Affective Proximity: Films by Arthur Jafa and Others
Greg Tate is a writer, cultural producer, and musician. He was a staff writer at The Village Voice from 1987 to 2004. His books include Flyboy in the Buttermilk, Everything but the Burden—What White People Are Taking from Black Culture, and Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience.
Fundamental to Arthur Jafa’s artistic process is the compilation, editing, and remixing of appropriated images through what John Akomfrah has called “affective proximity.” For this program Jafa has selected films that explore the effects of violence on black individuals and communities while also depicting their beauty, power, and resilience. Dawn Suggs’s Chasing the Moon is a short meditation on fear, while Ben Caldwell’s I and I combines drama, documentary, and experimental techniques. Allyson Nadia Field writes, “Drawing from Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel Two Thousand Seasons, Caldwell meditates on reciprocity and on the concept of ‘I and I,’ which postulates no division between people, whereas the splitting of ‘you’ from ‘I’ is an invention of the devil designed to brew trouble in the world.” Jafa’s APEX originated as a collection of images assembled on his computer that, when animated, became an unrelenting montage of black beauty, elegance, horror, and trauma. In Cassowary: Mechanics of Empathy, footage of a tearful unnamed woman is juxtaposed with cell phone recordings of the police killing of Alton Sterling, the body of Michael Brown, and testimonies from witnesses to racist violence. Performances by Thomas Whitfield and the Company and Missylanyus gleaned from YouTube round out the program and testify to the power of black music.
Films in this Screening
Chasing the Moon
Dawn Suggs, United States, 1991
I and I
Ben Caldwell, United States, 1979
Arthur Jafa, United States, 2013
Cassowary: Mechanics of Empathy
Arthur Jafa, United States, 2016