In Death 24x a Second Laura Mulvey argues that cinematic images belie the deathlike qualities of still photography because of their ability to invoke the appearance of life through motion. This essay examines film and video projects that use found footage and still images from the Black Power era by redeploying them in experimental film and digital formats. Often highly didactic and formulaic in their original form, the Black Panther Party’s imagery of guns, fists, and men in militarized formations contested prevailing notions of race, power, and masculinity. Similarly, groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army are most often remembered through their spectacular representation in visual media culture rather than through their political actions or agendas. Video and film projects such as Raymond Pettibon and David Markey’s Citizen Tania (1989), Isaac Julien’s Baltimore (2003), Sharon Hayes’s Symbionese Liberation Army, Screed #16, Patricia Hearst’s Second Tape (2003), and Coco Fusco’s a/k/a Mrs. George Gilbert (2004) mobilize Black Power–era images in a formal as well as narrative challenge to conventions around race, gender, and sexuality. They also question the notion that the historical past is effectively “dead” because of its seemingly fixed status as a static object in structures of nostalgia and memory. Film, video, and installation work by Fusco, Julien, Pettibon, Bill Jones, Lyle Ashton Harris, and Carrie Mae Weems position still photography and graphic images in ways that challenge the boundaries of new media and the prevalent notion that the radical ideologies of the Black Power era represents necessarily “dead” ideologies.
Research Article| November 01 2011
Death Proof: Trauma, Memory, and Black Power–Era Images in Contemporary Visual Culture
Amy Abugo Ongiri is assistant professor of English at the University of Florida. Her book Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic (2009) explores the cultural politics of the Black Power movement, particularly the Black Arts movement’s search to define a “Black Aesthetic.” Her research interests include African American literature and culture, film studies, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies
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Nka (2011) 2011 (29): 42–49.
Amy Ongiri; Death Proof: Trauma, Memory, and Black Power–Era Images in Contemporary Visual Culture. Nka 1 November 2011; 2011 (29): 42–49. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-1496327
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