Assembly of Images: On Histories of Race and Representation
Program Two: Christopher Harris and Crystal Z Campbell
view this program March 5–March 31, 2021 at
Assembly of Images: On Histories of Race and Representation is a three-month series featuring films by that explore and provide counterpoint to the history of race and the representation of African Americans in cinema and photographic traditions. These works are steeped in memory, history and deeply personal imaginings that linger in between lived realities and cinematic dreaming. Grounded in experimental formats, nonfiction impulses and independent filmmaking, these selections reframe and remix representations of joy and love, identity and perception, struggle and resilience and harness the power in claiming the narrative, mining archives and sharing histories. Full series details here.
Assembly of Images is curated by Gina Basso, Manager of Film Programs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and co-presented by San Francisco Cinematheque and SFMOMA.
SCREENING: Reckless Eyeballing (2004) by Christopher Harris, 16mm screened as digital video, b&w, sound, 14 minutes, exhibition file from Canyon Cinema. Go-Rilla Means War (2017) by Crystal Z Campbell; digital video, color, sound, 19 minutes.
Throughout his career, artist and filmmaker Christopher Harris has used film and video to re-stage and explore African American accounts of history. Using experimental film techniques, Harris brings disparate mediums into dialogue with one another to present multiple perspectives that speak to experiences of the African diaspora. In Reckless Eyeballing, the title taken from a Jim Crow era prohibition against Black men looking at White women, Harris imagines encounters between characters from American films such as Birth of a Nation (1915) and the blaxploitation film Foxy Brown (1974) to explore “the gaze” from an African American cinematic context. Throughout the film he juxtaposes images of Civil Rights activist and Black Panther Angela Davis with those of actress Pam Grier, mixing fantasy and reality and visually articulating how cinema’s cultural image bank conflates African American women’s desirability with danger.
Crystal Z Campbell is an artist, writer and experimental filmmaker of African American, Filipino, and Chinese descent, and the founder of archiveacts.com. In 2010, while walking through the ruins of the abandoned Slave Theatre, once the center of Black culture and civil rights organizing in Brooklyn, Campbell found a decaying 35mm film on the floor. She spent a year conducting archival research, manually scanning 20,000 frames of the film, which features Black men in various states of martial arts training among other imagery, and recording a soundtrack that merges fact and fiction. The result is a collaboration of sorts with the original filmmaker, who remains unknown to the artist. Campbell says, “Go-Rilla Means War, and its faded and discolored frames, are a metonym for Bedford-Stuyvesant’s deterioration by way of neglect, media demonization of Black bodies and the War on Drugs, all of which formed a constellation leading to Bed-Stuy’s current gentrification.” Go-Rilla Means War was originally commissioned by SculptureCenter.
Both Harris and Campbell are Harvard Radcliffe Film Study Center Fellows (2020-2021).