Notes on Black Video: 1987–2001

Programmed by Emily Martin | 01:26:01 | 1987-2001

Video Details
Thomas Allen Harris | 1992 | 00:05:00 | United States | English | Color | Stereo

Black Body is a harsh and compelling meditation on the contradictory values assigned to black bodies in American culture: they exist as both desired and feared, abject and powerful. 

Programmed by our Distribution and Communications Assistant, Emily Martin, VDB is excited to present our newest online program, Notes on Black Video: 1987–2001. Featuring work from Lawrence AndrewsThomas Allen Harris, Leah (Franklin) GilliamTony Cokes, and Art Jones, this program acts as a thematic survey of black video work from 1987–2001 highlighting work that demonstrates a practice of early (and continuous) black videomaking that intuitively relies on discursively approaching the mass image and popular culture, structures of meaning/knowledge, and the limitations of perception and what it seeks to render definable and concrete, through the amorphous, fluid perspectives present in the intersectional black American experience.

The works featured in this program are considered within the historical context of the period in which we can highlight the rise in mass incarceration, the increasing documentation of police brutality in the media (Rodney King), a solidification of hip-hop and rap cultures, and the political and social aftermath of the demise of the black power movement (and proceeding black liberation efforts) and its impact on black communities, social structures, and cultural production. Within such a context, these works utilize video as a restorative and critical medium for examining the impossibility of representing and defining blackness, interrogating an established perception of blackness, and building a foundation for what has yet to be seen both within and beyond the frame.

Featured Titles

An I for An ILawrence Andrews

A formidable collage of striking images, this powerful and provocative work confronts racial violence through images of ecological mayhem, machismo, pornography, and Third World poverty — images which return to the taboo body of a black man. "Directed and produced by our culture," An I for An I studies how violence is internalized and psychologized by overlapping soundtracks, printed texts, recurrent images, doctored footage and split screens. The piece attacks racist culture and pleads for an alternative recourse to violence.

Black Body Black BodyThomas Allen Harris

Black Body is a harsh and compelling meditation on the contradictory values assigned to black bodies in American culture: they exist as both desired and feared, abject and powerful. The “black body” is a body whose surface reflects projected fears and repressed desires; as such, it exists as a site of ideological struggle, a surface which is simultaneously eroticized and denegrated.

Sapphire and the Slave Girl Sapphire and the Slave GirlLeah Gilliam

Loosely based on the 1950s British detective film Sapphire, in which two Scotland Yard detectives investigate the murder of a young woman who is passing for white, Sapphire and the Slave Girl examines the determinants of Sapphire's murder investigation through its cinematic representation.READ MORE

Fade to Black Fade to BlackTony Cokes

In this meditation on contemporary race relations, two black men discuss in voiceover certain “casual” events in life and cinema that are unnoticed or discounted by whites — gestures, hesitations, stares, off-the-cuff remarks, jokes — details of an ideology of repressed racism.

This title is also available on Tony Cokes Videoworks: Volume 1.

Love Songs #1 Love Songs #1Art Jones

Love Songs #1 is composed of three pieces that pose questions about urban culture, race, and politics. Found footage images are manipulated and juxtaposed with popular music; the effects are unsettling, ironic, and sometimes humorous.