In the cleanse, Adama Delphine Fawundu reads from what she calls “the voices of the ancestors,” bringing forward the ideas and words of Erykah Badu, James Baldwin, Gayl Jones, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Sojourner Truth, and Alice Walker. Fawundu performs a ritualized ablution in an everyday shower setting, as milk, blood, and cotton make appearances in the artist’s hair. After Fawundu enters the shower with hair fresh-pressed from the salon, the cleansing undoes this expensive treatment associated with white and Western beauty standards. By the end of the video, Fawundu’s hair is bouncing with its natural curls. From the words of the writers, to the sounds of Trap music and Mende harvest chants, to the intimate act of bodily care, the cleanse suggests the power of ritual in contemporary African diasporic experience.
She Never Dances Alone celebrates Indigenous women, presenting a performance by Sarah Ortegon, a jingle dress dancer who carries forward the dance tradition’s call for ancestral healing and protection. Jingle dress originated with the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) people during the 1918 influenza pandemic and is typically performed by women.
The rhythmic, kaleidoscopic visual impact of the video mirrors and replicates Ortegon’s form. This shimmering mass of movement visually dazzles, but also underscores how Indigenous women today take action to protect their communities, rallying for accountability in the movement for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit across the United States, Canada, and the world.
Speaking directly to the camera, artist Howardena Pindell recounts her experiences of racism and sexism as a Black woman in the United States, before shifting to play the role of a white woman who claims that Pindell is “paranoid.” This groundbreaking video is a critique of both institutionalized racism and the mostly white Feminist Movement at the time. In 1972, Pindell co-founded A.I.R. Gallery, one of the first artist-run spaces for women in the United States, where the film was first shown in Dialectics of Isolation: An Exhibition of Third World Women Artists of the United States, curated by Ana Mendieta in 1980. This intensely personal and political film, whose title comes from a rebellious catchphrase often heard in Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 1940s, was a stark departure from the abstract works on paper for which Pindell was primarily known.
In this video, originally shot on 16mm film, Sara Cwynar collects, arranges, and archives objects purchased from eBay in her studio. Some are grouped according to manufacture date and color, others according to material and use. A male actor reads a script by the artist that, along with the imagery, poses questions concerning the circulation of objects and images over time, nostalgia and cycles of capitalism, and feminism. Cwynar employs velvet jewelry boxes as metaphors for “soft misogyny,” or subtle forms of discrimination against women. The viewer is moved to wonder: Why do we only care about some discarded objects, and what power systems are lurking behind these things?
KNOT combines many of the touchstones of Rashaad Newsome’s multidisciplinary practice: spinning decorative jewelry, lavish Gothic architecture, Black ballroom dancing, mathematical knot theories, and a frenetic energy that emerges from the extraordinary dancers and vocalists, as well as the artist’s surrealistic digital collaging techniques. Commissioned for the Brooklyn Museum’s 2014–15 exhibition Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe, the video heralds the legacy and longevity of Vogue Fem dance’s Black, Latinx, queer, and trans originators and innovators.
A speculative, fantastical vision of historical figures and events, Tourmaline’s Salacia follows Mary Jones, a Black trans woman and sex worker who lived in New York in the 1830s. Jones navigates brutal systems of racism and transphobia, including incarceration at Castle Williams, located on present-day Governors Island. Meditating on the intergenerational trauma of displacement, Tourmaline imagines Jones within the free Black landowning community Seneca Village, and foreshadows the village’s destruction through eminent domain to build Central Park.
Originally commissioned for the Brooklyn Museum’s 2019 exhibition Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall, Tourmaline’s film connects the past to the present. Footage from 1995 of trans activist Sylvia Rivera decrying the imminent destruction of an encampment housing her and other unhoused LGBTQ+ people along the Hudson River underscores the continued violence of gentrification and displacement.
Arthur Jafa’s akingdoncomethas is composed of a series of clips, sourced from the internet, of pastors delivering sermons as well as singers and choirs performing gospel songs for their respective congregations. Jafa uses light editing to isolate shared narratives and performative gestures. The film portrays a culture of deep faith, healing, and perseverance that offers messages of resistance and staying the course. Through Jafa’s sequencing, the viewer gets a sense of the ethics of the Black Christian (Pentecostal) church as well as its aesthetics—the undulation of voices, the slow-build tempo of testimony, the wail, the scream, and mellow moments of reflection. The viewer is left with an awareness of not only what constitutes a church program but also how it feels—and a sense that perhaps it is this feeling that matters most.
Art on the Stoop: Sunset Screenings
September 9–November 8, 2020
We invite Brooklyn Museum visitors, neighbors, and passersby to an outdoor exhibition of major video artworks by artists in our collection, as well as key loans, exploring themes of power and uncertainty, distance and loss, and history’s hand in our present times. The artworks are presented in evening screenings on the Museum plaza—our “front stoop”—providing a safe place to gather, rest, and encounter art, while also acknowledging the critical role that public spaces play for idea-sharing, community-building, and democracy.
Art on the Stoop: Sunset Screenings is presented Wednesdays through Sundays, starting at 5 pm, and is approximately one and a half hours in length. Videos with captioning are shown on a large-format LED screen placed above the tiered seating near the Museum’s fountain, allowing for socially distanced viewing. Screenings include public service announcements from Carrie Mae Weems’s RESIST COVID TAKE 6! project, which promotes known preventive measures for COVID-19.
From September 9 to October 11, screenings featured the work of Liz Johnson Artur, Arthur Jafa, Steffani Jemison, Ahmed Mater, Marilyn Minter, Wangechi Mutu, Rashaad Newsome, Ebony G. Patterson, Sable Elyse Smith, Tourmaline, Nari Ward with Zachary Fabri, and Sasha Wortzel. (View a PDF about works from the September 9–October 11 lineup.)
From October 14 to November 8, screenings featured the work of Adama Delphine Fawundu, Jeffrey Gibson, Susan Janow, Lorraine O’Grady, and Howardena Pindell, as well as an excerpt from Question Bridge: Black Males, by Hank Willis Thomas and Chris Johnson with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. They also include a special program of videos by Sara Cwynar, Steph Foster, Ja’Tovia Gary, Glenn Ligon, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and Ka-Man Tse, organized by UOVO Prize–winning artist John Edmonds in conjunction with his solo exhibition at the Museum. (View a PDF about works from the October 14–November 8 lineup.)
Every exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is a collaboration. Many thanks to our team members who participated in a series of cross-departmental discussions that directly shaped the development and production of Art on the Stoop: Sunset Screenings.