The aesthetic dimensions of "Black film" tend to be subordinated to historical, social and political lines of inquiry. And histories of "art film" tend not to include works by Black artists. This seminar foregrounds questions of form and style in film and video works by a wide range Black artists in order to develop new ways of understanding the complex, mutually constitutive relations between Blackness and the moving image.
We will pursue two general categories of work. One includes experimental practices by Black film and video makers. We begin in the era of segregated "race film" production of the 1910s-40s, considering moments of stylistic experimentation in the narrative films of Oscar Micheaux, Richard Maurice and Spencer Williams. We then discuss later film and videomakers who work more consistently and explicitly in experimental modes, including Barbara McCullough, Ben Caldwell, Ulysses Jenkins, Kevin Jerome Everson, Arthur Jafa, Christopher Harris, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Lauren Kelly and Robert Banks, Terence Nance, Khalil Joseph and Cauleen Smith. The second category includes film and video works by Black visual and performance artists who exhibit in gallery and museum contexts, such as John Akomfrah, Carrie Mae Weems, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, Kalup Linzy, and Wangechi Mutu. Along the way, we will discuss intersections with vanguard practices in related art forms (jazz, literature, theater), curatorial efforts (Black Radical Imagination program), and movements between the art world and the film industry (Isaac Julien, Steve McQueen).