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MoMA talk will focus on Garrett Bradley’s multichannel video installation America

Who: Garrett Bradley, Thelma Golden
What: Live Q&A about Projects: Garrett Bradley
Where: MoMA YouTube
When: Thursday, January 21, free, 8:00
Why: In November, MoMA posted “Re-Imaging America,” a conversation between artist Garrett Bradley, Studio Museum in Harlem associate curator Legacy Russell, and Studio Museum in Harlem director and chief curator Thelma Golden, discussing Bradley’s multichannel video installation America, continuing at MoMA through March 21 as part of the Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series. The work combines twelve new black-and-white short films (about Harry T. Burleigh, James Reese Europe, the Negro National League, and other historical subjects) and a score by Trevor Mathison and Udit Duseja with archival footage of the unreleased 1914 film Lime Kiln Club Field Day, which is thought to be the oldest-surviving feature-length work with an all-Black cast, a love story starring Bert Williams and Odessa Warren Grey. “I knew that Bert was required to wear blackface, and I did not, even in my initial introduction to the material, feel that it took away from his brilliance. But it became critical to prove that, and to prove it using what already existed within the original footage,” Bradley says in the talk.

“That is one of the exciting challenges in working with archives — the prospect of revealing a new dimension of something that appears fixed. How could I make it clear that Bert’s power and creative genius were not confined to his performance alone? His vision extended far beyond our immediate gaze as audience members, and could be seen in-between the scenes themselves. It could be seen in a simple portrait, unmasked and still. I wanted to open America with these moments that made clear who he was, separate from the character in the film and outside of the narrative. It was important we saw him giving direction and in negotiation with the surrounding power structures. It became all the more critical that we had a moment to sit with certain frames — certain truths — that are less discernible at seventeen frames per second.” On January 21 at 8:00, Golden, who curated the exhibition with Russell, will host a live “Virtual Views” Q&A with Bradley on MoMA’s YouTube channel; museum members can send in questions beforehand here. The discussion will also be archived for later on-demand viewing, and you can check out three audio clips of Bradley delving into her work here.

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