In a new venue and timeslot, Art Jakarta continues to nurture Southeast Asia’s growing scene
November 19, 2023
A theatrical new Calder exhibition staged in Seattle
November 19, 2023
In a new venue and timeslot, Art Jakarta continues to nurture Southeast Asia’s growing scene
November 19, 2023
A theatrical new Calder exhibition staged in Seattle
November 19, 2023

The artist and filmmaker Garrett Bradley made history when she became the first Black woman to win the documentary directing prize at Sundance Film Festival in 2020. Her work—which conveys an interest in both artistic and experimental filmmaking—explores social justice issues including the incarceration in America and the elision of Black history from the archives. This month, she travelled to the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam to receive the 2023 Eye Art & Film Prize ahead of a screening of her 2021 film Time, as part of the city’s international documentary festival. We spoke to her about filmmaking, her work and her inspirations.

The Art Newspaper: What does it mean to work at the intersection of art and film?

Garrett Bradley: The anchor point for me is understanding that any image I’m creating—regardless of genre—is going to feed into a belief system. There’s also a gradient—on one end you have ideas and concept and on the other you have story telling—but that’s as much as there is a distinction for me.

How do you balance the necessary artifice of art with the emphasis on fact within documentary filmmaking?

When you’re working with real lives, and particularly with subject matters such as incarceration—as we are in Time—I’m not comfortable with creating ambiguity around what the history is and what the intention is.If I’m going to prioritise being transparent [with the film’s subjects] about my intention when making something like Time, I intend to do the same thing for the audience.

With America, the conceptual was the basis of that project because the [archival] material itself was not something that was particularly overt. I was trying to prove something that I knew was there, which was evidence of Black power in American cinema in the 20th century. And that’s not something I wanted to explicitly explain in the film so I had to find ways that would work within the context of the sources that we had.

How does your process differ when thinking about staging a work in a museum or gallery environment as opposed to a more conventional cinematic experience?

When I was making America, it was initially supposed to be a museum installation. I consider it to be a chronological, visual history and what I wanted to do is create something that people could move around and see from different perspective like a sculpture, so that this could inform their insights. I was trying to elicit that 360-degree experience in terms of time, in terms of a moment. Now that’s doable in traditional film—but the experience is quite different.

But even in the gallery space [thvat work is] less about trying to create “art” and more about trying to create a visual analogy of how we understand history.

Which filmmakers and artists influence your work?

I’m inspired by filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, Pier Paolo Passolini, Michelangelo Antonioni—and Italian new wave cinema in general. But I also went to grad school in Los Angeles [UCLA] and that opened me up to neorealist work by filmmakers of the LA rebellion[a movement of young Black filmmakers who came out of UCLA Film School in the 1960s and pioneered new forms of Black cinema], so people like Julie Dash and Charles Burnett. And that really inspired me—this idea of making films in real locations, without actors, with the resources that were available to you; as well as finding the dreamlike qualities of the everyday. Plus, Wong Kar-wai and his use of music and love of movement.

When it comes to art, I’m inspired by people like Glenn Ligon, Shirin Neshat, John Akomfrah, Esther Rose. But to be honest, I’m really more influenced by music. My father would watch [American] football and he used to say that when he saw a Black person on TV it made him want to go out and paint. And similarly at [with bebop and jazz] we’re also talking about a generation of musicians just before Miles Davis and the “birth of cool” who aren’t necessarily here to entertain but really to create… that Black American confidence is really powerful to me.

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