“I think that visual art in all aspects are super important to me, whether it be throughout the creation of my videos or my album artwork. Creating strong visual representation of not only myself but, again, black women, and getting to see us as avant-garde beings in a world that sometimes puts us in a box is really important to me.” -- Solange
What is Avant-Garde?
Hans Richter states in an essay that poetic film-- avant-garde film-- has a way of taking a subject from its tangible environment and introducing it to a new environment to create something entirely different altogether. Via the lens we should see, “the orchestration of motion in visual rhythms—the plastic expression of an object in motion under varying light conditions—the distortion and dissection of a movement, an object or a form and its reconstruction in cinematic terms.” (Hans Richter) The idea is that experimental film seeks the ways in which a conventional form can be manipulated and deformed to become a being entirely different. It is to strip the form of all its sociopolitical renderings and display the purity of this plastic form. And this is true for the white form (which is deemed conventional and has the ability to strip itself of its political renderings), but what of the nonwhite form that is deemed unconventional? How do we unconventionalize the nonwhite form?
The interesting aspect of experimentalism is its ability to give room for imagination and expression, for one to delve within create work from within. This is why most experimental works are hard to understand because it is for the creator and the creator alone, works that speak to them. They are (the films) a testament to the world in which the creator dreams. And what's so interesting is how this is interpreted by a person of color. To have the time to look within and dream is a luxury. For most people of color, the desire to become conventional is a lifelong goal for it is for them the key to survival, to see their children survive. To make work, whether it is to write or to play with light and reflections, to have that time to take your form and play with the limits of its plasticity is a luxury. Especially for women of color who are taught to think and care for others before themselves. It's difficult to cast their humanity aside for art when they aren't afforded it in the first place.
However, though, I believe that just as we’ve become The Other, as we sit in our box, our works reflect that and this goes for experimental works. Avant-garde works by people of color definitely exist but it needs to be looked at through a non-imperialist lens. I am so interested in The Other because this is who I am. To be black is to be The Other, and this rendering influences how I go about art and the art that I am interested in. I no longer feel obligated to care and put time into the conventional and various ways we can go about remixing it. I'm interested in the original ways we can render The Other. I think this is why most experimental works by people of color, particularly black people, gets overlooked as experimental because as people of color we cannot cast aside our sociopolitical rendering that make up our identities. This is why most experimental works are not sought out in nonwhite communities because we are not interested in works that do not bring out a generalized message that either sticks to the status quo (propagates stereotypes ala birth of a nation) or is canonically activist (for example The 13th). It is something that is overlooked in nonwhite communities because whiteness has led us to believe that unabridged creativity is a white thing, a white male thing. It is believed that to delve away from what is expected and to create what others might call “nonsense” is a purely white thing. To make art for the sake beauty and the various forms beauty comes; the various forms creativity comes in. This is why I created Oni, to bring about a space in which creativity can be explored, where cultures can converge and exchange without the imperialist gaze. I want us to unpack and build up.
What I'm most interested in are the different ways we can go about storytelling and look beyond conflict resolution. Which different ways we can go about sending a message and the way these messages affect others. Experimental works by people of color, I noticed, are usually non-linear storylines that explore multiple lessons or a showcase of a bigger vision. I want to dissect and analyze why we go about avant-garde works in this manner. What is this message? I want to also explore how speculative works by people of color can border on avant-garde and yet this is not talked about. Oni wants to bring light to varied people and their genius. We want to look critically at these works and what makes them...work.
Who’s storytelling inspires you? What is it about their storytelling that makes it radical and different? Who’s genius do you want to highlight?
Topics to consider:
Beloved, Daughters of the dust, and the significance of African (American) folklore
Exploring different modes of storytelling beyond the conflict-resolution storytelling
The ways in which cultural influence affect storytelling
Hypersexuality in Japanese horror and weird fiction
- What is experimentalism in the eyes of people of color?
Photo cr. Hilda Kortei, Untitled, 2016