Artist Lecture Steffani Jemison
Thursday, March 10, 2022
In her artist lecture Standing Wave, artist and filmmaker Steffani Jemison shares a selection of research material that informed the making of her recent work Figure 8 (2021) which is currently on view in the group exhibition CLOSER at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, as well as the sister work Toss (2021). The talk loosely connects the work and life of cabaret singer and dancer Florence Mills (1896-1927), the writings of Saidiya Hartman, Broderick D.V. Chow, Harlem Renaissance poet and novelist Jean Toomer (1894-1967), the concept of the Rube Goldberg machine, and contemporary acrobatics, among other inspirations.
Figure 8 is a study of the creative practice of athlete and dancer Alexis Page. It captures the movement of a figure-of-eight in a continuous, 18-minute shot that Page performs while herself holding the camera and asks a far-reaching social question: Who moves who, and how? How far does what we touch also touch us in turn? Jemison’s video works, among other things, address how the body is disciplined through sport, social norms, and genre conventions in theater, dance, and performance. The question of how cultural knowledge is being embodied and inscribed into physical movements is of particular significance: “Characters and techniques are passed from body to body to body to body to body and so on, to the present,” writes Jemison.
Steffani Jemison is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Her works, films and performances have been shown at Greene Naftali, New York (2021); Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati (2021); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2019); Lincoln Center, New York (2018); Jeu de Paume, Paris (2017); CAPC Bordeaux (2017); MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2017); Nottingham Contemporary (2017); RISD Museum, Providence, Rhode Island (2015); and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015), amongst others. Jemison is a professor of Art & Design at Rutgers University. Her first novel is forthcoming with Primary Information in 2022.
Image: Video Still Two Knights of Vaudeville (1915) [The image shows a person standing on an empty stage looking up.]