The Afronaut(a) salon series returns to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater with a selection of thought-provoking films and videos from Pittsburgh and from around the globe. Curated by Pittsburgh-based interdisciplinary artist Alisha B. Wormsley, the selections include sci-fi and supernatural-influenced short and feature works from artists and filmmakers representing a diverse array of racial, sexual, and national identities and perspectives. The program also offers live performances, artist talks, and more. See schedule and details below:
Talk and performance by BOOM Concepts founder and artist D.S. Kinsel and jazz vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield
Robots of Brixton (dir. Kibwe Tavares)
Brixton has degenerated into a disregarded area inhabited by London’s new robot workforce – robots built and designed to carry out all of the tasks which humans are no longer inclined to do. The mechanical population of Brixton has rocketed, resulting in unplanned, cheap and quick additions to the skyline. The film follows the trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment. When the Police invade the one space which the robots can call their own, the fierce and strained relationship between the two sides explodes into an outbreak of violence echoing that of 1981.
Last Angel of History (dir. John Akomfrah)
This cinematic essay posits science fiction (with tropes such as alien abduction, estrangement, and genetic engineering) as a metaphor for the Pan-African experience of forced displacement, cultural alienation, and otherness. Akomfrah’s analysis is rooted in an exploration of the cultural works of Pan-African artists, such as funkmaster George Clinton and his Mothership Connection, Sun Ra’s use of extraterrestrial iconography, and the very explicit connection drawn between these issues in the writings of black science fiction authors Samuel R. Delaney and Octavia Butler.
Touch (dir. Shola Amoo)
Jessica and George meet in an open field at a specific time and place everyday. George is in love – but unbeknownst to him, Jessica hides a devastating secret. As Jessica’s feelings for George grow, she must make an important decision that will change her life forever.
Afronauts (dir. Frances Bodomo)
Afronauts tells an alternative history of the 1960s Space Race. It’s the night of July 16th 1969 and, as America prepares to send Apollo 11 to the moon, a group of exiles in the Zambian desert are rushing to launch their rocket first. They train by rolling their astronaut, 17-year-old Matha Mwamba, down hills in barrels to simulate weightlessness. As the clock counts down to blast off, as the Bantu-7 Rocket looks more and more lopsided, Matha must decide if she’s willing to die to keep her family’s myths alive. Afronauts follows the scientific zeitgeist from the perspective of those who do not have access to it.
Talk and live performance of excerpts from Ricardo Iamuuri’s stage show A BRAND NEW WORLD: kill the artist
The Secret of Selling the Negro Market (1954)
The Secret of Selling the Negro Market is a 1954 film financed by Johnson Publishing Company, the publisher of Ebony magazine, to encourage advertisers to promote their products and services in the African-American media. The film showed African-American professionals, housewives and students as participants in the American consumer society, and it emphasized the economic power of this demographic community
Watermelon Man (dir. Melvin Van Peebles)
The tables turn on a bigoted white insurance salesman when he wakes up transformed as a black man (a dual performance by Godfrey Cambridge) in this satirical 1970 comedy from blaxploitation director Melvin Van Peebles.
Mamma Said (dir. Scott Andrew)
The follow-up to Andrew’s film A Girl Called Dusty – an expansion on his previous installation of the same name that explores the tragic events in the life of Dusty Springfield – provides further investigation into a character loosely based on Springfield with a stylistic affinity for Pebbles Flintstone and all the Cheetah loving grandmas in the world. The screening includes a talk with Andrew.
TBD – Jacolby Satterwhite
Snow White (dir. Pyuupiry)
Artist Pyuupiry’s 2008 video installation.
She Gone Rogue (dir. Zachary Drucker and Rhys Ernst)
An unnamed transgender protagonist (played by Drucker) attempts to visit her “Auntie Holly” but instead falls down a rabbit hole, encountering trans-feminine archetypes that are in turn confounding, nebulous, complicated and contradictory. Legendary performers Flawless Sabrina, Vaginal Davis, and Holly Woodlawn play feisty fairy godmothers, fighters and survivors of erstwhile eras who illuminate the unsung historical chronology of queens and trans women. Darling’s narrative journey mirrors Drucker’s artistic collaboration with each real life performer, enacting a trans-generational dialogue that is as disparaging as it is hopeful.
What’s The Love Making Babies For (dir. Ryan Trecartin)
Video artist Trecartin’s speculates in vivid animation about reproduction, sexuality, and contemporary moralities.
Talk with artist Ingrid LaFluer
Crumbs (dir. Miguel Llanso)
In post-apocalyptic Ethiopia, strange-looking scrap collector, Gagano (Daniel Tadesse), has had enough of collecting the priceless crumbs of decayed civilization, including the most valuable: merchandise from Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan. When a spaceship that has been hovering high in the sky for years starts showing signs of activity, Gagano has to overcome his fears – as well as a witch, Santa Claus and second-generation Nazis — to discover things aren’t quite the way he thought.
Native Sun (dir. Blitz the Ambassador and Terrance Nance)
This short film from music artist Blitz the Ambassador – which serves as a visual companion piece to his album of the same name – follows a bright young boy in Ghana as he searches for his father.
Ornette: Made in America (dir. Shirley Clarke)
Ornette: Made In America captures jazz musician Ornette Coleman’s evolution over three decades. Returning home to Fort Worth, Texas in 1983 as a famed performer and composer, documentary footage, dramatic scenes and some of the first music video-style segments ever made chronicle his boyhood in segregated Texas and his subsequent emergence as an American cultural pioneer and world-class icon.
Walk to Fieldwork gallery to view Ian Johnson’s work and short talk
Afronaut(a) 3.0 begins at 2 p.m. each day. Doors open at 1 p.m. All seats are donation only and guests are encouraged to pay what makes them happy.