Drawing on the methods of remix and sampling culture, filmmaker Jenn Nkiru creates soulful and mind bendingly visceral works reflecting the dynamism of Blackness.
The Grammy Award-winning artist and director’s first solo exhibition in Australia, REBIRTH IS NECESSARY, opens at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art 14 May, on view until 9 July 2022.
The exhibition is an immersive gallery presentation of Nkiru’s 2017 film REBIRTH IS NECESSARY, an exploration of the magic of Blackness in a realm where time and space are altered.
Nkiru has built a reputation as an important figure in contemporary Black cinema, exploring the full spectrum of the lived diasporic black experience through aesthetically complex films.
The British Nigerian filmmaker rose to international prominence for her work on music videos, notably as the second unit director for Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “APESHIT” music video partially filmed at the Louvre in Paris, as well as directing videos for Kamasi Washington and Neneh Cherry, among others.
Moving deftly between online and institutional contexts, she was recently selected for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2019 Whitney Biennial and her latest piece, OUT / SIDE OF TIME, commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York opened in 2021 as part of the exhibition: Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room.
Pushed through an afro surrealist lens, Nkiru’s works are grounded in the history of Black music, the aesthetics of experimental film, international art cinema, the Black arts movement, and the rich and variegated tradition of cinemas of the Black diaspora and their distinct experimentation with the politics of form.
Blending the now, the past, and the future, REBIRTH IS NECESSARY presents a dense and rapid-fire archive of audio-visual material, which Nkiru describes as akin to a bibliography.The film includes samples of Sun Ra, James Baldwin, Fred Moten, Steve Reich, Kathleen Cleaver, and Alice Coltrane, among many others—as well as original footage shot in South Africa and her native South London.
Jenn Nkiru says, “Creating this piece felt like therapy. It’s where I got to reconcile my worlds—the material and the spiritual, the human and divine. This film is jazz; black magic in motion.
I hope it can be a source of inspiration, affirmation and healing to others as it has been to me, especially the black diaspora.”
About the work’s presentation in Brisbane: IMA Director Liz Nowell says, “We are delighted to present Jenn Nkiru’s first ever Australian exhibition, following her recently acclaimed presentation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
REBIRTH IS NECESSARY is an entrancing and intoxicating expression of the Black experience that samples historical footage and remixes it alongside powerful new recordings. Pulsating with energy, Nkiru’s work draws on movement, gender, hip-hop, faith, afrofuturism and art to blur the lines between popular culture and contemporary art.”
Nowell continues, “This work will resonate with audiences across Australia, from diasporic and activist communities, to those who are passionate about music and dance.”
The exhibition is on view at the IMA 14 May–9 July 2022, with an opening event Friday 13 May, 6– 8pm.
Image: Jenn Nkiru, ‘REBIRTH IS NECESSARY’ (video still), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Mothership