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Performing Theory: Speaking in Tongues: a lecture-performance by Christopher Harris

  • Birkbeck Cinema 42 Gordon Square WC1H 0PD (map)

Throughout his career artist and filmmaker Christopher Harris has used film and video installations to re-stage and explore African American accounts of history. Using experimental film techniques, Harris brings disparate mediums into dialogue with one another, in order to present multiple perspectives highlighting experiences of the African diaspora.

In this session Harris will demonstrate and discuss his working method and creative process. For several years, Harris has been working on ‘Speaking in Tongues’, a 16mm film inspired by Ishmael Reed’s novel Mumbo Jumbo, which uses fragments of found footage sourced from Hollywood films, cartoons and documentaries. In this way, ‘Speaking in Tongues’ continues Harris’s long-standing interest in producing counter-narratives, and in this lecture-performance he will unpack some of his research for this project, and present some fragments from this as yet unfinished work.

Accompanying this lecture-performance is Harris’s earlier work Reckless Eyeballing (2004). This is an experimental 16mm short film which, through re-editing fragments from films such as Birth of a Nation (1915) and Foxy Brown (1974), creates fictional encounters that critically examine concepts of ‘the gaze’ from an African American cinematic context.

About Christopher Harris

Christopher Harris is a filmmaker whose films and video installations read African American historiography through the poetics and aesthetics of experimental cinema.  His work employs manually and photo-chemically altered appropriated moving images, staged re-enactments of archival artefacts and interrogations of documentary conventions. His award-winning experimental films include a long-take look at a post-industrial urban landscape, an optically printed and hand-processed film about black outlaws, a pinhole film about the cosmic consequences of the sun’s collapse, a macro lens close up of a child’s nightlight, and a double-projection film about a theme-park performance of Christ’s Passion. Harris recently completed two multi-screen HD video installations that re-enact and reimagine the slave daguerreotypes commissioned by Louis Agassiz in 1850. His work has been exhibited at festivals, museums and cinematheques throughout North America and Europe.