SHAPESHIFTERS: a film program for Black Refractions

The Frye celebrates the final weekend of the landmark exhibition Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem with a special screening program of artist videos and short films curated by Black Cinema Collective. With a view to expanding and “refracting” The Studio Museum in Harlem’s focus on art of the African diaspora, the screening features works by artists both in and beyond the Black Refractions exhibition.

“Our program brings together a distinctive gathering of artists and filmmakers from a wide range of cinematic and video art vocabularies which speak to the boundless cultural, historical, mythological, and spiritual refractions of the Black diaspora. Among them are Lorna Simpson, Nari Ward, and Steffani Jemison, three of the artists included in Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem, who in this screening present works not on view in the exhibition at the Frye. The newly selected works by each artist, Cloudscape, 2004 (Simpson), Jaunt, 2011 and Crusader, 2006 (Ward), and Escaped Lunatic, 2010/11 (Jemison) anchor the program’s three acts, taking us through loosely-defined chapters devoted to memory/knowledge/play; hybridity + shapeshifting; and imaginary futures im/material. A selection of shorts from multidisciplinary practitioners Deborah Anzinger, Maya Cozier, Courtney Desiree Morris, and Tiffany Smith round out the program, in conversation with longer pieces from filmmakers Nuotama Frances Bodomo and Terence Nance + Samuel “Blitz the Ambassador” Bazawule.

“There are multiple worlds of memory and mourning, histories, beliefs, myths, and material cultures, which suggest that loss and the trauma of erasure and ruin can be forces that also bring about invention and renewed forms of thriving liberation. There can be delight in “third-worlding”—coopting and redirecting—whatever is deemed by the status quo as fixed or legitimate, and in so doing, moving beyond the prescribed maps and mistaken territories of the dominant narrative. If we consider memory not only as recordkeeping but as an act of imagination, fragmented identities can shapeshift through speculative ecologies of community, environment, knowledge, land, and language to become whole. The films in this program explore ruin, reclamation, and survivalist methods of existence across multiple spaces of catastrophe and hope, dreaming and invention, and simple acts of playfulness and love. They break free of borders and minimizing categories so we can conjure the mythic and invent our way beyond colonial ruin.”

— Berette S. Macaulay for Black Cinema Collective

Nari Ward. Still from Jaunt, 2011, video (color, sound); 7:52 mins. © Nari Ward. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

SHAPESHIFTERS is curated by Berette S. Macaulay for Black Cinema Collective and organized on behalf of Frye Art Museum by Amanda Donnan, Chief Curator, and Erin Langner, Exhibitions and Publications Coordinator. The program is presented in partnership with LANGSTON as a part of Murmurations, a Seattle-wide Arts Collaboration.

Support for this program is provided in part by Art Bridges. Additional support is provided by the Frye Foundation and Frye Members.

Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem is organized by the American Federation of Arts and The Studio Museum in Harlem. This exhibition is curated by Connie H. Choi, Associate Curator of the Permanent Collection at The Studio Museum in Harlem. The presentation at the Frye Art Museum is coordinated by Amanda Donnan, Chief Curator, with David Strand, Associate Curator.