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Theatre & Performing Arts

The Speculative Archive: Ja’Tovia Gary And Cauleen Smith

Chronicles of a Lying Spirit (by Kelly Gabron) (Cauleen Smith, 1992, 7’)

Sine at the Canyon & Sine at the Sea (Cauleen Smith, 2016, 8’)

Three Songs About Liberation (Cauleen Smith, 2017, 10’)

The Giverny Document (Ja’Tovia Gary, 2019, 42’)

Ja’Tovia Gary is a filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist working across documentary, avant-garde video art, sculpture, and installation. Gary is deeply concerned with re-memory and employs a rigorous interrogation and apprehension of the archive in much of her work. Intimate, often personal, and politically charged, her works aim to unmask power and its influence on how we perceive and formulate reality. This program features the full version of The Giverny Document (2019), filmed on location in Harlem and in Claude Monet’s historic gardens in Giverny, a multi-textured cinematic poem that meditates on the safety and bodily autonomy of Black women. Gary unleashes an arsenal of techniques and materials including direct animation on archival 16mm film, woman on the street interviews, and montage editing techniques to explore the creative virtuosity of Black femme performance figures while interrogating the histories of those bodies as spaces of forced labor and commodified production.

Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist who roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, Smith constructs immersive installations, moving-image works, sculpted objects, and textiles engaging with non-Western cosmologies, Afro-diasporic histories, Black cultural icons, and real and speculative utopias. This program includes three short films by Smith that span her practice: Chronicles of a Lying Spirit (by Kelly Gabron) (1992), a densely layered collage of images, texts, and competing voices that combine to offer a meditation on mediation, identity, and self-representation. Sine at the Canyon & Sine at the Sea (2016), a protest against what she calls “the reverberations of the neo-fascist nonsense” currently percolating in American culture. And Three Songs About Liberation (2017), filmed in Chicago as part of the exhibition “Revolution Every Day” (Smart Museum of Art, 2017-18) that Smith co-curated with our late colleague Professor Robert Bird.

Cauleen Smith and Ja’Tovia Gary in conversation with Christopher Harris and Allyson Nadia Field.


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