Othello Anderson—co-curator of the Spertus Museum of Judaica's 1994 "Bridges and Boundaries: Chicago Crossings" exhibition—talks to Kartemquin Films about a myriad of topics; including why he decided to participate in the show, his relationship with WWII physicist Dr. Lester Skaggs, and Black–Jewish relations.
0:57Copy video clip URL Othello Anderson explains why he chose to talk with Kartemquin in front of Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy sculpture on the campus of the University of Chicago. “The piece I’m doing is a tribute to [Dr. Lester Skaggs], and it deals with his participation in the development of the first atomic explosion,” says Anderson, going on to reveal that Skaggs currently conducts research right across the street from the sculpture.
2:02Copy video clip URL “I wanted to do a tribute to an American scientist, because World War II was a war about the idea of racial supremacy. I think if the Germans had developed the first atomic explosion, Hitler would have won the war, and I think that would have really made a difference in how we deal with race today,” Anderson says, further explaining the inspiration behind his tribute to Dr. Skaggs.
2:42Copy video clip URL Anderson sheds light on his long friendship with Dr. Skaggs. “He was very skeptical in the beginning,” says Anderson of his request to make a piece inspired by Skaggs; “but after talking for awhile… he opened up a bit. He let me use some of his credentials… he had a whole list of old photographs from Los Alamos that he let me see, and that’s when it really started.”
5:28Copy video clip URL The group talks about how art is “not so sacred anymore,” and is perhaps better off because of it.
6:27Copy video clip URL Anderson tells a short anecdote illustrating the tremendous amount of respect that Skaggs received from his colleagues.
7:28Copy video clip URL Anderson talks about the idea of racial supremacy and bad science—such as craniology—both which inspired him to become an artist and specialize in deep-space phenomena. “I started looking up rather than around me,” says Anderson.
10:50Copy video clip URL Anderson talks about his initial reaction when asked to participate in the Spertus show. “Personally, I was not aware that there was any tension between Blacks and Jews. I’ve been working with some artists who happen to be Jewish for the past thirteen years and we just didn’t experience that sort of thing… The news media, who I consider becoming increasingly irresponsible, keeps this in the forefront, and they really focus on the negative,” suggests Anderson.
13:22Copy video clip URL Anderson continues with his view on the Jewish–Black issue, explaining that the Nation of Islam is not representative of the Black community and their views should not be treated by the media as such.
14:28Copy video clip URL Anderson briefly expounds on the work he has done in conjunction with Jewish artists.
16:34Copy video clip URL Anderson talks again about his interest in the Bridges and Boundaries show, explaining how the essays in the New York show’s catalog had a profound influence on his decision to take part.
18:22Copy video clip URL Anderson shares his knowledge of Black–Jewish relations throughout the twentieth century, mainly around the emergence of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, before going on to explain his personal feelings about the “Black Power” movement.
21:18Copy video clip URL Anderson talks again about World War II and the role of the atomic bomb as a denouncement of racial supremacy.
24:01Copy video clip URL Anderson talks about his personal hopes for the show, laughing off the idea that it could “answer the problems of the world,” instead insisting that he “would like it to be a good show, and a good show to remember.”
27:04Copy video clip URL B-roll footage of Anderson photographing Nuclear Energy.