Christopher Harris: Formal Inquiry

A group of people taking photos of a city skyline from a boat.
Close up image of a black-and-white film strip with an optical track.

Christopher Harris makes experimental films and video installations informed by Motown, P-Funk, bebop, free jazz and beyond. Often drawing on archival sounds and images, his work features staged re-enactments, hand-cranked cameras, rear-projection, close-focus cinematography, re-photography, photochemical manipulations, and screen captured video among other strategies. Like his production techniques, his influences, among them Black literature, avant-garde structuralist film, and most significantly, all forms of Black music—are eclectic. Working through incongruity and slippages, between sound and image, between past, present and future, and between absence and presence, his films, like the music from which it takes inspiration, embodies the existential complexities and paradoxes of racialized identity in the U.S.

Cornell Cinema is pleased to welcome Christopher Harris for a special screening and discussion of three of his experimental works.

The program will include:

Reckless Eyeballing (2004), B&W, mono, 4:3, 14 min.
Taking its name from the Jim Crow-era of black criminals staring at white women, this hand-processed, optically-printed amalgam reframes desire by way of everything from D.W. Griffith to Foxy Brown and Angela Davis: 'Your lover belongs to this band of murderous outlaws.' (Description by Cinematexas International Short Film Festival)

Distant Shores (2016), Color, stereo, 4:3, 3 min.
[A] postcard-sized [film that]…manage[s] to implicate the audience’s ethical imagination…Distant Shores models a necessary imaginative leap simply by juxtaposing footage of a Chicago River cruise with testimony of a migrant’s harrowing voyage at sea. A three-minute film edited in camera; it nevertheless offers several ways of thinking about displacement. (Description by Max Goldberg, KQED Arts)

still/here (2000), B&W, mono, 4:3, 60 min.
still/here is a meditation on the vast landscape of ruins and vacant lots that constitute the north side of St. Louis, an area populated almost exclusively by working class and working poor African Americans. (Description by Christopher Harris)

still/here and Reckless Eyeballing screen in a 2K digital restoration made by the Academy Film Archive in 2022. All films are courtesy of Video Data Bank.

A photo of a man with a beard sitting in front of a bookshelf.

Christopher Harris’s films have appeared widely at festivals, museums and cinematheques, including an upcoming solo screening at the 2024 Whitney Biennial. Previous screenings include solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the Locarno Film Festival, and Arsenal Berlin, a two-person screening with Su Friedrich at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris and group screenings at the New York Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. Harris is the recipient of the 2023 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in Film/Video, a 2015 Creative Capital Award and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, Radcliffe, and Chrysalis. He currently lives in Iowa where he is the F. Wendell Miller Associate Professor in the Department of Cinematic Arts at the University of Iowa.