Christopher Harris


Christopher Harris (USA) is an artist 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 artifacts and interrogations of documentary conventions. His current project is a series of optically-printed 16mm experimental films in conversation with canonical works of African-American literature. Recent exhibitions include a career retrospective at the Belo Horizonte International Short Film Festival, and solo screenings at the Locarno Film Festival, Images Festival, and Encontro de Cinema Negro. Additional exhibitions have been held at the Brakhage Center Symposium, the Gene Siskel Film Center,  Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, UnionDocs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Artists’ Film Biennial at the Institute of Contemporary Art, IFF Rotterdam, the Viennale, among many others. Harris received a 2019-20 Artist Residency Award from the Wexner Center for the Arts and was a featured artist at the 2018 Flaherty Seminar. He is the recipient of a 2017 Alpert/MacDowell Fellowship and a 2015 Creative Capital grant. Interviews with Harris have appeared in BOMB Magazine, Film Quarterly and numerous other print and online journals. Writing about his films has appeared in periodicals such as CinemaScope Magazine and Millennium Film Journal. He is Associate Professor, Head of Film & Video Production at the University of Iowa.


ONLINE SCREENING DATES: December 2 – December 23, 2020

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: A Willing Suspension of Disbelief + Photography and Fetish, 17 min, 2014; 28.IV.81 (Bedouin Spark), 3 min, 2009; Reckless Eyeballing, 14 min, 2004; Halimuhfack, 4 min, 2016; Sunshine State (Extended Forecast), 11 min, 2007; Distant Shores, 3 min, 2016.  Curated by Oona Mosna

A Willing Suspension of Disbelief + Photography and Fetish, 17 min, 2014

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.

28.IV.81 (Bedouin Spark), 3 min, 2009

Approximates a small child’s fantasy world in the dark. In a series of close-ups, the nightlight is transformed into a meditative star-spangled sky. An improvisation, edited inside the camera and shot on a single reel. The stars swirl in silence. – IFFR

28.IV.81 (Bedouin Spark) ... displays a concern with textures of light as well as the capacity of the human imagination to will celestial entities out of the relatively impoverished materials at hand. (Call them The Potted Plant of Life.) 28.IV.81 (Bedouin Spark) is a lovely miniature edited in-camera, in which Harris manipulates light around a child’s mobile so that a hanging nightlight with plastic silver stars becomes a glinting ersatz sky. – Michael Sicinski

Reckless Eyeballing, 14 min, 2004

Borrowing its title from a Jim Crow-era law that prohibited black men from gazing at white women, this optically printed, hand-processed film is a hypnotic inspection of sexual desire, black identity, and film history. – Eric Crosby, Wisconsin Film Festival

Halimuhfack, 4 min, 2016

A performer lip-synchs to archival audio featuring the voice of author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston as she describes her method of documenting African American folk songs in Florida. By design, nothing in this film is authentic except the source audio. The flickering images were produced with a hand-cranked Bolex so that the lip-synch is deliberately erratic and the rear projection, grainy. Looped images of Masai tribesmen and women recycled from an educational film become increasingly abstract as the audio transforms into an incantation.

Sunshine State (Extended Forecast), 11 min, 2007

Somewhere in a quiet outer suburb of the Milky Way galaxy, we live our lives in the pleasant warmth of our middle-of-the-road star, the Sun. Slowly but surely we will reach the point when there will be one last perfect sunny day. The sun will swell up, scorch the earth and finally consume it.

Distant Shores, 3 min, 2016

A sunny afternoon on an architecture tour boat in Chicago is haunted by the spectre of the European refugee crises as a disembodied narrator recounts a much more dangerous voyage across altogether different waters. The hazardous journey is the unseen other of the carefree trip down the Chicago River and across Lake Michigan.


Artist filmmaker Christopher Harris uses a bold, experimental filmmaking technique to excavate repressed histories and cultural memories. Fully aware of the sweep of avant-garde film as described by Princeton Professor Emeritus P. Adams Sitney in his renowned book “Visionary Film,” Harris has developed his own ingenious form of cinema to, in his words, “counter-act Western hegemony over African culture in the New World.” – Lynn Sachs

Christopher Harris is an experimental filmmaker whose work both utilizes and subverts the grammars of documentary and narrative cinema, in pointed explorations of African American historiography and black aesthetics. In a wide-ranging practice across analog and digital — including meditative observational films, surrealist re-workings of archival material, multi-channel installations, and pinhole films — Harris painstakingly grapples with “what it means to work, observe, and think, as an artist, living between the ideals of American happiness and the realities of American inequality” – Terri Francis


Curated by Oona Mosna.