham, both as a friend and collaborator, and how that has both changed over time, and affected how both of you work as artists.

Aay Preston-Myint: Hmmm that’s kind of a long conversation so I’ll try to be brief… we’ve known each other for what must be 14 years now… maybe even fifteen. We’ve been through every possible permutation of acquaintance, roommate/housemate, collaboration, friendship, cohort, and dating that you can think of. So, it’s an interesting relationship to say the least. While we both work across media, we have really different technical training. Latham comes from a time-based media background and I come from object making… I feel like I’ve probably learned a lot about storytelling from them, while maybe I’ve offered my experience with materials, composition, viewer-object relations, and the like in return. When we collaborate or do group projects (like the Body Doubles catalogue) they’re really good at making prompts for the various people involved and finding threads through the material we collect, I tend to take more charge over things like format, design, installation, etc. I’m pretty messy in the studio but in group situations I lean towards process and structure, while Latham is maybe a little bit more into seepage and vulnerability as generative devices. But it really depends, it’s never as polarized as that. 

In reference to their approach to art-making, Zearfoss has asserted: “Pop cultural debris serves as an emotional referent: indices of personal history – the poetic cataloging of lived time… Culture is a cluttered map of selves and others. It is here that you and I make meaning as much out of sameness as we do out of difference.” When they write about their work, they are not some disconnected observer of the world; they are working to better understand it, just as much as anyone else. They want to “move away from a frigid preoccupation with form and distanced irony.” This is most immediately obvious in their collective projects to engage communities like Chances Dances, a queer dance party, Make Yourself Useful, a critical space for White “allyship,” and Open Engagement, an itinerant conference on socially engaged art. It is this collaborative and participatory way of thinking that drips into the works that would typically “represent” Zearfoss’ practice so that they are always working through their projects just as much as the audience.

Latham Zearfoss, still from Love Is A Stranger, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.

EF: How does Chances Dances (and maybe their other social projects, but mostly Chances Dances) figure into Latham’s practice? I also wonder about what you think of the importance of including those kinds of projects as a part of an artist’s larger practice, including how it affects your own. 

APM: I think making the decision to actively include all of that work in a larger practice has been important to both Latham and myself, but I don’t want to be prescriptive in terms of whether that could work for everyone. Some people are, or would be, really bad at “social practice” …while other people might choose to act out their politics, or at least consciously so, through activities that are not art-related. I’m not even sure if social practice is the right phrase because that sounds very institutional… while Chances has definitely engaged in a lot of institutional work, it was never part of our core mission, and we could just as well have never set foot in a museum or gallery under that collective umbrella. That said, Chances, despite not being art, has been a major part of both of our “practices” and enabled and supported other people’s artwork as well…I think what both of us have been doing lately is trying to understand how these different facets of our practice inform and influence each other. For me, working on this weird community/thing that is Chances, I learned to stop worrying if what I am doing will yield any kind of recognizable art object… and in the process I also learned a lot about how art and art labor are valued, about how non-artists interact with art, and what kinds of stories I want to tell with my studio work. 

Latham Zearfoss, still from Home Movie, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.

In HOME MOVIE (2012), originally titled RECYCLE BINGE, we see Zearfoss’ attempt to “aestheticize the contradictory impulse to capture and record moments that are either personal or of little interest to a public audience.” Throughout the video you hear a voice trying to grapple with the problem of the separation between yourself and the world, beginning with the question, “How do you describe how you feel?” Language is a powerful tool, but ultimately fails us in our attempts to communicate with others. The feeling always sits on the tip of our tongues, yearning to get out but trapped by some unseen barriermaybe our teeth? Either way Zearfoss has defaulted to image as a way to invite the viewer to empathize with them. They present us with intimate images, documentation of public performances, random cell phone footage of a palm tree and a praying mantis. However, the climax comes in a video of a raging building fire. You can hear who I assume to be Zearfoss say, “I feel sort of guilty… I mean there’s nothing we can do right?” and then someone else say “There’s nothing we can do.” This bit in HOME MOVIE, the title of which implies more domestic and innocent content, ends up being quite tragic and potent, working in tandem with the voice carried throughout the video. The voice states, in an attempt to describe the problem of how to describe how you feel, “How do you describe red to someone who is totally blind?” We may never meet Zearfoss after encountering this video, or we may meet them, but never truly get to know them. If we do get to know them, we will never fully understand them, but Zearfoss doesn’t see this as a reason we shouldn’t at least make an attempt.

EF: How do you think the catalogue and conversations you both created and facilitated for the MCA show Body Doubles figures into Latham’s practice as an artist, and do you see the concerns of the artists in that show as concerns Latham tackles in their work.

APM: Well, I think maybe in the case of that project, it’s very in step with their (and our/mine Chances’) way of collaboration…the natural inclination is to spread resources and access to everyone’s mutual benefit. Going back to Chances, we chose “Platforms” as a title for our retrospective because the practice is not just about producing concrete objects… the practice is a platform on which other people’s lives and work are supported and take place. In the case of the MCA show, we used the publication as a platform to showcase the work of local artists that were doing work similar to what was in the show and positioned them as authoritative voices… this was meant as a bit of a corrective to the fact that the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago doesn’t offer a lot of direct support (at least comparative to what they spend most of their space/money on) to actual emerging contemporary artists in Chicago. This has maybe started to change a little bit with their new “Commons” space and major exhibits by folks like Amanda Williams, Bill O’Brien and Michael Rakowitz, but even still those are folks that already have a ton of support outside of the museum…the Museum is still more of a follower than a leader when it comes to local talent. Ironically we got into a huge fiasco with the museum around the labor, expectations, and power relations surrounding that project but there isn’t room to spill that tea here. 

In terms of the relationship to Latham’s studio work, it certainly ties into this idea of bodily presence, as your next question suggests, this idea of “the body as an object and a tool.” The connection to the show was the idea of admitting the vulnerable fact that you have a body too, even if you might be in a position of authority or remove (artist, author, spectator, judge, teacher president)…like, let’s all stop projecting the fact that we are bodies that hurt, are stupid and mean sometimes, that make mistakes, and need to be accountable, let’s stop projecting that onto other people, and sit back and take in what that means and what other kinds of relationships could be built from that. 

Latham Zearfoss, still from Something to Move In, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

If language is a problem that we encounter in trying to understand others, then a possible answer comes in a later work titled Something to Move In created in collaboration with the artist Joel Midden for the Chicago Film Archives. In this video Zearfoss and Midden return to the political era of the late 60s, specifically to the dialogue of a film titled Black Moderates and Black Militants. The solution these artists have come to is found in the power of music and dance. The two remix of the political discussion into a music track and pair it with footage of a dancer in silhouette from the same era.  In doing so, they have created a contemporary attempt to “resuscitate a bygone revolutionary thrust”. In the remixing political speech of the 1960s, Zearfoss and Midden find new hope in it, communicating through words, bodily movement, and a beat you can dance to. Here we see–maybe a bit clearer–the political power of hosting parties like Chances Dances, which in its creation of a queer space to dance, allows for communication between people and their bodies without ever having to utter a word.

Yet, Zearfoss does return to language to answer why we would return to the past in order to look towards a productive future. Towards the end of Something to Move In the voice Zearfoss and Midden have been remixing for the beat becomes clear and says: “You can’t build a building until you get rid of the building that’s there.” In the dialogue, this is a metaphor that advocates for the destruction of capitalism through revolution. If returning to the past seems to be sympathetic towards the building that’s there, you have to remember it’s not the systems of the 1960s Zearfoss and Maddin are remixing; it’s the people.

EF: How does the body as not just something we have but an object and a tool factor into Latham’s work? in asking this question I’m think specifically about the voices in Dirge, the dancer in Something to Move In, as well as the footage of bodies and the footage those bodies are juxtaposed with in Home Movies,

APM: I’m not sure how well I can speak about Dirge in relation to that question, especially since I’ve spent the least amount of time with that work, maybe Home Movie… but, definitely in Something to Move In…I think there is an intentional layering of form there. The modern dancer with the political panel….remember, these things are going on in the same place and the same time, but we historicize them as being worlds apart. I think the layering serves as a cue that the body-as-art or body-as-art-object is often apoliticized by dominant standards of formalism and beauty, but the video asks us to remember that the body contains multiple ideas/uses/intents at once, these things don’t need to be compartmentalized…the idea that these things are separate (beauty, art, politics, human rights) constitutes a means of controlling and limiting historical narratives.

In that case, even if the center does not hold, Zearfoss and artists like them are still hopeful we’ll find a new one.

Latham Zearfoss, still from extrae, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist.

February 15 – Latham Zearfoss: Home Movies

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | February 9, 2018

Latham Zearfoss, still from Home Movie, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.

Chicago-based artist and organizer Latham Zearfoss (BFA 2008) has built a multifaceted body of work that unites themes of love, community, family, political legacy, personal agency, and collective action. Their poetic and pop-infused videos mine the territory between public and private, reason and emotion, the extraordinary, and the everyday. In HOME MOVIE (2012) cell phone videos of social gatherings and public performances are layered with close-ups of nature, naked bodies, and domestic interiors to form a kaleidoscopic notion of home—as a shared space, a sense of belonging, and a site of intimacy. In extrae (2016) shots of cats, unmade beds, and dried flower petals are paired with an irreverent ode to Tyrone Garner, one of the plaintiffs in the 2003 Supreme Court case that overturned archaic sodomy laws throughout the United States. Zearfoss presents a collection of videos spanning the last decade, including the premiere of two new works, Goth Party and White Balance, and restages Something to Move In (2014) and Love Is a Stranger(2012) as live, responsive performances. With Darling Shear, Caroline Campbell, Amalea Tshilds.

2008–18, USA, multiple formats, ca 70 min + discussion
Latham Zearfoss in person

Latham Zearfoss produces time-based images, objects, and experiences about selfhood and otherness. Outside of the studio, they contribute to collective motions toward joy and reflection through social projects such as the queer dance party Chances Dances, Make Yourself Useful, a critical space for White “allyship,” and Open Engagement, an itinerant conference on socially engaged art. Latham holds a BFA from SAIC (2008) and an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2011). They have exhibited their work, screened their videos, and DJ’ed internationally and across the United States.

Spring 2018!

Posted by | Amy Beste | Posted on | January 19, 2018

Happy new year! We’re thrilled to announce the Spring 2018 season of Conversations at the Edge.

Joan Jonas, still from Stream or River, Flight or Patter, 2016-2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

The series opens February 15 with new and old works by Latham Zearfoss and closes April 19 with an appearance by pioneering multimedia artist Joan Jonas. In between, we’ll be hosting appearances by Ephraim Asili, Lee Anne Schmitt and Jeff Parker, Laura Huertas Millán, Hayoun Kwon,Thorsten Trimpop, curators Astria Suparak and Brett Kashmere, and a rare screening of films by the late Edward Owens, introduced by the critic Ed Halter.

Latham Zearfoss, still from Home Movie, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.

Edward Owens, still from Remembrance: A Portrait Study, 1967. Courtesy of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative.

Stay Tuned! Spring 2018

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | January 8, 2018

Happy new year! Conversations at the Edge wraps up another great season.

Check out the Fall 2017 season highlights in photos and stay tuned for when we announce our Spring 2018 lineup!

Jim Trainor, still from The Pink Egg (2017). Courtesy of the artist.

AES+F, still from The Feast of Trimalchio, 2010. Image courtesy of the artists.

Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder. Image courtesy of the artists.

Alex Gerbaulet, still from TIEFENSCHÄRFE (Depth of Field), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ana Mendieta, still from Energy Charge, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

Sondra Perry, still from IT’S IN THE GAME ’17 or Mirror Gag for Vitrine and Projection, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

On Sondra Perry

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 16, 2017

We close this season of Conversations at the Edge with a performance and video by New York-based interdisciplinary artist Sondra Perry whose work critically examines the technologies and power relations that affect representation and black identity.

This week, we welcome School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate student Lindsay A. Hutchens to reflect upon Sondra Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation.

Sondra Perry, still from Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Sondra Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One (2015) begins in the midst of a time-honored tradition: staging a family photograph. The viewer is positioned so that we are across the street looking back at a family in matching black sweats and chroma key green ski masks arranged in front of a home. They look cozy and warm on what would otherwise be a miserable cold and grey day.  “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to,” is shouted from the camera, from Perry. Directions to aunts and uncles are given and repeated.  “CCCHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSEEEE.  CCCHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSEEEE.
CCCHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSEEEE.”

Perry frames this video against a chroma key computer desktop, which she uses to choreograph multiple windows and files of her family and more. While her works have been installed at MoMA PS1 and screened in theater spaces, I have only ever seen Sondra Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One, or any of her videos on her website. There, I’ve viewed them by myself, and in a way that mirrors many of the visual systems she references.

Sondra Perry’s work first came into my consciousness thanks to my good friend and curator, Natalie Zelt, who lives in Austin, Texas, but is from Houston where Perry has been a CORE Artist in Residence at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. I regularly make photographic and video work using my own family as subject matter, and Natalie knows this. Coming from what seems to be a much larger family than myself, Perry has fascinated me by drawing attention to the role of photographic mediation in intimate relationships. The camera is the loudest of all participants in the video, highlighted in layered windows, visible access to play buttons and runtimes, audible direction from behind the camera, and its presence repeatedly in the hands of those being recorded. Country also plays a role. Rituals involving the American flag are played out, first subtly and then explicitly. But it is the moments of specificity to Perry’s family that bring us closer, provide access, and establish the stakes. Perry’s grandmother is trying to tell about her process of burying flags too worn to fly, while her mother loudly proclaims “It’s under the collard greens!”

In one early scene, Perry shows her hand as a director. Handing the camera off to a relative, she asks her mother to respond in a certain way to the sweater she is wearing. For a moment, the audience is just as confused as Perry’s mother. She knows the sweater, but is she meant to know the sweater?  She’s acting surprised, but is she meant to have expected it? Direction is given from on-camera Perry as well as the male voiced videographer, both telling the mother in so many words, “you do you.” Mom, perform mom. Not mom, but you as a mom. That’s not how you use your hands. Perform yourself, with direction. Act natural. To which Perry’s mother obliges, and ends the scene by reminding, “Well, you are my baby. You can’t take that away from me.”

Perry introduces heavy bass with Venus X’s 2015 track “Beautiful. Gorgeous. Golden. Girl,” leaping generations with music as well as casting. Three young women cheese in selfie mode and dance on the sidewalk, two with long glossy ponytails popping out the top of their chroma key green ski masks.  They record themselves in a way no one else has yet. Flipping hair. Giggling. Performing without being directed on-camera. Their youth brings attention to the hyper-visibility of the chroma key green ski masks, and pushes against Perry’s control as maker. These women have literally cut a hole in the masks for their hair to poke through, which Perry combs with care in return.

The final scene shows Perry’s entire family together at the table, poised to peel sweet potatoes or yams, again in matching black sweats and ski masks. Another family tradition, warm and cozy, which makes me almost smell Thanksgiving. Perry asks if her grandmother has chosen a song for everyone to sing while they peel, and eventually accompanied by hand claps, together they sing a gospel about family caring for one another. Another direction is given from Perry to “try and connect with each other, somehow, without talking.” Nearly to the end, Perry’s grandmother is seen at the table, having finished with peeling, attempting to remove her mask. She has a ponytail of her own, greyed and in curly tendrils but just as playful as the three young women, and Perry’s mother along with a masked female relation reach over to help so as not to mess the matriarch’s hair.

Perry’s Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One embraces conversations about agency and representation in lens-based work, as well as the ways traditions and ritual are passed down through family  But it’s through these in-between acts of care and affection–ponytails being guided in and out of ski masks–which Perry seems to have picked up on in the moment, in the middle of construction and long after suggestion of non-verbal intimacy, that do something more for me. They remind me of sitting in front of my grandmother’s chaise lounge so she could brush my hair while we watched The Golden Girls together. That is the thing that pricks me—these moments in which media is entwined with care.

November 16 – Sondra Perry: Performance and Video

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 10, 2017

Sondra Perry, still from Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Mixing personal history and pop culture, New York-based artist Sondra Perry savvily dissects power relations that shape Black identity and representation. Her performances and multimedia works use video games, glitchy 3D avatars, and computer desktop windows to express and explode biases built into the code of everyday life. In the video-performance Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One (2015-17), she layers footage of family members acting out real and fabricated familial lore, inviting audiences to consider the shifting and mutable threads of identity in the digital age. While, in IT’S IN THE GAME ‘17 or Mirror Gag for Vitrine and Projection (2017), she focuses on her brother—who, as an NCAA college basketball player had his likeness used without compensation in popular video games—and contemplates the ways images of Black men and women have long been exploited for profit and prestige.

2015-17, USA, live performance and digital file, ca 65 min + discussion

Sondra Perry in person

Sondra Perry (b. New Jersey) is an interdisciplinary artist whose videos and performances foreground the tools of digital production as a way to critically reflect on new technologies of representation and to remobilize their potential. Perry has had multiple solo exhibitions, including at THE KITCHEN, for her work Resident Evil. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA PS1 in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Perry was recently awarded the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize for a solo show at the Seattle Art Museum. She has participated in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Vermont Studio Center, Ox-Bow, the Experimental Television Center, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as a CORE artist-in-residence. She received her MFA from Columbia University and BFA from Alfred University.

On Ana Mendieta

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 8, 2017

This week, we are thrilled to present a selection of experimental short films by the late Cuban-born multidisciplinary artist Ana Mendieta.

Ana Mendieta, still from Volcán, 1979. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Ana Mendieta grew up amidst the political upheaval of Castro’s regime, fleeing to the United States with her older sister Raquelin in 1961. She would later go on to forge a prolific career creating groundbreaking work which spanned across multiple mediums. Mendieta’s radical practice included photography, performance, drawing, sculpture, site-specific installations, and hundreds of recently highlighted short films.

Haunting yet powerful in their silence, Mendieta’s films address themes of violence, transformation, resilience, and collective passivity. A majority of the films presented in this week’s screening were shot using celluloid film, allowing Mendieta to physically manipulate the medium to create ethereal effects. Through both the presence and absence of the body, the films confront the viewer with the visceral corporeality of her performances and actions.

Ana Mendieta, still from Butterfly, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

In the following excerpt, Sheila Dickinson discusses Mendieta’s films as presented in the 2015 exhibition Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery (University of Minnesota, Regis Center for Art).


Ana Mendieta Comes Alive in Her Films

Sheila Dickinson

MINNEAPOLIS — The more time I spent in the galleries of Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, the more I felt the lived presence of the artist herself. Unlike the bright white cube of a typical gallery, here the viewer is invited to walk through a filmy white curtain and enter a darkened, sanctified space. The artist appears only occasionally in her films, but she haunts them with her body forms found in earth, fire, blood, and water. Projected directly onto the walls of the gallery, up to three per wall, the films interact and converse with each other as they begin and end asynchronously. A hushed silence permeates the darkness as Mendieta, or her body form, shape shifts upon the walls. The films are an activating presence, bringing to the viewer an aliveness that cannot be found in her still photography. Much of that photography, and her films, has until now been understood as documentation; this exhibition demonstrates that Mendieta thought and created through films as much as through the performances and sculptures shown in them.

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Ana Mendieta, still from Energy Charge, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

November 9 – The Films of Ana Mendieta

Posted by | Paris Jomadiao | Posted on | November 3, 2017

Ana Mendieta, still from Butterfly, 1975. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.

The late Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta forged a radical practice that explored primal themes of displacement, the body, violence, and transformation. Known mostly for her earthworks, photographs, and performances, Mendieta also created numerous short films. With these works, she both captured her ephemeral performances and further transformed them through trick photography, staging, or video synthesis. In Silueta Sangrienta (1975) the artist’s body is suddenly replaced with a pool of blood; in Butterfly (1975) the artist’s body morphs and pulsates with the electrons of a video monitor. Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, film archivist for The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, presents a selection of these films, many which have been recently rediscovered and restored. The program will be followed by a discussion with Cecilia and scholar Rachel Weiss.

1971-81, USA, digital file, ca 60 min + discussion

Scholar Rachel Weiss and The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection film archivist Raquel Cecilia in person

Ana Mendieta (b. 1948, Havana, Cuba–1985, New York) created groundbreaking work in photography, performance, film, video, drawing, sculpture, and site-specific installations. Mendieta’s work has been the subject of six major museum retrospectives, the most recent of which, Ana Mendieta: Traces, was organized by the Hayward Gallery, England, in 2013, and travelled to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria, and the Galerie Rudolfinum, Czech Republic. Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972–1985 was organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, in 2005 and traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; and Miami Art Museum, Florida.

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