Date & Time:
Sun May 9, 2021 - Sun May 16, 2021
The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Open to the public
“The Impasse of Blackness: Interrogating the Possibility of Resolution” is a program of experimental film from the UK, the third in a series of programs exploring the legacies and futures of Black British cinema, guest curated by Northwestern graduate students Gervais Marsh, Madison Ivory Alan-Lee, and Tyler Talbott.
THE IMPASSE OF BLACKNESS: INTERROGATING THE POSSIBILITY OF RESOLUTION
(Various Artists, 1988-2019, United Kingdom, digital, approx. 171 min)
Starting at 12 PM Central Time on May 9, “The Impasse of Blackness” will be available on the Block’s Eventive, including a discussion with filmmakers Ngozi Onwurah, Rabz Lansiquot, Imani Robinson, Ebun Sodipo, and curator Gervais Marsh (Northwestern doctoral candidate in the Department of Performance Studies). The program will be available to watch for a 7 day period with the option of closed captions. Please order tickets through the links below for access. All tickets include access to a recorded conversation with the filmmakers.
Please note, due to rights issues, WELCOME II THE TERRORDOME will only be available to viewers in the US and the UK. Be advised that limited tickets are available for each program.
About the program:
Bringing together feature-length and short films from the 1980s to the present, this program questions the possibility of resolution as it relates to the violence of anti-Blackness. Through their work, filmmakers Ngozi Onwurah, Ebun Sodipo, and the collective Languid Hands (Imani Robinson and Rabz Lansiquot) reckon with the afterlives of Trans-Atlantic slavery and colonialism, both in the U.K. and its “former” colonies. Drawing from a range of archival materials and narrative footage, the films interrogate the empty promises of progress, recognizing the constant onslaught of violence that impacts Black life. When the resolution of anti-Blackness is no longer viewed as a feasible outcome, ingrained in the structures of imperialist-capitalism, what otherwise possibilities does Black life turn to?
In nuanced and difficult ways, each of these films grapples with forms of violence that too often target Black life. At a time when the circulation of images of violence against Black people has become a terrifying norm, it is important to center the wellbeing of viewers. Content from these films may be triggering, so please watch if you have emotional capacity, and step away to care for yourself whenever necessary. We are grateful to be able to hold the complexity of these films with the audience.
About the Films:
Welcome II the Terrordome
Ngozi Onwurah, 1995, UK, 90 min, English
Released in 1995, Welcome II the Terrordome connects the historical event of Igbo Landing to a dystopian future in which Black people are contained and surveilled. The film tackles the continued violence and disinvestment in Black communities in Britain, a particularly poignant critique during a period hailed for the “progress” of multiculturalism. Although Terrordome presents a bleak picture of Black life in the near-future U.K., the film both references centuries of historical oppression while resonating painfully in the present.
Coffee Colored Children
Ngozi Onwurah, 1988, UK, 15 min, English
Onwurah’s film Coffee Colored Children explores anti-Black discrimination against biracial children in the U.K. Tackling the psychic toll Black children face in navigating whiteness, the film recalls much of the pain Onwurah and her family experienced growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Britain.
White Men Are Cracking Up
Ngozi Onwurah, 1994, UK, 20 min, English
White Men Are Cracking Up is a short thriller that interrogates the relationship between the fetishization of Black women and white male insecurity. Masie Blue is portrayed as a Black Widow figure, under investigation by detective Margrave, who is determined to prove her involvement in the suicides of several successful white men. Delving into the paranoia of detective Margrave, the film complicates power dynamics and blurs the line between perception and reality.
Towards a Black Testimony: Prayer/Protest/Peace
Languid Hands (Rabz Lansiquot, Imani Robinson), 2019, UK, 37 min, English
Languid Hands’ film Towards a Black Testimony: Prayer/Protest/Peace draws from archival footage to think with expressions of testimony by Black people, both in the U.K. and other locations in the Black diaspora. In conversation with jazz drummer and composer Max Roach’s critical album “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite” (1960), the film composition frames Black testimony as a site of im/possibility, grappling with the nuanced relationships Black being often has with the concepts of truth, justice, empathy, the law, life, and death. Footage chosen by Lansiquot is weaved together with a performative speech written by Robinson.
And the Seas Bring Forth New Lands
Ebun Sodipo, 2019, UK, 9 min, English
Ebun Sodipo’s film And the Seas Bring Forth New Lands brings together archival footage and a performance of original text to grapple with the interconnected precarity and joys of Black life. Footage combines clips from popular films, news broadcasts, social media platforms such as Vine, and fashion shows. Sodipo’s film reckons with the demands placed on Black existence while speculating on other ways of being adjacent to these violences. The soundscape knits together music from artists such as Blood Orange and Solange, along with Sodipo’s performed text.
About the Artists:
Ngozi Onwurah is a pioneer in British cinema and her film Welcome II the Terrordome is the first independent feature film released by a Black British filmmaker. Her films span several genres, drawing together experimental, autobiographical and ethnographic elements while employing multiple narrators and concepts of cultural memory. In addition to Terrordome, she has released several short films including And Still I Rise (1991) and Monday’s Girls (1993). Onwurah’s films often experiment with memory and temporality, complicating traditional cinematic narratives. Her work interrogates colonial discourse, often focusing on Nigeria, and centers the experiences of Black women, through nuanced explorations of trauma, the body, and female subjectivity. In her films, mind, and body are deeply intertwined, grappling with the fraught relationships between diaspora and country of origin through an attention to intimacy.
Languid Hands is an artistic and curatorial collaboration between DJ, filmmaker, and curator Rabz Lansiquot and writer, facilitator, and live art practitioner Imani Robinson. The collaboration began in 2015, and has led to several exhibitions, including (BUT) WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT WHITE SUPREMACY?, away, completely: denigrate and an upcoming with London artist-run cooperative Cubitt, featuring the work of visual artist Ajamu X. Their first collaborative film Towards a Black Testimony: Prayer/Protest/Peace was commissioned by Jerwood Arts.
Rabz Lansiquot has been curator-in-residence at LUX Moving Image and has developed public and educational programming around Black liberatory cinema. Their first solo exhibition where did we land is an experimental visual essay that interrogates the use of anti-Black violence in film and media. They have curated film programming at Institute for Contemporary Arts (London), SQIFF, and Berwick Film and Media Festival.
Imani Robinson has published writing widely, featured in Wasafiri magazine, Mousse publishing, and Arcadia Missa. Recent projects include: Ditto & Ditto take a trip to Port Authority, a moving image collaboration with Halima Haruna, WELCOME NOTE IN A WELCOME SPEECH, a collaborative performance with Libita Clayton and The Black (D)rift, a series of workshops and performances focused on Black geographies and exploring the psychic afterlives of Trans-Atlantic slavery.
Ebun Sodipo is an artist and writer whose work is created for “those who will come after: the Black trans people of the future.” Their practice includes performance, filmmaking, installation, and sound, meditating on new languages to speak about the body while speculating about the gaps and silences of the past, recognizing the limits of the archive. Their work has been shown at 198 Contemporary Arts, Raven Row, and South London Gallery, and their writing has been featured in several publications, including Shades of Noir, Auto Italia, and Afropunk.
The films in “The Impasse of Blackness" appear courtesy of Janus Films, Simon Onwurah, Women Make Movies, BFI, Languid Hands, and Ebun Sodipo.
Co-presented by The Block Museum of Art with support from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Department of Radio/Television/Film, Screen Cultures Program, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, the English Department, the British Studies Cluster, Black Arts Consortium, and the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University.
Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org