This programme presents two films that exemplify Kevin Jerome Everson's prompt to viewers to consider the backstories of the people and communities appearing in his films.
'I want the viewer to do the work of creating a backstory…There are a certain set of conditions that influence the body that I want to put forth. Those conditions could be weather, economics, crime, recreation. It could be a lot of things, but overall I’m considering a process, the way conditions affect people.' -Kevin Jerome Everson, in interview with Michael Boyce Gillespie, Black Camera Fall 2016
A billboard being installed in Erie’s opening shot harks back to mid-century advertisements promoting employment opportunities in northern automobile factories to Black workers in the South. This leads us into a disjointed view of contemporary life in the African American communities that subsequently developed around Lake Erie, filmed at the moment in which these same factories were beginning to close.
Duration is approached as a structuring principle in the film, felt most profoundly in an eleven-minute shot of a young girl focussing on a candle’s flame. This tableau vivant recalls Gerhard Richter’s paintings of candles in the tradition of memento mori still lives, inviting the sustained concentration of the viewer. The vigil-like tone of this scene is picked up in Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Filling, which, as counterpoint to Erie’s long takes, provokes a deep sense of poignancy in its ninety-second sequence.
Erie, United States 2010, 16mm transferred to digital, black and white, sound, 81 min
Seven scenes filmed in Buffalo, Cleveland, Mansfield and Niagara Falls feature characters tasked with performing an activity for a duration of eleven minutes – the real-time exposure of a 400-foot roll of 16mm film. Ranging from krumping and fencing to a discussion among employees of a decommissioned General Motors plant, these performative sequences quietly suggest social conditions in the communities surrounding Lake Erie generations after the Black migration.
Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Filling, United States 2014, 16mm transferred to digital, colour, silent, 2 min
A memorial cake is carefully cut, served and preserved.
The screening is followed by a conversation between the artist and writer Elena Gorfinkel, who is currently Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King's College London.