Over the last 20 years Simone Leigh has created a multi-faceted body of work incorporating film, sculpture, video, and installation, all informed by her ongoing exploration of Black female-identified subjectivity. Leigh describes her work as auto-ethnographic, and her salt-glazed ceramic and bronze sculptures often employ forms traditionally associated with African art. In 2014 she presented The Free People’s Medical Clinic in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, a project commissioned by Creative Time. Her work was included in the 2012 and 2019 Biennial exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. She is also the first artist to be commissioned for the High Line Plinth; her monumental sculpture Brick House was unveiled in April 2019. In 2022, Leigh represented the United States at the 59th Venice Biennale with her exhibition, Simone Leigh: Sovereignty. Her work was also included in the Biennale’s central exhibition, The Milk of Dreams, for which she was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Participant.
Join us for COMPLETA, a special program of three short films followed by a conversation between artist Simone Leigh and writer Yasmina Price (Yale University), moderated by program curator Greg de Cuir, Jr. They will discuss Leigh’s film work in the context of her multidisciplinary practice, along with her overarching project to center and celebrate the creative work of Black women.
- Monangambee, Sarah Maldoror, 1969, Algeria, 17 minutes
- Diary of an African Nun, Julie Dash, 1977, United States, 15 minutes
- Conspiracy, Simone Leigh & Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich, 2022, United States, 24 minutes
This program of three films in the 16mm format presents a historical continuum of Black women creating novel forms in the cinematic arts. Sarah Maldoror was one of the earliest Black women to pick up a film camera and use it as a weapon in the revolutionary struggle in Africa in the 1960s. Julie Dash was at the forefront of an aesthetic rebellion in Los Angeles in the 1970s that fundamentally changed the way independent film was taught and practiced. Simone Leigh and Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich have shifted the boundaries of sculpture and film as plastic arts, while devoting themselves to the histories of sublimity and creative emancipation for Black women across disciplines.
Explore a fatalistic slip in translation, a consuming spiritual and bodily passion, a hand drawn to flame. Quoting Comte de Lautréamont: “I replace melancholy by courage, doubt by certainty, despair by hope, malice by good, complaints by duty, skepticism by faith, sophisms by cool equanimity, and pride by modesty.” And as Audre Lorde wrote: “I have been woman / for a long time / beware my smile / I am treacherous with old magic / and the noon’s new fury / with all your wide futures / promised / I am / woman / and not white.”
*A typical, inexpensive meal eaten in Luanda. A three-piece suit in Lisbon. A tripartite film program in Washington, DC.
About the Artist
Simone Leigh, photo by Shaniqwa Jarvis.
About the Curator
Greg de Cuir, Jr., courtesy of the artist
Greg de Cuir, Jr. is co-founder and artistic director of Kinopravda Institute in Belgrade, Serbia. He has organized programs at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, the Anthology Film Archives in New York, Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, and Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen in Germany, among others.
About the Writer
Yasmina Price, courtesy of the speaker
Yasmina Price is a writer, researcher, and PhD student in the Departments of African American Studies and Film and Media Studies at Yale University. She focuses on anti-colonial African cinema and the work of visual artists across the Black diaspora, with a particular interest in the experimental work of women filmmakers. She has interviewed filmmakers and participated in panels on Black film and revolutionary cultural production organized by The Maysles Documentary Center, International Documentary Association, New York Film Festival, and more. Some of her recent writing has appeared in The Current (Criterion), The New Inquiry, The New York Review of Books, the Metrograph Journal, Vulture, Hyperallergic, and MUBI.
Part of the Summer of 16mm: Celebrating 100 Years of Film series.