Testify (for The Harlem Six)

Video installation in conjunction with Glenn Ligon’s A Small Band

Presented by Black Cinema House at the Stony Island Arts Bank

Here we screen works that reflect on the capacity of Black people to speak truth to power, to address systematic abuses to and through their bodies, and the bodies of others.  In 1964, Harlem teenager Daniel Hamm bravely made his body speak — not only when he opened a fresh bruise while in police custody in order to show his need for medical treatment, but also when he recounted the gory tale, exposing to the world the atrociousness of police brutality, and its denial.

Talking, dancing, singing, remixing, dreaming— the films in this series show how such acts attest to the repetitive, cyclical nature of Black pain and suffering, particularly at the hands of the State.  Yet, like the alternately blinking neon words in Glenn Ligon’s A Small Band on view downstairs, these films also call attention to the power of reflection as resistance.  Testifying is a form of mirroring and repeating that does not merely copy.  Instead, each instance of testifying also has the power to transpose individual acts and memories of violence into newly resonant, radiating calls for empathy, shared outrage, and collective action.

Program 3: January 17-31

Come Out (excerpt from Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich)  |  Thierry De Mey, 2002, 12m
The line from Daniel Hamm’s testimony (“I had to open the bruise up and let some of the blues/blood come out to show them”) that inspired Glenn Ligon’s piece also prompted musician Steve Reich’s 1966 composition Come Out. This piece, in turn, gave rise to Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s 1982 dance, Fase, which was considered a cornerstone of contemporary dance and was later developed into this film.  Danced by De Keersmaeker and Michèle Anne De Mey.

Four Women  |  Julie Dash, 1979, 8m
Set to Nina Simone’s stirring ballad of the same name, the film features Linda Martina Young as strong “Aunt Sarah,” tragic mulatto “Saffronia,” sensuous “Sweet Thing” and militant “Peaches,” shattering pervasive stereotypes with each autobiographical verse.

Slaves  |  David Aronowitsch + Hanna Heilborn, Sweden/Norway/Denmark, 2008, 16m
Animated documentary illustrating a conversations with two freed children from southern Sudan, who were kidnapped by a government-supported militia and forced into slavery.

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