Tending the Fire

By Szucs, Suzanne E. | Afterimage, November-December 2012 | Go to article overview

Tending the Fire


Szucs, Suzanne E., Afterimage


Cauleen Smith: A Star is a Seed

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

May 12-September 16, 2012

"We are all instruments, everyone is supposed to be playing their part."

--Sun Pa

For the second installment of the MCA Screen series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, filmmaker Cauleen Smith created ambitious new work inspired by the experimental music scene in Chicago, Afrocentric cultural movements at their height in the 1970s, and in particular, the Afrofuturist explorations of legendary musician Sun Ra. Smith used installation, video, film, and sound to create a compelling and immersive experience for the viewer.

Upon entering the gallery space, audience members were confronted by The Ark After the Flood, an installation comprised of an aquarium with a mirrored bottom as well as a projector, stand, and sandbags. Projected onto the aquarium was Smith's recut version of Walon Green's 1979 documentary film The Secret Life of Plants (based on Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird's 1973 book of the same name and for which Stevie Wonder's album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants is named; Wonder's song "A Seed's a Star/Tree Medley" from that album lent a version of its name to the exhibition). The film features time-lapse photography of plant growth and has had cult-like status as a cosmological creation metaphor. Accompanying this object was a soundtrack of musicians including Keith Jarrett, Sun Ra, Art Tatum, and Mary Lou Williams, each playing a version of Over the Rainbow, a song that has deep resonance among African Americans in its suggestion of and longing for a better life just out of reach.

With the projected image oozing over the edge of the aquarium, reinforcing the fecundity illustrated in the film, the installation was visually gorgeous; however, the piece itself as presented was disjunctive to the music. In her artist's statement, Smith wrote that she recut the film for the music and indeed, a close listening revealed this. Yet the subtlety and nuance of the music was lost because of the distance of the speakers from the object, as well as the constant sound disruption from Smith's installation in the next room. As a result, the soundtrack did not Feel integrated with the installation.

The viewer next entered Smith's Inhfinity Vortex (the misspellingis a reference to Sun Ra's "Saturn" record label, which he sometimes referred to as "Inhfinity Productions"), which was a hallway of mirrors ultimately leading to a screening room projecting a series of short films that together ran roughly an hour. As noted, this project was ambitious and it was only a dedicated viewer who would take the time to experience the fullness of Smith's intention. Walking through the vortex was a playful journey--one that demanded the viewer look at the faceted parts of self to approach history, and that they prepare for a distorted or perhaps ever-evolving view.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Smith's statement opened with her observation that "in African and African-diasporic cultural production, improvisation signifies mastery. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tending the Fire
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.