Tuesday, January 31, 2023 at 7:30pm
Maya Deren's Ritual in Transfigured Time + Barbara McCullough's Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

Ritual in Transfigured Time, Maya Deren, 1946, 16mm, 15 mins
Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections on Ritual Space, Barbara McCullough, 1980, digital projection, 60 mins

Light Industry presents a rarely-screened work by Barbara McCullough, a crucial figure of the L.A. Rebellion. “McCullough’s journey as a film- and video-maker,” noted scholar Jacqueline Stewart, “has focused less on finished products and more on processes, at once aesthetic and spiritual. Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections of Ritual Space represents a significant stretch along McCullough’s path, where she conversed with other L.A.-based Black artists about the role of ritual in Black life and creative practice. Visual artist David Hammons likens his activities to vanguard musicians as he improvises an outdoor composition of found objects. Poets Raspoeter Ojenke, Kenneth Severin, K. Curtis Lyle and Kamau Daa’ood describe and display their synergistic approaches, as do improvisational musicians Freedom in Expression, accompanying one another with voice and percussion. Kinshasha Cornwill and Houston Cornwill describe their performance/visual art collaborations. Senga Nengudi recalls feeling ‘possessed’ while dancing in costume at the collaborative performance she staged to open her Freeway Fets installation at a Los Angeles freeway underpass. And in an intimate conversation, Betye Saar offers McCullough an inspiring definition of ritual: It is not just a rite, but also what feels ‘right,’ a process that builds the artist’s confidence and the traditions that can be passed along to future generations. McCullough uses video footage, still photographs, interview audio and musical selections by Don Cherry to explore how her own film and video practice fits into Black traditions of performance and visual arts. McCullough opens Shopping Bag Spirits with footage from her own project, Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification, a landmark of Black and feminist experimental filmmaking. In addition to featuring alternate shots, McCullough’s 16mm film footage is enhanced with video effects. Blighted urban ruins become enchanted with glowing purples and blues, as video technologies (explored in courses with Shirley Clarke), add new dimensions to McCullough’s repertoire.”

Through her studies with Clarke one can locate a point of correspondence between the L.A. Rebellion and the New American Cinema, but the connection between McCullough’s practice and earlier eras of the avant-garde is deeper still. Among her influences she has cited Maya Deren, another filmmaker who understood ritual as a central organizing principle in her art. Though not as widely-seen as her canonical Meshes of the Afternoon, Deren’s Ritual in Transfigured Time contains some of her most indelible compositions, and itself evinces the influence of dancer Katherine Dunham, in the casting of Dunham Company performer Rita Christiani as Deren’s alter ego. It was also a movie where Deren experimented, via montage, with the simultaneity of different flows of time and the choreographic patterning of everyday situations. Indeed, she saw the film, along with A Study in Choreography for Camera, as her most representative effort. Deren felt it was best classified not with an erroneous label like “surreal,” but rather with a different, perhaps surprising one.

“I would like to use the word ‘classicist’ to describe Ritual in Transfigured Time,” she wrote, “precisely because it does not define according to the elements of the content—factual, fictional, abstract or psychological. It is a concept of method: a controlled manipulation of any or all elements into a form which will transcend and transfigure them.” Deren’s statement is worth considering with McCullough’s: “For me ritual is a symbolic action,” she remarks in the opening of Shopping Bag Spirits, “that I’ve dealt with in terms of my own internal state, to help release myself and move from one space and time to another.”

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.