Holding Place, Taking Flight: Childish Gambino, Bradford Young, Terence Nance, and Grace Jones

this is america header

liquid blackness, a research project on blackness and aesthetics, in collaboration with ATLARGE Music Film Festival, the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII), the School of Film, Media and Theatre, the School of Music, and the College of the Arts at Georgia State University, present a public screening and roundtable discussion dedicated to some of the most thought-provoking visual and sonic artists working today: This is America (Childish Gambino, dir. Hiro Murai, 2018), Black America Again (Common, dir. Bradford Young, 2016), Jimi Could’ve Fallen From the Sky  (dir. Terence Nance, 2017) and Bloodlight and Bami (Grace Jones, dir. Sophie Fiennes, 2018).

Holding Place. Taking Flight: Childish Gambino, Bradford Young, Terence Nance, and Grace Jones brings together signature works by, or about, some of the most thought-provoking visual and sonic artists working today: the award-winning musician, writer and actor Donald Glover/Childish Gambino, the creator of the FX series Atlanta; Oscar-nominated cinematographer, director and installation artist Bradford Young; experimental filmmaker Terence Nance, the creator of HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness; and the intramontabile legend, Grace Jones. The event seeks to develop a conversation about the work of artists who engage with the fact of racial violence in America, including its viral visibility, while developing artistic forms that refuse to be restrained. By pointing simultaneously to ground and groundlessness, mourning and celebration, the weight of what is and the power of what could be, this event strives to provide a space for a conversation about the world-making powers of black art.


Childish Gambino

Donald Glover is an actor, writer, and Grammy award-winning musician. Glover uses the stage name Childish Gambino for his musical work, and his song and video “This Is America” has been widely acclaimed for its powerful criticism of U.S. gun culture, police brutality, and black stereotype. Guan writes, “The incongruousness of Glover, raised middle-class and a NYU graduate, bragging about his Mexican drug supplier and threatening to have you gunned down, is intentional: it’s a tribute to the cultural dominance of trap music and a reflection on the ludicrous social logic that made the environment from which trap emerges, the logic where money makes the man, and every black man is a criminal.”[1]

Glover’s award-winning series Atlanta is likewise a groundbreaking step for black cinema. The series boasts a pair of Emmy’s and Golden Globes for its depiction of day to day life in Atlanta. Glover calls Atlanta a “Trojan Horse” because it can claim an all black team of writers in addition to the all black stars. The content is a mixture of black politics grounded in daily life and dreamlike surrealist content. However, Atlanta’s main director Hiro Murai is careful to keep the dreamlike content tonally neutral to maintain its intended effect.[2]

Selected Works:
Actor:
Guava Island (Currently Filming) (2019), dir. Hiro Murai
The Lion King (Currently Filming) (2019), dir. Jon Favreau
Childish Gambino: Feels Like Summer (Video Short) (2018), directors. Ivan Dixon, Donald Glover, & Greg Sharp
Atlanta (TV Series) (2016-), directors Hiro Murai, Donald Glover, Amy Seimetz, & Janicza Bravo
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), dir. Ron Howard
Childish Gambino: This is America (Video Short) (2018), dir. Hiro Murai
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), dir. John Watts
Adventure Time (TV Series) (2013-2016), directors Bong Hee Han, Larry Leichliter, Elizabeth Ito, et al
Childish Gambino Feat. Heems: Tell Me (Video Short) (2015), dir. Max
The Martian (2015), dir. Ridley Scott
Magic Mike XXL (2015), dir. Gregory Jacobs
China, IL (TV Series) (2015), directors Griffith Kimmins, Mike L. Mayfield, & Angelo Hatgistavrou
Ultimate Spider-Man (TV Series) (2015), directors Alex Soto, Roy Burdine, et al
The Lazarus Effect (2015) dr. David Gelb
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014) dir. Miguel Arteta
The To-Do List (2013), dir. Maggie Carey
Community (TV Series) (2009 – 2014), directors Tristram Shapeero, Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, et al
30 Rock (TV Series) (2006-2012), directors Don Scardino, Beth McCarthy-Miller, John Riggi, et al

Writer:
Atlanta (TV Series) (2016-)
Chicken and Futility (Short) (as Childish Gambino) (2014), dir. Donald Glover
Clapping for the Wrong Reasons (Short) (2013), dir. Hiro Murai
Childish Gambino: Fire Fly (Video Short) (2012)
Childish Gambino: Heartbeat (Video Short) (2012), dir. Kyle Newacheck
Donald Glover: Weirdo (TV Special) (2012), dir. Shannon Hartman
30 Rock (TV Series) (2008-2009)

Producer:
Atlanta (TV Series) (2016-)
Clapping for the Wrong Reasons (Short) (2013)
Childish Gambino: Fire Fly (Video Short) (2012)
Childish Gambino: Heartbeat (Video Short) (2012)
Childish Gambino: Bonfire (Video Short) (2011)
Childish Gambino: (Freaks and Geeks)
Mystery Team (2009), dir. Dan Eckman

Director:
Childish Gambino (Video Short) (2018)
Atlanta (TV Series) (2016-)
Jhene Aiko: The Pressure (Video Short) (2014)
Chicken and Futility (Short) (2014)

Childish Gambino Studio Albums:
“Awaken, My Love!” (2016)
Because the Internet (2013)
Camp (2011)

Selected Interviews:
Friend, Tad. “Donald Glover Can’t Save You.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 31 May 2018, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/05/donald-glover-cant-save-you.
Coscarelli, Joe. “Hiro Murai on the ‘Atlanta’ Finale and ‘This Is America’ Video.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 May 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/arts/hiro-murai-atlanta-finale-this-is-america-interview.html.
Martin, Michel. “Donald Glover Explores A Surreal Feel In ‘Atlanta’.” NPR, NPR, 17 Sept. 2016, www.npr.org/2016/09/17/494390868/donald-glover-explores-a-surreal-feel-in-atlanta.
Browne, Rembert. “Donald Glover Turns His Eye to His Hometown – and Black America – in Atlanta.” Vulture, Vulture, 23 Aug. 2016, www.vulture.com/2016/08/donald-glover-atlanta.html.

Reviews:
Phillips, Maya. “Sorry to Bother You and the New Black Surrealism.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 18 July 2018, https://slate.com/culture/2018/07/sorry-to-bother-you-get-out-atlanta-and-the-new-black-surrealism.html.
St. Félix, Doreen. “The Carnage and Chaos of Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America.’” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 17 July 2018, www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-carnage-and-chaos-of-childish-gambinos-this-is-america.
Johnson, Tre. “Donald Glover’s ‘This Is America’ Is a Nightmare We Can’t Look Away From.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 25 June 2018, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/donald-glovers-this-is-america-is-a-nightmare-we-cant-afford-to-look-away-from-630177/.
Moore, Sam. “Donald Glover Finally Arrived as a Superstar with His Visceral ‘This Is America’ Video – and Now 2018 Is His for the Taking.” NME, NME, 10 May 2018, www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/donald-glover-childish-gambino-this-is-america-video-2018-2311574.
Daramola, Israel. “The Cynicism of Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America.’” Spin, Spin, 9 May 2018, www.spin.com/2018/05/donald-glover-this-is-america-review/.
Young, Damon. “Making Donald Glover the ‘Anti-Kanye’ Is Gross and Wrong and Will Backfire, so Please Don’t.” Very Smart Brothas, Very Smart Brothas, 8 May 2018, https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/making-donald-glover-the-anti-kanye-is-gross-and-wrong-1825823812.
Berman, Judy. “’This Is America’: 8 Things to Read About Childish Gambino’s New Music Video.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 May 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/arts/music/childish-gambino-this-is-america-roundup.html.
Kasambala, Natty. “Unpacking All the References in Childish Gambino’s Phenomenal New Video.” Dazed, Dazed Digital, 7 May 2018, www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/39966/1/childish-gambino-this-is-america-meaning-jim-crow-dancing-liberty.
Neilan, Dan. “There’s a Lot to Unpack in Childish Gambino’s Dense, Disturbing New Video.” AV News, AV Club, 7 May 2018, https://news.avclub.com/theres-a-lot-to-unpack-in-childish-gambino-s-dense-dis-1825829202.
Kearse, Stephen. “Listen to ‘This Is America’ by Childish Gambino.” Pitchfork, Pitchfork, 7 May 2018, https://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/childish-gambino-this-is-america/.
Collins, K. Austin. “Donald Glover’s ‘This Is America’ Is a Stylish, Ambitious Provocation-But What Is It Actually Selling?” Vanities, Vanity Fair, 7 May 2018, www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/05/donald-glover-this-is-america-review.
Guan, Frank. 2018. “What it means when Childish Gambino says ‘This is America.’” Vulture. New York. http://www.vulture.com/2018/05/what-it-means-when-childish-gambino-says-this-is-america.html.
Osman, Ladan. “Slaying New Black Notions Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America.’” World Literature Today, no. 4, 2018, p. 40.
Stephen, Bijan. 2018. “Atlanta Dreaming.” Dissent, vol. 65, no. 3, Summer, pp. 7-10.
Harvilla, Rob. “The Surprising, Very Public Evolution of Donald Glover.” The Ringer, The Ringer, 28 Feb. 2018, www.theringer.com/music/2018/2/28/17062250/donald-glover-evolution-childish-gambino-origins.
Dockterman, Eliana. 2016. “Donald Glover, Actor and Writer.” Time, vol. 188, no. 9, p. 48.

 

[1]Stephen, Bijan. 2018. “Atlanta Dreaming.” Dissent, vol. 65, no. 3, Summer, pp. 7-10. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=130921076&site=eds-live&scope=site:

[2]Guan, Frank. 2018. “What it means when Childish Gambino says ‘This is America.’” Vulture. New York. http://www.vulture.com/2018/05/what-it-means-when-childish-gambino-says-this-is-america.html

 


Bradford Young

For additional information about Bradford Young, please see the liquid blackness research page about Young and his work.


Terence Nance

Selected Filmography

Director
Space Jam 2 (announced)
Random Acts of Flyness (TV Series) (2018) https://www.hbo.com/random-acts-of-flyness
No Ward (2009) https://vimeo.com/3070316
The Triptych https://vimeo.com/58426616
Triggers (2013) https://vimeo.com/71953669
Postman (2013) https://vimeo.com/56221820
Till I Met Thee (2013) https://vimeo.com/56885386
Native Sun (2013) https://vimeo.com/58387136
Frenel (2013) https://vimeo.com/71172383
Moonrising (2014) https://vimeo.com/85128180
Blackout: John Burris Speaks (2014) https://vimeo.com/112982543
Swimming in Your Skin Again (2014) https://vimeo.com/112232437
You and I and You (2015) https://vimeo.com/120861824
Univitillen (2018) https://vimeo.com/255644802
So Young So Pretty So White – documentary
195 Lewis – webseries (2018) https://vimeo.com/243069529
Jimi Could Have Fallen From the Sky (2017) https://vimeo.com/206661575
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012) http://www.ofherbeauty.com/
How Would You Feel? (2010)
They Charge for the Sun

 Production Company
MVMT http://www.mvmtfilms.com/

Producer
And Nothing Happened https://vimeo.com/235265560

Installations
18 Black Girls / Boys Ages 1-18 Who Have Arrived at the Singularity and Are Thus Spiritual Machines: $X in an Edition of $97 Quadrillion (2017) https://vimeo.com/122993949

Selected Interviews
Dry, Jude. “‘Random Acts of Flyness’: Terence Nance Makes Avant-Garde TV Entertaining, With a Little Help From Jon Hamm.” IndieWire, 4 August 2018, https://www.indiewire.com/2018/08/random-acts-of-flyness-terence-nance-jon-hamm-hbo-1201990866/.
How to allow your subconscious to efficiently make a movie: Terence Nance at TEDxBrooklyn https://youtu.be/9voSO-1-axU
Five by Five Project website https://www.visitseattle.org/tv/categories/project-five-by-five/  

Reviews
Desta, Yohana. “Terrence Nance’s Random Acts of Flyness Is a Black Wonderland.” Vanity Fair, HWD, 3 August 2018, https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/08/terence-nance-random-acts-of-flyness-hbo-interview.
Rapold, Nicolas. “Young Love, the Unrequited Type ‘An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,’ by Terence Nance.” The New York Times, 25 April 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/26/movies/an-oversimplification-of-her-beauty-by-terence-nance.html?mtrref=www.google.com.
Otterson, Joe. “‘Random Acts of Flyness’ Renewed for Season 2 at HBO.” Variety, 20 August 2018, https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/random-acts-of-flyness-renewed-season-2-hbo-1202910149/.
Narcisse, Evan. “‘Random Acts of Flyness’ Doesn’t Give a F–k If White People Get It.” Rolling Stone Magazine, Rolling Stone, 7 September 2018, https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-features/random-acts-of-flyness-719221/.
Ugwu, Reggie. “Is America Ready for the Mind of Terence Nance?” The New York Times, 26 July 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/26/arts/television/terence-nance-random-acts-of-flyness-hbo.html.
Nussbaum, Emily. “The Raw Trip of ‘Random Acts of Flyness.’” The New Yorker, 27 August 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/08/27/the-raw-trip-of-random-acts-of-flyness.
Black Radical Imagination. Dominica, 2015. https://digitalcollections.saic.edu/islandora/object/islandora%3Ajfabc_8088

Theoretical Contexts
Animation
Please see the liquid blackness research page on the dancer Storyboard P for a bibliography on animation.

Afro-Surrealism
Francis, Terri. “Introduction: The No-Theory Chant of Afrosurrealism.” Black Camera 5, no. 1 (2013): 95-111.
Francis, Terri. “Close-up Gallery: The Afrosurrealist Film Society.” Black Camera: An International Film Journal (The New Series) 5, no. 1 (2013): 209-19.
Bohn, W. (2002). The rise of Surrealism : Cubism, Dada, and the pursuit of the marvelous. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Kelley, R. (2002). Freedom dreams : The Black radical imagination. Beacon Press Book.
Rosemont, F., & Kelley, R. (2009). Black, brown, & beige : Surrealist writings from Africa and the diaspora (1st ed., Surrealist revolution series). Austin: University of Texas Press.
Michel, J. (2000). The black surrealists (Francophone cultures and literatures ; v. 29). New York: P. Lang.
Stockwell, Peter. The Language of Surrealism. Palgrave, 2017.

Afro-Atlantic flight : speculative returns and the Black fantastic
Commander, Michelle D. Afro-atlantic Flight: Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.
Young, Jason R. “All God’s Children Had Wings: The Flying African in History, Literature, and Lore.” Journal of Africana Religions 5.1 (2017): 50-70.
Commander, Michelle D. “The Space for Race: Black American Exile and the Rise of Afro-Speculation.” ASAP/Journal, vol. 1 no. 3, 2016, pp. 409-437.
Womack, Ytasha. Afrofuturism : the World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 2013.
McKittrick, Katherine. “On Plantations, Prisons, and a Black Sense of Place.” Social & Cultural Geography. 12.8 (2011): 947-963.
Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. New York: Random House, 2010.
Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. London: Verso, 2007.
Eburne, Jonathan P., and Jeremy Braddock. “Introduction: Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 51, no. 4 (2006): 731-40.
King, Lovalerie. “Resistance, Reappropriation, and Reconciliation: The Blues and Flying Africans in Gayl Jones’s Song for Anninho.” Callaloo 27.3 (2004): 755-767.
Storey, Olivia Smith. “Flying Words: Contests of Orality and Literacy in the Trope of the Flying Africans.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 5.3 (2004).
Matory, J. Lorand. “Afro-Atlantic culture: on the live dialogue between Africa and the Americas.” Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American experience (1999).
Walters, Wendy W. “” One of dese mornings, bright and fair,/take my wings and cleave de air”: the legend of the flying Africans and diasporic consciousness.” Melus 22.3 (1997): 3-29.
Bell, Derrick. “The Afrolantica Awakening.” In Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, 32-46. New York: Basic, 1993.
Wilentz, Gay. “If You Surrender to the Air: Folk Legends of Flight and Resistance in African American Literature.” Melus 16.1 (1989): 21-32.
Walmsley, Leo. “The Recent Trans-African Flight and Its Lesson.” Geographical Review, vol. 9, no. 3, 1920, pp. 149–160.


Grace Jones

Beginning in 2005, Grace Jones’ documentary Bloodlight and Bami follows the singer through her personal life, her return to family in Jamaica, and her international performances. The documentary is as reflective of the singer’s life and career in form as it is in content. In choosing Sophie Fienne to direct the film, Jones’ decision reflects a certain sensibility. Sophie had a “tendency to let the camera run on” and eschewed narration, titles, and archive footage in the final product. The refusal of precedent and the raw excess that characterizes Jones’ career bleeds into form in the documentary Bloodlight and Bami. The film minds not spectators who would prefer Jones stick to forms that constrain her image and surroundings to prioritize their own comfort and legibility.

“Jones creates and recreates herself and contexts. [Bloodlight and Bami] is itself a queer ‘world-making project,’ what Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner conceptualize as that “space of entrances, exits, unsystematized lines of acquaintance, projected horizons, typifying examples, alternate routes, blockages, incommensurate geographies.’”[3]

Since the end of filming, Jones has since released a new album Hurricane after a nineteen-year gap, headlined in Afropunk, and released her own autobiography titled I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.

Selected Filmography:

Soundtrack:
Yardie (2018)
Pride (2014)
Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
Misfits (2010)
Entourage (2009)
Pineapple Express (2008)
Rush Hour 3 (2007)
Go Go Tales (2007)
The Eight (2006)
Lord of War (2005)
Kingpin (2003)
The Wire (2002)
Save the Last Dance (2001)
200 Cigarettes (1999)
She’s So Lovely (1997)
Beavis and Butthead (1993)
Toys (1992)
La Petite Amie d’Antonio (1992)
Worth Winning (1989)
Miami Vice (1987)
Love Child (1982)
The Midnight Special (1979)

Actress:
Gutterdammerung (2016)
Shaka Zulu: The Citadel (2001)
Wolf Girl (2001)
Boomerange (1992)
Siesta (1987)
Straight to Hell (1987)
Vamp (1986)
A View to A Kill (1985)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Both:
Yardie (2018)
Gutterdammerung (2016)
Pride (2014)
Take Me Home Tonight (2011)
Misfits (2010)
Entourage (2009)
Pineapple Express (2008)
Rush Hour 3 (2007)
Go Go Tales (2007)
The Eight (2006)
Lord of War (2005)
Kingpin (2003)
The Wire (2002)
Shaka Zulu: The Citadel (2001)
Save the Last Dance (2001)
Wolf Girl (2001)
200 Cigarettes (1999)
She’s So Lovely (1997)
Beavis and Butthead (1993)
Boomerange (1992)
Toys (1992)
La Petite Amie d’Antonio (1992)
Worth Winning (1989)
Miami Vice (1987)
Siesta (1987)
Straight to Hell (1987)
Vamp (1986)
A View to A Kill (1985)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Love Child (1982)
The Midnight Special (1979)

Selected Interviews:
On I’ll Never Write My Memoirs: Jones, Daisy.“Grace Jones: Wilder Than Ever.” Dazed. (September 17, 2015): n. pag. Link: http://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/26359/1/grace-jones-wilder-than-ever
Day by Day (1985) – https://youtu.be/vuW4TcZWeLI
The Russel Harry Show (1980) – https://youtu.be/XLLtS50UCBQ

Selected Reviews:
Walsh, Kate. “’Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami’ Delivers Textured Profile of Music/Fashion Icon.” Los Angeles Times. (April 19, 2018).
Morris, Wesley. “A Performer Who’s Not Just Body and Snarl.” New York Times (April 13, 2018).
Tobias, Scott. “A Diva Deconstructed In ‘Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami.’” NPR Movie Reviews. (April 12, 2018).
Wolfe, April. “Grace Jones has One Message: Always Take the Risk.” The Village Voice. (2018).
Terry, Josh. “Movie review: ‘Bloodlight and Bami’ is an Enigmatic Movie About an Enigmatic Singer.” Deseret News. (2018).
Anderson, Melissa. “Keeping Up with the Jones.” Artforum International, vol. 56, no. 8, (2018): pp. 37-38. New York.
Stables, Kate. “Grace Jones Bloodlight and Bami.” Sight and Sound, vol. 27, no. 11, (2017): 68–69.
Lobato, Ramon. “Amazing Grace: Decadence, Deviance, Disco (Grace Jones).” Camera Obscura, no. 65 (2007): 134–39. doi:10.1215/02705346-2007-008.

Theoretical Context:
Image/Iconography/Distortion/Constructedness:.
Shaviro, Steven. “Corporate Cannibal.” Post-Cinematic Affect, Zero Books, 2010, pp. 11-34.
Mckean, Cameron. “The Goude, the Bad and the Ugly.” Japan Times, August 29, 2014.
Anderson, Carolyn G. “En Route to Transnational Postmodernism: Grace Jones, Josephine Baker and the African Diaspora.” Social Science Information vol. 32, no. 3, (1993): 491–512.

Gender and Presentation:
McMillan, Uri. “Introduction: Skin, Surface, Sensorium.” Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 28, no. 1 (2018/01/02 2018): 1-15.
Pritchard, Eric Darnell. “Grace Jones, Afro Punk, and Other Fierce Provocations: An Introduction to ‘Sartorial Politics, Intersectionality, and Queer Worldmaking.’” QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking 4, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 1–11.
Hobson, Janell. 2012. Body As Evidence : Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.
Royster, Francesca T. “‘Feeling like a Woman, Looking like a Man, Sounding like a No-No’: Grace Jones and the Performance of Strange in the Post-Soul Moment.” Women & Performance vol. 19, no. 1 (March 2009): 77–94.
Powell, Richard. Cutting a Figure. Fashioning Black Portraiture.  Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Kershaw, Miriam. “Postcolonialism and Androgyny: The Performance Art of Grace Jones.” Art Journal 56, no. 4 (1997): 19-25.

 

[3]Anderson, Melissa. 2018. Keeping up with the Jones. Artforum International, vol. 56, no. 8, pp. 37-38. New York. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/2024439257?accountid=11226