BLUR Celebrates the Ever-Growing Canon of Black Cinema

Forgoing categories like documentary, short, video art, and music video, the Anthony Konigbagbe-curated exhibit celebrates the work of black creators

Curated by Pyer Moss art director Anthony Konigbagbe, the exhibition BLUR is a muddling of forms and genres. From music videos and short films to documentaries and branded content, all are present (on show at the transitional gallery space at 98 Orchard), but none are prefaced with their intention. When films are assigned a genre, expectations gets affixed, as well. But, BLUR‘s opening statement, which viewers are met with upon entering, explains that the exhibit aims to dismantle the complex web of classification and style in favor of “a more formless definition of black cinema as a preeminent genre within contemporary visual art.” To see a music video not as an accessory to a song, but as a submission to the canon of black cinema empowers the filmmaker. It also intentionally shifts the way viewers consume the work.

In total, the runtime for the entire exhibition clocks in just under an hour. Brooklyn-based director Alex Ashe‘s Mr. Parker (12 minutes and 59 seconds) features Lee Fields and Janet Mock in a story about the struggles of a dwindling star. Cameron A Granger‘s The Help (2 minutes and 38 minutes) gets projected onto the gallery’s floor, offering the audience an aerial perspective similar to those found in the film’s inspirations—shots from rescue helicopters and viral videos of black people dancing in tropical storms. Granger calls the piece a reference to “my people’s resilience in the midst of struggle.”

A 2014 piece by LA-based artist Russell Hamilton feels particularly suited for this setting. Black Superman (3 minutes and 38 seconds) follows a young black boy on the cusp of a revelation: he’s Superman. Pertinent events in America’s history are juxtaposed with fictional instances, all while these archival clips and images confront racism. Aligned with the show’s primary goal, how this work should be interpreted is left open for discussion.

BLUR (at Monster Children and Pabst Blue Ribbon’s 98 Orchard space) is open now and runs through 10 December, from 12PM to 6PM daily.

Images by Aaron Laserna for BLUR