I am so pleased to roll-out the program for CM04:
SHOPPING BAG SPIRITS AND FREEWAY FETISHES: REFLECTIONS ON RITUAL SPACE
(TRT: 50:00. 1980)
DIDN’T WE RAMBLE ON: THE BLACK MARCHING BAND
Narrated by Dizzy Gillespie
(TRT: 14:00. 1991)
THE EPIC CROSSINGS OF AN IFE HEAD
(TRT: 3:00. 2009)
These videos and films were selected as a way to created connections, exchange and dialog between the past and the present, the west coast and the midwest, and between different creative disciplines from music, to performance to visual arts to film.
As soon as the date is set, I’ll also be able to announce the special guests that I hope to come to the screening to facilitate a conversation about these works and how they might apply to contemporary life, thought and art in urban environs.
Barbara McCullough’s experimental documentary, Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections on Ritual Space, explores the different ways that the artists who surrounded the young filmmaker in the late seventies Los Angeles were using ritual to structure the production and generate meaning in their work. Precious video footage tracks David Hammons (before he left for New York) as he re-arranges the rubble in an abandoned lot into a totemic structure, a container of meaning that waited to be encountered by passers-by. Still photographed documentation of Senga Nengudi’s freeway performance – decades ahead of her time – are skillfully stitched together while Nengudi talks about her use of materials and the transformative powers of public performance. Most touching however is McCullough’s candid discussion with Betye Saar about her desire to understand the application of ritual in her own work. It’s clear that Saar had already thought a great deal about the topic. Her thoughts about ritual are as potent and instructive today as they must have been for McCullough herself.
Billy Jackson’s 1991 16mm film, Didn’t We Ramble On: The Black Marching Band helped me clarify my own reasons for wanting to produce insurgent marching band performances in Chicago streets, by assuring me that the black tradition of the processional has its roots in ritualized access to ancestors rather than military order as, it seems, is the case in Western history. Black marching bands, as Mr. Gillespie explains, can be traced directly back to the Egungun Masquerades of the Yoruba of West Africa. As processional travelled north, through Turkey to Europe the spectacle and ritual became increasingly linked to the expression of military order and power. This wonderful short reminds us that there are expressions of power more potent that the combative stations of colonial berths.
Wura-Natasha Ogunji has been producing performance videos that very much re-inscribe performance video with the uncanny urgency that the genre seemed to me to have lost long ago. While we think about the public rite of African-American processionals, I find Ogunji’s private performances link profoundly to Senga Nengudi’s explorations in everyday materials and urban spirits. Imagine those two encountering each other under an bridge, or in the desert!
These three videos, shown together can surely create illuminating sparks between the Chicago poets, musicians and visual artists, yes? I can’t wait to find out.
Please check back soon (or subscribe for automatic alerts!) for dates, times, and special guests!