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CEREMONIES: A SELECTION OF SHORT FILMS BY MARLON RIGGS

May 19 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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In conjunction with EMERGENCE: Intersections at the Center, the current exhibition at the South Side Community Art Center, CEREMONIES will be screened IN PERSON, in partnership with South Side Projections.

Co-curator of EMERGENCE and SSCAC Public Programs and Engagement manager zakkiyyah najeebah dumas-o’neal will lead a post-discussion with Aymar Jean Christian, associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University and  co-founder of OTV | Open Television. Aymar also served as an advisory panelist during the organizing phases of EMERGENCE. 

 

A filmmaker unlike any other, Marlon Riggs was an unapologetic gay Black man who defied a culture of silence and shame. Riggs used a bold mix of documentary, performance, poetry, and music to confront the legacy of racist stereotypes and the impact of AIDS on the Black community. He died in 1994 of AIDS-related illness, leaving behind a vital, living body of work that wrestled with the very definition of what it means to be Black. 

Marlon Troy Riggs (1957-1994) was an American filmmaker, educator, poet, and gay rights activist. He produced, wrote, and directed several documentary films including Ethnic Notions, Tongues Untied,  Color Adjustment and Black Is, Black Ain’t. His films examine past and present representations of race and sexuality in the United States.

 

 

 

CEREMONIES directly references poet Essex Hemphill’s groundbreaking anthology of short stories and poetry Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry, which won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award when it was published in 1992. The book’s poems and essays expand on many important social issues at the time, such as the white objectification of Black men, as epitomized by Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Black Book; AIDS in the Black community; and the complex dynamics gay Black men experience in both the white LGBTQ+ community and in Black culture – very much in alignment with Rigg’s exploration of these topics as it appeared in his film works. In addition Essex Hemphill’s poetry was also featured in Marlon Riggs’ documentaries Tongues Untied (1989) and Black Is … Black Ain’t (1994).

 

This program features three short films by Marlon Riggs: Affirmations (1990), Anthem (1991), and Regrette Rien (No Regret)(1993), of which depict the visual, artistic, and political convictions of a transformative and pioneering filmmaker whose work is a historical document of Black gay sexuality from a Black perspective and still deeply relevant today. 

 

This program is generously supported by, and in partnership with South Side Projections. 

Founded in 2011, South Side Projections presents films at locations across Chicago’s south side to foster conversation about complex social and political issues. At many screenings, we enlist scholars, activists, and filmmakers to lead discussions, while other screenings offer opportunities to present seldom-seen films of historical and artistic value to the communities of Chicago’s south side. 

Details

Date:
May 19
Time:
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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MIXED MEDIA AND STILL LIFE

Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.