From “Black Collectivities: A Conference,” held May 3–4, 2013, at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator. This article combines remarks and images offered at the conference in response to a presentation by Claire Tancons with an article written for an unpublished collection, edited by filmmaker Mark Street, that ruminates on the city as a cinematic utopia. Both the conference and the book echoed concerns in Cauleen Smith’s current art practice, which involve collaboration with a high school marching band and her research into Sun Ra’s time in Chicago. Together the cinematic and the social relational threads highlight the complex roles of a filmmaker who engages her community and examines art’s political and creative stakes. Smith concludes that an artist must sometimes operate outside civil codes but that ethics are always in play.

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