Films by Kevin Jerome Everson and Edgar Arceneaux
Thursday, October 26 / 7:30 pm / BAMPFA, Berkeley
Kevin Jerome Everson, Edgar Arceneaux, and Michael B. Gillespie in conversation
Kevin Jerome Everson
Kevin Jerome Everson works in film, painting, sculpture, and photography. His filmic fables, the focus of this exhibition, articulate the profound within the ordinariness of everyday life. Everson, who was born in the working-class community of Mansfield, Ohio, depicts details in the lives of people living and working in similar American communities: a mechanic repairing an old car in a backyard, a black beauty queen in a segregated pageant, men boxing, snowplow operators in winter, young men walking into a courtroom, the aftermath of a murder. Some of Everson’s films are constructed from appropriated news and film footage, uncovering forgotten details of African-American life in the 1960s and 70s. In other films, the artist explores the waxing and waning of a community’s sense of itself and the migration of black people from the South to the North in order to find work. Everson, whose work was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, approaches race, sexuality, and economic circumstances with a poetic yet unflinching eye. Adopting the stance of an observer, his interest in labor has both a political and a formal aspect, exploring the relationship between the human body and the materiality of the labor it performs as both an expression of class and identity, and as a performative gesture.
Edgar Arceneaux was born in Los Angeles in 1972. He investigates historical patterns through drawings, installations, and multimedia events, such as the reenactment of Ben Vereen’s tragically misunderstood blackface performance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural Gala. In the artist’s work, linear logic is abandoned in favor of wordplay and visual associations, revealing how language, technology, and systems of ordering produce reality as much as describe them. Seemingly disparate elements—such as science fiction, civil rights era speeches, techno music, and the crumbling architecture of Detroit—find a new synchronicity in the artist’s hands, ultimately pointing to largerwas born in Los Angeles in 1972. He investigates historical patterns through drawings, installations, and multimedia events, such as the reenactment of Ben Vereen’s tragically misunderstood blackface performance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural Gala. In the artist’s work, linear logic is abandoned in favor of wordplay and visual associations, revealing how language, technology, and systems of ordering produce reality as much as describe them. Seemingly disparate elements—such as science fiction, civil rights era speeches, techno music, and the crumbling architecture of Detroit—find a new synchronicity in the artist’s hands, ultimately pointing to larger historical forces such as the rise of the surveillance state. Arceneaux’s installations have taken the form of labyrinths, libraries, multi-channel videos, and drawn landscapes that change over the course of an exhibition, only ever offering a partial view of the whole at any given moment. This fragmentation extends to the artist’s use of historical research in his work, such as FBI documents concerning civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., where redacted passages are presented on mirrors that reflect the viewer’s curious gaze.
Michael B. Gillespie
Michael B. Gillespie is a film theorist and historian with an interest in black visual and expressive culture, film theory, genre, visual historiography, global cinema, adaptation theory, popular music studies, and contemporary art. His recent book, Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film (Duke University Press, 2016) frames black film alongside literature, music, art, photography, and new media, treating it as an interdisciplinary form that enacts black visual and expressive culture. The book shifts the ways we think about black film, treating it not as a category, genre, or strictly a representation of the black experience but as a visual negotiation between film as art and the discursivity of race.
Rachel Kushner in Conversation with Julia Bryan Wilson
Friday, October 27 / 6:00-7:30 pm
James Moore Theater, Oakland Museum of California
Rachel Kushner is among America’s most exciting writers. Her novels and essays explore contemporary art, culture, revolutionary politics, modernism, and feminism with unmatched wisdom and grace.
She has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award and is a Guggenheim Fellow. Her fiction and essays appear regularly in the New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Artforum, Bookforum, Fence, Bomb, and Grand Street.
Rachel’s first novel, Telex from Cuba, intertwines revolution in 1950’s Cuba and visceral human interactions with a revelatory, deft hand. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews called it “Soundly researched and gorgeously written.” A New York Times bestseller and a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, it was a winner of the California Book Award.
Her incendiary work, The Flamethrowers, was a finalist for The National Book Award and was named one of the Top Ten Books of the year by The New York Times. It is celebrated as a modern classic. Rachel’s work continues to garner acclaim among her contemporaries like few other authors in recent history. In their review The New York Times proclaimed, “…her prose has a poise and wariness and moral graininess that puts you in mind of weary-souled visionaries like Robert Stone and Joan Didion.”
Julia Bryan-Wilson teaches modern and contemporary art, with a focus on art since 1960 in the US, Europe, and Latin America; she is also the Director of the UC Berkeley Arts Research Center. Her research interests include theories of artistic labor, feminist and queer theory, performance, production/fabrication, craft histories, photography, video, visual culture of the nuclear age, and collaborative practices. She is the author of Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era (University of California Press, 2009); Art in the Making: Artists and Their Materials from the Studio to Crowdsourcing (with Glenn Adamson, Thames & Hudson, 2016); and Fray: Art and Textile Politics (University of Chicago, 2017). With Andrea Andersson, she curated Cecilia Vicuña: About to Happen, which opened at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans in 2017 and will travel to the Berkeley Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery, and the ICA in Philadelphia. She is currently writing a book about Louise Nevelson.
She was a recipient of a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and has won several awards for her teaching. She was the Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in Spring 2014, and from fall 2014 to spring 2015 she was a Townsend Center for the Humanities Associate Professor Fellow. In 2017 she was a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.