Structuring Strategies: Thomas Allen Harris 'Queering the African Diaspora through Visual Narrative'
CalArts, Bijou Theater
FILM/VIDEO: Award winning filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris is the founder and President of Chimpanzee Productions, a company dedicated to producing unique audio-visual experiences that illuminate the Human Condition and the search for identity, family, and spirituality. Chimpanzee’s innovative and award-winning documentary feature films—VINTAGE – Families of Value, E Minha Cara/That’s My Face, and Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela—have received critical acclaim at International film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, FESPACO, Outfest, Flaherty and Cape Town and have been broadcast on PBS, the Sundance Channel, ARTE, as well as CBC, Swedish broadcasting Network and New Zealand Television. Mr. Harris’ video and installations have been featured at prestigious museums and galleries including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Biennial, Corcoran Gallery, Reina Sophia and London Institute of the Arts. Mr. Harris is a recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including a United States Artist Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Rockefeller Fellowship, as well as CPB/PBS and Sundance Directors Fellowships. A graduate of Harvard College, Mr. Harris lectures widely on the use of media as a tool for social change.
A fable-like tale, Splash explores the interplay between identity, fantasy and desire in pre-adolescence within the narrow construction of masculinity. The tape is an exploration of the artist's psycho-social and sexual development within a society that encourages the consumption of whiteness and heterosexuality. Unwittingly, the family becomes the agency through which sexual repression and gender conformity are carried out.
Black Body (1992)
During the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings, the artist wrapped himself in wire hanger over a period of four days to meditate on the body's physical and psychic interaction with the legacy of oppression characterizing the experiences of African-American communities in this country.
VINTAGE – Families of Value (1995)
VINTAGE - Families of Value is a fantasy documentary film which intimately explores three African-American families through the eyes of lesbian and gay male siblings—two or more in the same family.
E Minha Cara/That’s My Face (2001)
A personal documentary offering an entire generation of African Americans a groundbreaking perspective on the maddening diasporic search for a mythic motherland. In healing his own cultural yearnings, director Thomas Allen Harris journeys beyond the political movements of his day and into a spiritual realm where he finds much more then he expects.
Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2005)
A film based on the story of the first wave of South African exiles who left Bloemfontein in 1960 to keep the anti-apartheid movement alive from East Africa, Europe, America and Cuba. In their heroic journey, this group of twelve—and the thousands of young South African freedom fighters that would follow them - helped to create a global seismic shift that ultimately toppled the apartheid system in South Africa. One of the Disciples, Pule Benjamin Leinaeng, was the filmmaker's late father.
Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing & the Fight for Fairness (2011)
AFRO (is just a hairstyle): Notes on a Journey Through the African Diaspora (installation)
A three-projector installation that creates a poetic exploration of people scattered around the world who are of African origin. Using material from the artist's three-month journey from Los Angeles to Brazil and West Africa, AFRO explores a circulating world of attraction—a world in which one looks for affinity within a real or imagined African community.
Engaging symbols and myths from hybrid religions such as Santeria, Condomble, Voodoo and Egyptology, the work presents an insightful and provocative anthropology by drawing upon the transformative power of African diasporic aesthetics and European avant guard cinematic representations of mythology and mysticism. These staged theatrical performances are richly evocative tableaus that draw on pagan, aboriginal and African diasporic iconography's. Moving through the past, present and future, Alchemy uses digital technologies such as light-jet lazer 5000 digital imagery and DVD format video to usher in something new. The installation features nine large photographs and three wall-sized video projections.
Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (work in progress)
A two-hour film that will explore the role of photography, since its rudimentary beginnings in the 1840s, in shaping the identity, aspirations, and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present. The dramatic arch is developed as a visual narrative that flows through the past 160 years to reveal black photography as an instrument for social change, an African American point-of-view on American history, and a particularized aesthetic vision.
Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (www.DDFR.tv)