The film Muttererde (2017)by Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor calls for femme forms of ancestral history in the face of the often-interrupted knowledge of the African diaspora in Europe and elsewhere. Muttererde features individual portraits of five black femmes, set around conversations on the knowledge and non-knowledge of their mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and as far back as the knowledge carries them. Muttererde is an artwork but also forms a powerful archive in and of itself. The work prompts us to asks many questions such as; what are rituals, teachings and abilities passed on from our matriarchs? How do these inherited skills serve us or inhibit us today?
To explore some of these questions, film lecturer, classifier and author Dr Zélie Asava moderates a discussion with the artist. Their discussion reflects on issues of identity and representation in film, cinema and archive. Both speakers consider concepts of intersectional feminism and critical race theory as a valuable framework to explore Taylor's most recent work.
Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1984, Florida) is an artist, filmmaker, archivist and community organizer. Her roots are in the Southern United States, born in Mississippi and bred in Florida. Taylor's work manifests through performance, text, dialogue, dance and community building for Black People and People of Colour. Her work centres on themes of ritual, visibility and identity mythology. She is chiefly concerned with ways to dismantle oppressive institutions and the creation of racial equity in art and theatre. Her advocacy and organizing work stems from contemporary critical race theory. Taylor curated and hosted the almost monthly discursive salon on race politics and race relations 'Black in Berlin' which was presented at Savvy Contemporary (Berlin) and Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art. She has performed and presented work at the Barbican Centre of Art (London, UK), Chisenhale Gallery (London, UK), Hebbel Am Ufer (Berlin, Germany), Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin, Germany), Sophiensaele Theater (Berlin, Germany) and The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Oslo, Norway).
Dr Zélie Asava is a classifier at the Irish Film Classification Office and lectures at University College Dublin. She is the author of Mixed Race Cinemas: Multiracial Dynamics in America and France (Bloomsbury, 2017) and The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Irish Identities on Film and TV (Peter Lang 2013). In 2011, she was awarded Young Irish Studies Scholar of the year, and in 2014 she gave a keynote on mixed-race representations in Irish cinema at the Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University, Chicago. She is the co-author (with Prof. Diane Negra) of ‘Race and Cinema’ in Oxford Bibliographies Online: Cinema and Media Studies (Oxford University Press 2013), and has published many essays on race, gender and sexuality in Irish, French, American and African cinemas in a wide range of books and journals, including Masculinity and Irish Popular Culture: Tiger’s Tales (2014); World Cinema Directory: Africa (2014); Viewpoints: Theoretical Perspectives on Irish Visual Texts (2013); Images of the Modern Vampire: The Hip and the Atavistic (2013); France’s Colonial Legacies: Memory, Identity and Narrative (2013); World Cinema Directory: France (2013).
This talk took place on 14 September 2018.