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 reenactments of archival artifacts, and interrogations of documentary conventions.
A Willing Suspension of Disbelief + Photography and Fetish
Canadian Premiere, US, 2014, 16mm > digital, 16 min, English
A response to an 1850 daguerreotype of a young American-born enslaved woman named Delia. Delia was photographed stripped bare as visual evidence in support of an ethnographic study by the Swiss-born naturalist professor Louis Agassiz, who held that racial characteristics are a result of differing human origins.
Toronto Premiere, US, 2001, 16mm, 60 min, English
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. still/here constructs a documentary record of the blight and decay of this space, acting not as an overt assessment of social injustices, but instead, as a study of the way in which the politics of class and race within American society are integral to its very being. The ruins seen here are emblematic of an unimaginable absence at the core of much of the African Diaspora’s experience in North America. From the countless Africans lost in the Middle Passage and the disappeared future generation of their unborn descendants, to the loss of family and loved ones that were sold away during slavery, absence has been, and continues to be, a fundamental feature of the African-American experience. But how, in an image-based medium such as film, does one represent absence? still/here acknowledges that an exhaustive rendering of absence is, at best, unlikely, and instead engages with this question by developing a vocabulary of absence. The film acknowledges the limits of representation and proceeds through a series of visual and aural breakdowns, erasures, contradictions, and gaps. It does not use the documentary power of film to recuperate a sense of closure, but instead dwells within the space of rupture occasioned by the presence of a profound absence.
Image: Christopher Harris, A Willing Suspension of Disbelief, 2014.