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September 8, 2015–November 21, 2015
Reception & Artist Talk with Bayeté Ross Smith
Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 6pm Reception, 7pm Artist Talk
To be held at the Center for Documentary Studies
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, NC
Co-sponsored by The Center for Documentary Studies, MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts, and AAH&VS Visiting Artists Series
(panel and community discussion)
Thursday, October 1, 2015, 7pm
To be held at the Hayti Heritage Center
804 Old Fayetteville St., Durham, NC
Co-sponsored by the Durham County Library and the Hayti Heritage Center
Private group viewings are available. Please contact the gallery for a reservation at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 919-660-3622.
Question Bridge: Black Males, a documentary-styled video art installation, explores critically challenging issues within the African American male community by instigating a transmedia conversation among black men across the geographic, economic, generational, educational and social strata of American society. Question Bridge provides a safe setting for necessary, honest expression and healing dialogue on themes that divide, unite and puzzle black males today in the United States.
Question Bridge originated in 1996, when artist Chris Johnson was looking for a way to use new media art to generate a meaningful conversation around class and generational divisions within San Diego’s African American community. Mediated through the lens of a video camera, ten members of the black community were provided a format to openly express their deeply felt beliefs and values through candid question and answer exchanges. None of the questions or answers were prompted. Over the course of four years, Johnson, along with Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, have traveled the nation collecting questions and answers from over 150 Black men in eight cities (New York, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, Birmingham, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Philadelphia) that comprise a video catalog of 1,500 exchanges. By focusing on exchanges within this extended community, surprising insights and new possibilities for witnessing our common humanity emerge.
This is a critical period in history for the African American community. In recent years, many have been able to transcend racial, cultural and economic boundaries while others have found themselves increasingly confined to the margins of society. African American men are particularly challenged by this paradox. A black man is the President of the United States, yet black men are still severely overrepresented in incarceration and high school dropout rates, and suffer disproportionately from various preventable health risks and as victims of homicide.
The representation and depiction of black males in popular culture has long been governed by prevailing stereotyped attitudes about race and sexuality. Far too little is known about the range of internal values and dynamics of this group. Scientists, social scientists, theorists, historians, politicians and activists have investigated the plight of the African American male on various levels and from diverse perspectives, yet not enough has been done to represent a mult-faceted and self-determined representation of this demographic. Ultimately Black males’ greatest challenges are with themselves. The question is, “why?”
Question Bridge: Black Males opens a window onto the complex and often unspoken dialogue among African American men, creating an intimate and essentially genuine experience for viewers and subjects and providing new opportunities for understanding and healing. This project brings the full spectrum of what it means to be “black” and “male” in America to the forefront. “Blackness” ceases to be a simple, monochromatic concept.
Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair
Question Bridge: Black Males was created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair. The Executive Producers are Delroy Lindo, Deborah Willis and Jesse Williams. The Post-Production Producer is Will Sylvester and the Supervising Story Producer is Rosa White.
Question Bridge: Black Males is a fiscally sponsored project of the Bay Area Video Coalition (a 501c3 not-for-profit organization) and supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Institute: Campaign for Black Male Achievement, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The Tribeca Film Institute, the LEF Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, Nathan Cummings Foundation and the California College of the Arts. The project was supported by the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab.
In related programming, be sure to catch work by Question Bridge artist Hank Willis Thomas at the upcoming exhibition Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art Duke University, September 1, 2015–January 8, 2017.