[Chicago Crossings: Bridges and Boundaries 7/25 Sample]

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A documentary produced by Kartemquin Films made to accompany the Spertus Museum of Judaica's 1994 exhibition in which six African-American artists and six Jewish-American artists collaborated on a group show. Features interviews with many of the artists, footage from the exhibition including interviews with patrons, as well as interviews with Morry Fred (Director of the Spertus Museum) and Raymon Price (Director of the DuSable Museum of African-American History).

0:11Copy video clip URL Title card indicating that the following is a “Condensed Version of the Video produced to accompany the Spertus exhibit.”

0:20Copy video clip URL Intro sequence. A series of shots showing the artists working in studio is accompanied by a non-diegetic soundtrack, “Eliyahu” by Chicago native and jazz pianist Ben Sidran.

1:10Copy video clip URL In a voice over, Jerry Blumenthal explains the premise behind the Spertus Museum of Judaica’s 1994 exhibition in which they asked six African-Americans and six Jewish-Americans to collaborate on a group show.

1:38Copy video clip URL Blumenthal goes on to explain how Kartemquin came to be involved with the project, as well as how it seemed to align with their interests in race relations and the “interrelations between art, artists, museums, and the community.”

2:38Copy video clip URL Marva Jolly talks about her inspiration for becoming an artist and how profoundly our perspectives are shaped by our upbringings.

3:16Copy video clip URL John Pitman Weber talks about the recent trend of “identity politics” in art, his avoidance of it, and, ultimately, the assertion that he sees this show as a way to “deal with [his] history.”

3:55Copy video clip URL John Rozelle talks about his religious upbringing and the subsequent identity problems it fostered.

4:26Copy video clip URL Gerda Meyer-Bernstein—a refugee who fled from Germany in 1939—recalls her long history of political activism, beginning as a young teen in Germany. She sees this show as a continuance of of her involvement in politics, in addition to her efforts with Amnesty International as well as various women’s organizations.

4:50Copy video clip URL Kerry James Marshall talks about his childhood and his family’s multiple moves, eventually settling in South Central Los Angeles. “I remember when gangs were a different kind of gang, back then, when they were more like a club,” he says.

5:15Copy video clip URL Fan Warren recollects learning about the Holocaust at a young age. Speaking as a younger version of herself, Warren recounts, “Wow, this is amazing to me, that these two people [African-Americans and Jewish-Americans] both have a relationship to this word, the ghetto.”

5:32Copy video clip URL Marshall explains the use of the Star of David as a modern-day gang symbol while displaying a set of photographs of the symbol taken throughout the Bronzeville neighborhood.

6:47Copy video clip URL Esther Parada is shown photographing Jolly. “I’m trying to get equivalent positions for all the people, and then we’ll end up doing some blending. I want to do it just like the Time magazine where they had all the different ethnic and racial types on the x-coordinate and on the y,” Parada explains while referencing  the November 18, 1993 issue of Time.

7:11Copy video clip URL Sonny Venice (pseudonym of Hamza Walker) is shown holding the aforementioned issue of Time while maintaining that the creators of the cover have mistaken the idea of diversity with homogeneous blending.

7:35Copy video clip URL Parada is shown manipulating the images taken of Marshall. “Let’s go for the Michael Jackson effect,” Marshall jokes, met by a rouse of laughter.

8:13Copy video clip URL Blumenthal asks Rozelle whether or not he thinks Jews are different from other white people, to which Rozelle responds, “Well, they are and they are not. I think that as soon as they latch on to the professed arrogance and professed superiority of European culture, I think they’re just like any other white person. And I think they’re different in that they have this oppression that has been with them for ages,” he explains.

9:28Copy video clip URL Continuing the discussion on identity and race relations, Claire Wolf Krantz insists, “I don’t look at blacks as a different kind of me, I think that they should be able to be who they are, but we’ve got to get along.” With this, Krantz goes on to explain that she aims to instill meaning in each and every element of a piece, allowing them to “resolve together, without losing each of their individual identities.”

10:20Copy video clip URL Warren introduces the problems that Blacks and Jews are having, saying that these problems are “over the black and white issue, which is really not our issue.”

10:35Copy video clip URL All twelve artists are seated around a table discussing Louis Farrakhan, leader of the religious group Nation of Islam. Jolly argues that the anti-Semitic views expressed by Farrakhan are “not an issue in my house, so don’t come to my neighborhood with that.” She goes on to say, “Let the people who need to deal with denouncing that do it,” to which Rozelle, Meyer-Bernstein, and Edith Altman respond that Blacks and Jews cannot move forward until the issue is addressed as a community.

11:33Copy video clip URL Meyer-Bernstein comments on the histories of both groups of people. “We’ve got 400 years of Black slavery and we’ve got 2,000 years of Jewish persecution, and it’s going to be a super-difficult thing to try to have this process of healing.”

11:53Copy video clip URL Meyer Bernstein is shown working on her installation with an assistant, briefly describing her techniques and the motives behind them.

12:38Copy video clip URL Rozelle talks about the inspiration behind one of his pieces, recounting the story of three Freedom Riders who were killed in Mississippi: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Rozelle describes how Chaney, a Black man, was beaten much more severely than Goodman or Schwerner, who were both New York Jews.

13:26Copy video clip URL Returning to the table of artists, Jolly suggests, “Since there is no sense of holocaust related to Black people, I think that’s a problem too when you begin to talk about shared sufferings and those kinds of things.”

13:39Copy video clip URL The film cuts to Altman alone with her installation where she indirectly responds to Jolly’s previous claim. Altman alludes to an Illinois Assembly meeting in which the word “holocaust” was mentioned in reference to the “Black holocaust,” in which “100 million Black Africans… that had died, that had been squeezed on the boats, the children and the adults, just like the Jews were squeezed in the trains. I share with them, unfortunately, the holocaust,” Altman says.

14:40Copy video clip URL Rozelle expresses his hopes for the show, saying he’s looking for “more dialogue to be created” because “people are afraid to talk about stuff, or they’re afraid to be honest about stuff.”

15:07Copy video clip URL Altman supports Rozelle’s hopes, admitting that “I still feel like we haven’t been talking to each other in this group.”

15:28Copy video clip URL Othello Anderson talks about his personal hopes for the show, laughing off the idea that it could “answer the problems of the world” and rather insisting that “[he] would like it to be a good show, and a good show to remember.”

15:38Copy video clip URL Sidran’s “Eliyahu” returns as a montage of clips illustrates the artists’ planning of the exhibition’s layout.

16:26Copy video clip URL A second title card, reading: “2. Excerpts from interviews and gallery footage.”

16:32Copy video clip URL The camera fades in to a series of shots of the gallery, now full of patrons.

17:01Copy video clip URL An elderly woman shares her thoughts on a painting in which two silhouettes are seated for a meal. “When I first saw this, I was looking to identify are these Blacks or Jews? Who are they? And then, a moment later, I realized it didn’t make any difference. I think it has a feeling of poverty that both groups have had experience with.”

17:21Copy video clip URL Another woman shares her thoughts on Meyer-Bernstein’s piece in which shards of broken glass—some painted white and others black—are scattered on the floor. A searchlight moves across the broken glass, casting reflections on the surrounding walls. To her, the piece represents “broken dreams, broken memories, pieces that can never be put back together the same way again.” However, when asked if this mean’s there’s no hope of reconciliation, the woman responds, “Wherever there’s life there’s hope… I don’t think it’s about hope, it’s more of a reality; a fascinating reality.”

18:00Copy video clip URL More shots of the gallery are inserted in sequence while Blumenthal, in a voice over, claims that the show seemed to be a success, although something seemed to be missing.

18:17Copy video clip URL Blumenthal interviews a woman from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who specializes in Multicultural Affairs, so she’s “not a stranger” to the issues presented in the exhibition.

18:50Copy video clip URL A docent is shown giving a tour of the gallery to Washington Irving School’s 8th Grade Class. The group is focusing on Marshall’s photographs which he described earlier in the film. When the docent asks the students why the gang may have chosen the Star of David as their symbol, one student speaks up and is able to explain the gang meaning behind the symbol. The conversation then takes a turn as they begin to talk about the importance of good parenting, and the class exits.

20:09Copy video clip URL In a voice over, Blumenthal says that the more time they spent at the gallery, the more apparent it became that whatever was missing would not be found at the exhibit. He goes on to explain that the Spertus had attempted to get the DuSable Museum of African-American History to co-sponsor the show, but to no avail. Furthermore, Kartemquin themselves failed in trying to co-produce their film with an African-American filmmaker. In search of an explanation for these failures to collaborate, the filmmakers decided to talk to both museum directors to try and determine why the DuSable had not participated in the show.

20:50Copy video clip URL Morry Fred, Director of the Spertus Museum, says that over the course of the exhibition he observed that “this issue, or at least the way we were framing the issue, was far more important to Jews than it was to African-Americans.” However, he suggests that perhaps this is not a wholly negative phenomenon, but rather an interesting fact worth exploring.

21:18Copy video clip URL Raymon Price, Director of the DuSable Museum, affirms Fred’s hypothesis, divulging that, on his end, “It may be that we, quite frankly, had more important things to address. … I think that maybe that same sense of importance just wasn’t there.”

21:47Copy video clip URL Looking at the situation from a different angle, Fred suggests that perhaps instead of asking why the issue is not as important to the African-American community, the question should rather be: why does the issue “still motivate, passionately, so many in the Jewish community?”

21:59Copy video clip URL Price explains that there was a short period of excitement when the idea of the exhibition was first presented to the DuSable, but upon further investigation the project began to seem “contrived.” “It was kind of an intellectualization of something after the fact,” Price explains.

22:28Copy video clip URL Fred talks about the relationship between African-Americans and Jews, calling it “a critical aspect in the identity of the Jew… it deals with freedom, it deals with relationships, and responsibility that we have towards those that are dispossessed in a society.”

22:48Copy video clip URL Price talks more about the relationship between African-Americans and Jews, referencing the perception that “in many instances, Jews have championed Black causes to gain their own.”

23:26Copy video clip URL Fred suggests that the point in history at which Jews became the same as all other white men in the eyes of African-Americans was “very troubling to Jews.”

23:44Copy video clip URL Price mentions what his strategy would have been had the DuSable co-sponsored the show. “I would’ve talked about a… sense of abandonment.”

24:12Copy video clip URL Fred postulates how the exhibit may have been different had the DuSable been involved.

25:01Copy video clip URL Price explains his reservations with the exhibit, saying he was concerned that they would come up with something that was “apologetic and being nice… It had to come from a gut thing, so that Joe Blow could walk in and respond to it. I think that if someone could come up with a piece, that it could really get the attention of some real, serious folks,” he proposes, chuckling as the film fades to black and then to a closing title card, indicating that this is “A work-in-progress by Kartemquin Films.”

 

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