ETUDES & RIFFS

By Sueyoung Park-Primiano, Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, March 17, 2022

Singular Encounters with Visions and Visionaries

 Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs

Philip Mallory JonesBronzeville Etudes & Riffs

Happy 25th Anniversary, FLEFF! On this momentous occasion, I wish to return to 2019 when I was invited by Dr. Zimmermann to moderate a Master Class with one of the festival artists, Philip Mallory Jones, whose work deals with African American and African cultural histories.

In this pre-COVID year, Master Classes were introduced as a new FLEFF initiative to provide a unique opportunity for students, artists, scholars, and industry practitioners to come face to face with a featured festival guest for an hour or more of intensive and intimate dialogue and analysis of their artistic vision and process. 

The execution and success of this program relied heavily on the generosity of festival guests whose warmth and magic inspired and energized us all. 

Together, we unearthed common histories and built new connections.

I was honored to introduce Mr. Jones to the assembly of FLEFFistas, a multi-media artist who has been producing artistic, educational, and commercial works using new technology since 1969. 

He is a member of the Do-It-Yourself generation of artists that embraced the emancipatory potential of new video technology and founded the artists’ collective, “Ithaca Video Projects,” which met from 1971 to 1985. While a graduate student in Creative Writing at Cornell, Mr. Jones directed and curated the first juried touring collection of video art, the Ithaca Video Festival (1974-1983).

Park-Primiano

Sueyoung Park-Primiano, Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

The community organizing and nonproprietary attitude are an obvious extension of Mr. Jones’ artwork that combines technologies to produce new mythologies and narratives. His First World Order (1994), Paradigm Shift (1992), Mask (1991), and Dreamkeeper (1989) engage with surrealist imagery and experiment by mixing of the technological language of 1s and 0s with ancient and surviving African symbolic convention codes.

A prolific artist, Mr. Jones’ most recent work includes designing immersive experience and learning environments using digital 3D modeling and video game technologies, virtual and augmented reality, theatrical projection, and books. 

The work he shared at the Master Class was Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, which he introduced as being “inspired by the lore and legends, heroes, and scoundrels of Bronzeville between the World Wars. It is received wisdom, passed down through generations, while eavesdropping on the grown-ups around the kitchen table at night. It is the Legend of Big Boy, and tales of the exploits of the Buffalo Soldiers in the Spanish American War, as told by my great grandfather to his grandchildren in the 1920s. It is also research in African American press archives, original oral histories, and memories real and imagined.”

Mr. Jones captivated us with his personal stories and inspirations that day. His gentle manner and sotto voce beguiled us to lean closer to be a part of the oral tradition that swept us away to the homes and streets of Chicago’s Bronzeville in the 1940s.

FLEFF: A DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENT