The program Avant-Noir surveys contemporary work by African and African Diaspora film and video artists, along with work that explores African cultures from other perspectives. Avant-Noir offers unique visions of the black experience while celebrating the presence of artists who are often excluded from elite institutions and the dominant discourses on experimental film and video. These politics of representation lay implicit in the body of the program – the explicit content offers a virtuous use of picture and sound in a variety of techniques that render a provocative impression of living while black at the dawn of the 21st century.
The artists presented in Avant-Noir include a mixture of young and seasoned professionals, both of African and non-African descent. The works in this program employ archival footage to investigate the racial implications of the gaze and spectatorship; merge the abstract and the artisanal in documenting the act of labor; depict relationships with the delicacy and unpredictability of dreams; foment revolutionary action in form and content; and define the end of an epoch in transformative terms. As written by the Cuban cineaste Julio García Espinosa in conceptualizing a revolutionary cinema, ‘It is no longer a matter of replacing one school with another, one “ism” with another … but of truly letting a thousand different flowers bloom.’
- Reckless Eyeballing, Christopher Harris, 2004, 16 mm, B&W, Sound, 15 min.
- Lagos Sand Merchants, Karimah Ashadu, 2013, Video, Colour, Sound, 9 min.
- Intermittent Delight, Akosua Adoma Owusu, 2007, Film/Video, Colour, Sound, 5 min.
- Hasidi, Ng’endo Mukii, 2006, Video, Colour, Sound, 4 min.
- Song for Hector, Aryan Kaganof, 2007, Video, Colour, Sound, 5 min.
- Broken Tongue, Mónica Savirón, 2013, Video, Colour, Sound, 3 min.
- Pen up the Pigs, Kelly Gallagher, 2014, Video, Colour, Sound, 12 min.
- Century, Kevin Jerome Everson, 2012, 16 mm, Colour, Sound, 7 min.
In 2014 I organized the program Avant-Noir on the occasion of the Artist’s Film Biennial at ICA in London. At that time I felt I was responding to a necessity, a representational lack in Europe and elsewhere. Avant-Noir was used as a tool to break down the consolidation of conservative practices in curating experimental cinema. It was also conceived with the aim to focus on the present, to celebrate the work of artists active in this new century who are struggling for a new value and new perspective placed on the black image in film and video art.
I consider this an international struggle with multiculturalism at the core of its project. From the outset the program was designed to also struggle against the ghettoization of black film and video artists, to put them into dialogue with their peers of varying ethnicities and nationalities, and particularly those who nurture the progressive potential of the black image. The mission continued from this initial program, and in 2015 I organized Avant-Noir, Volume 2, also at ICA London. These essential films and videos and the artists who created them are in some cases woefully underseen, in other cases known but not celebrated nearly enough. For this reason I felt it was important to travel the program Avant-Noir to different cities and different institutions, so that different audiences may interact with the work. This Zagreb screening of the initial Avant-Noir, retroactively labeled ‘Volume 1’, is the first stop on this journey. - Greg de Cuir Jr.
Greg de Cuir Jr is an independent curator, writer, and translator who lives and works in Belgrade. He is the selector for Alternative Film/Video and also the selector for Beldocs. He has organized moving image programs for ICA London, AFC Belgrade, Los Angeles Filmforum, goEast Wiesbaden, National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, Experiments in Cinema in Albuquerque, Yugoslav Kinoteka in Belgrade, and other institutions.