SHAPESHIFTERS: a film program for Black Refractions
Saturday, August 14, 2021
2:00 – 3:30 pm
Frye Art Museum Auditorium
Pre-registration for this event has ended. Remaining tickets will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis on the day of the program, beginning one hour before the program at the desk in the foyer outside the auditorium. All unclaimed tickets (regardless of reservations) will be released to standby 10 minutes before the program.
The Frye celebrates the final weekend of the landmark exhibition Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem with a special screening program of artist videos and short films curated by Black Cinema Collective. With a view to expanding and “refracting” The Studio Museum in Harlem’s focus on art of the African diaspora, the screening features works by artists both in and beyond the Black Refractions exhibition.
“Our program brings together a distinctive gathering of artists and filmmakers from a wide range of cinematic and video art vocabularies which speak to the boundless cultural, historical, mythological, and spiritual refractions of the Black diaspora. Among them are Lorna Simpson, Nari Ward, and Steffani Jemison, three of the artists included in Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, who in this screening present works not on view in the exhibition at the Frye. The newly selected works by each artist, Cloudscape, 2004 (Simpson), Jaunt, 2011 and Crusader, 2006 (Ward), and Escaped Lunatic, 2010/11 (Jemison) anchor the program’s three acts, taking us through loosely-defined chapters devoted to memory/knowledge/play; hybridity + shapeshifting; and imaginary futures im/material. A selection of shorts from multidisciplinary practitioners Deborah Anzinger, Maya Cozier, Courtney Desiree Morris, and Tiffany Smith round out the program, in conversation with longer pieces from filmmakers Nuotama Frances Bodomo and Terence Nance + Samuel “Blitz the Ambassador” Bazawule.
“There are multiple worlds of memory and mourning, histories, beliefs, myths, and material cultures, which suggest that loss and the trauma of erasure and ruin can be forces that also bring about invention and renewed forms of thriving liberation. There can be delight in "third-worlding"—coopting and redirecting—whatever is deemed by the status quo as fixed or legitimate, and in so doing, moving beyond the prescribed maps and mistaken territories of the dominant narrative. If we consider memory not only as recordkeeping but as an act of imagination, fragmented identities can shapeshift through speculative ecologies of community, environment, knowledge, land, and language to become whole. The films in this program explore ruin, reclamation, and survivalist methods of existence across multiple spaces of catastrophe and hope, dreaming and invention, and simple acts of playfulness and love. They break free of borders and minimizing categories so we can conjure the mythic and invent our way beyond colonial ruin.”
-- Berette S. Macaulay for Black Cinema Collective
Lorna Simpson, Cloudscape, 2004 Black-and-white, sound; 7 mins.
Lorna Simpson came to prominence in the 1980s with her pioneering approach to conceptual photography. Simpson’s early work– particularly her striking juxtapositions of text and staged images– raised questions about the nature of representation, identity, gender, race and history that continue to drive the artist’s expanding and multi-disciplinary practice today. Her works have been exhibited at and are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; amongst others.
In Simpson’s video Cloudscape, a solitary Black male figure (played by artist Terry Adkins, also included in Black Refractions) whistles a tune as a thick fog slowly envelops him. As described by curator Okwui Enwezor, the piece “appears to be a song of departure from the charnel house of the racial sublime."
Terence Nance + Samuel “Blitz the Ambassador” Bazawule, Native Sun, 2011 Color, sound; 21:19 mins Music by Blitz the Ambassador from the album Native Sun
An artist, musician, and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Terence Nance has written and directed feature-length films including An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012) and the 2018 HBO series Random Acts of Flyness. He wrote, produced, and directed Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring Lebron James, which will be released this summer.
Blitz Bazawule is a Filmmaker and Musician born in Ghana and based in New York. Blitz's feature directorial debut The Burial of Kojo premiered on Netflix in 2019 and as co-director of Beyoncé's Black Is King, he earned a Grammy nomination in 2020. Blitz is currently directing the Warner Bros musical film The Color Purple, produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones and Scott Sanders.
Nance and Bazawule’s early short Native Sun follows protagonist Mumin who, following the death of his mother, travels from his home in Ghana's rural northern region to Accra in search of the father he has never met.
Tiffany Smith, Mango Mango, 2015 Color, sound; 3:36 mins
Tiffany Smith is an interdisciplinary artist from the Caribbean diaspora working in photography, video, installation, and design. Using plant matter, design elements, patterning and costuming as cultural signifiers, Smith creates photographic portraits, short videos, site responsive installations, user engaged experiences, and assemblages focused on identity, representation, cultural ambiguity, and displacement. Smith is Co-Director of Ortega y Gasset Projects in New York and an Artist in Residence at The Bronx Museum Block Gallery.
In Mango, Mango, two versions of the artist compete in a mango eating competition that interrogates cultural practices around the eating of the fruit. The split screen format points to the duality of experience for individuals living in communities where the cultural practices that come as second nature to them deviate from the status quo.
Deborah Anzinger, Autumn, 2016 Color, sound; 7 mins.
Jamaican artist Deborah Anzinger’s works across painting, sculpture, installation, and video explore questions of power, value, and being. She uses the structure of pre-existing systems as a tool to break these same systems apart, recontextualizing them as surreal artefacts. In this way her work examines psychical fragility and a desire for transcendence and existential freedom.
Autumn is part of an intended series of experimental shorts filmed by the artist, set as improvisational interviews and recordings of friends and colleagues. Here footage of another subject appears inside the mouth of Chicago-based artist Autumn Knight. As long as Knight smiles, the viewer can see the man with whom the narrator seems to be speaking, but it remains unclear whether the dialogue we hear actually corresponds to the interaction we are witnessing.
Nari Ward, Jaunt, 2011 Color, sound; 7:52 mins.
Nari Ward is a Jamaican-born, New York–based artist known for his sculptural installations composed of discarded material found and collected in his neighborhood. Ward re-contextualizes these found objects in thought provoking juxtapositions that create complex, metaphorical meanings to confront social and political issues surrounding race, poverty, and consumer culture. Recently his work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX (2019); New Museum, New York (2019); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2017); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2017); and Pérez Art Museum Miami (2015).
In Jaunt, the subject of water evokes notions of malleability and movement. Ward uses the visual reference of a frame to highlight water’s resistance to contained spaces, juxtaposing footage of explosive sprays of mist at an American car wash with that of a Jamaican fisherman who floats a glass-bottomed box on the surface of the ocean, creating a tiny movable window into the world below.
Nuotama Frances Bodomo, Boneshaker, 2013 Color, sound; 13 mins.
Nuotama Frances Bodomo is a Ghanaian filmmaker based in New York City whose award-winning short films have played at festivals including Sundance, the Berlinale, Telluride, Rotterdam, SXSW, and New Directors/New Films. Her short Afronauts was exhibited at the Whitney Museum as part of the group exhibition Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016, and at the 2018 Venice Biennale Architecture (US Pavilion) as part of Dimensions of Citizenship.
In her video Boneshaker, a West African family—lost in America—travels to a Louisiana church to find a cure for their problem child.
Maya Cozier, for those who mispronounce my name, 2018 Color, sound; 2:40 mins
A former music video dancer and choreographer, Maya Cozier’s films have screened at film festivals including Third Horizon Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Morelia International Film Festival, and Diaspora Festival of Black and Independent film, winning the Best Caribbean Short Film at Curacao Film Festival 2018. Her most recent feature length film She Paradise was included in the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
Commissioned by the Moving Pictures and Borders Project, for those who mispronounce my name is based on Kayo Chingonyi's poem of the same title, which focuses on the historical weight and magical power of naming.
Courtney Desiree Morris, Sopera de Yemaya: Olokun, 2020 Color, sound; 3:05
Courtney Desiree Morris is an artist and an assistant professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently completing a book entitled To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women’s Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua. Her artwork has been exhibited at the National Gallery of Jamaica (Kingston); the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza (Madrid, Spain); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, CA); and the Photographic Center Northwest (Seattle), among other venues.
Sopera de Yemaya is an experimental short film in seven chapters, each of which is named after a specific path of the goddess Yemaya as practiced in the Cuban Lucumí tradition. Yemaya has many caminos or paths, which represent the different aspects of her power and divinity. The camino also determines what is placed in Yemaya’s sopera, which houses the misterios and ritual objects that are associated with her. Morris’s film considers what it means to be a container for the divine while also grappling with her experience as a Black woman becoming a mother in a moment of resurgent anti-black racism, state violence, political instability, and global pandemic.
Steffani Jemison, Escaped Lunatic, 2010-11 Color, sound; 7:41 mins
Brooklyn-based artist Steffani Jemison uses time-based, photographic, and discursive platforms to examine "progress" and its alternatives. Jemison's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Nottingham Contemporary, UK; and LAXART, Los Angeles, among other venues.
Like her video Maniac Chase (2008–2009) included in the exhibition Black Refractions, Jemison’s Escaped Lunatic was created in response to her study of the chase genre, which originated in the first decade of 20th-century film. Both videos use repetition and subtle differences in action and shooting styles to depict a series of vignettes in which identically dressed individuals chase one another through urban landscapes. Manipulating chronology, duration, and character psychology, the video presents visual and narrative metaphors for the contemporary Black American experience, and for perceived and actual social progress.
Nari Ward, Crusader, 2006 Color, sound; 4:48 mins
Crusader breathes new life into discarded materials, transforming a shopping cart like those often used by the urban-dwelling homeless into a warrior’s mount. The jury-rigged vehicle and its cast-off contents become a fantastical mixed media sculpture that offers very real commentary on the values of contemporary American society.
Nuotama Frances Bodomo, Afronauts, 2014 Color, sound; 14:05 mins
Afronauts takes us back to July 16, 1969: America is preparing to launch Apollo 11. Thousands of miles away, the Zambia Space Academy hopes to beat America to the moon. Inspired by true events.
Tickets to this program are free of charge, and our seating capacity is limited. Free tickets, limit 2 per person, may be reserved in advance, up to 24 hours before the program. The reserved tickets may be picked up on the day of the program at the desk in the foyer outside the auditorium. All unclaimed tickets (regardless of reservations) will be released to standby 10 minutes before the program!
Day-Of Ticketing Policy
On the day of the program, pre-registered and standby tickets may be picked up beginning one hour before the program at the desk in the foyer outside the auditorium. All unclaimed tickets (regardless of reservations) will be released to standby 10 minutes before the program.