Break what?

Break ꩜ut is a symposium (of sorts) that celebrates the research, writing and filmmaking initiated during THE UNDO FELLOWSHIP. Four ambitious research topics will be explored through a set of online screenings, study groups, and public dialogues. We are excited to share the ideas resulting from the inaugural year of this endeavor and eager to hear your questions, thoughts and feedback.

Four artists — all extremely different in their curiosities, aesthetics, methods, and personalities, but more or less aligned in their efforts to break out of the patterns and preconceptions that dominate the documentary form — paired up with four intellectually adventurous writers. Together they proposed a research topic inspired by the artist’s practice. Having stewed on these thorny questions in regular dialogue with the whole group of brilliant fellows, their drafts now seek readers.

So, Break ꩜ut with us! Choose a single thread of inquiry, or weave connections between them all. Tune into the stream to watch and listen in, or sign up for an UNDO STUDY GROUP to get the reader and join a rigorous and creative discussion.

Featuring the Work & Ideas of the 2022 UNDO Fellows

Ashon Crawley

Crystal Z Campbell

Sukhdev Sandhu

Deborah Stratman

Lakshmi Padmanabhan

Miryam Charles

Jas Morgan

TJ Cuthand

4 ambitious research questions.
2 ways to join.

Rather just
watch & listen?

Want to read &
discuss in depth?

The Site of Whispers

Writer Ashon Crawley and artist Crystal Z Campbell will examine the various ways that ideas, stories, and narratives are collected and ask what happens when the things collected are ephemeral? They will imagine ways that knowledge about Black geographic translation—in its variance and shade, in its color and texture, in its weight and lightness, in its vibration and sound—moves, how it spreads. The sound of glances and glimpses, the sight of whispers and hushed words, is where their research resides. They ask if the sonic component in film is the augmentation of the relationship between remembering and forgetting, or is the sonic a way to get at the archive and what exceeds its capture? Campbell’s sonic-centered documentary work honors the untranslatable, strategies of opacity, and rumor. They will posit together if fragments and gaps in archives can act as historical conductors, offering new translations or urgent questions, around Black geography, land and body, and the public secrets embedded in landscapes.

Ashon Crawley is a writer, artist and teacher, exploring the intersection of performance, blackness, queerness and spirituality. He is associate professor of Religious Studies and African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. His is author of Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (Fordham University Press) and The Lonely Letters (Duke University Press). He is currently at work on a book about the practice of contemporary black life as a spiritual disposition, posture, gesture and relation; and a short story collection and a nonfiction volume, both about the Hammond B3 organ, the Black church and sexuality. A MacDowell interdisciplinary arts fellow, he is at work on an art installation featuring light sculpture and sound that serves as a memorial to blackqueer spiritual life, musicianship and erasures from official narratives.

Crystal Z Campbell is a multidisciplinary artist, experimental filmmaker, and writer of African American, Filipino, and Chinese descents. Campbell finds complexity in public secrets—fragments of information known by many but untold or unspoken. Select honors include the Pollock-Krasner Award, MAP Fund, MacDowell, Skowhegan, Rijksakademie, Whitney ISP, Franklin Furnace, OVAC Art 365, and Flaherty Film Seminar. Exhibitions/screenings include SFMOMA, Drawing Center, ICA-Philadelphia, REDCAT, Artissima, Studio Museum of Harlem, Project Row Houses, and SculptureCenter, amongst others. Founder of archiveacts.com, Campbell was a 2020-2021 Harvard Radcliffe Film Study Center & David and Roberta Logie Fellow and is currently a Distinguished Scholar at the University of Buffalo. A 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Arts, Campbell lives and works in New York & Oklahoma.

Geologic Listening

Author Sukhdev Sandhu and filmmaker Deborah Stratman will probe critical debates around the Anthropocene, monumentality, and the politics of audibility through an inquiry that looks to geology as an experimental pedagogy, an archive from which to ponder the ways in which our society dwells between past and future catastrophes. Drawing on speculative fiction as well as forensic non-fiction, their research will extend Stratman’s longstanding engagement with the politics of landscape. Fundamentally, they ask: how can we begin to formulate a progressive politics – or even a vision of the future – that does not pedestalize the human species?

Sukhdev Sandhu is the author of London Calling: How Black and South Asian Writers Imagined A City (HarperCollins), I’ll Get My Coat (Book Works), Night Haunts (Verso), Other Musics (MoMA). His writings – on documentary and international film, experimental music, migrant aesthetics – have appeared in journals such as Film Comment, Frieze, Artforum, Art in America, The Wire, 4 Columns, The Guardian, and Suddeutsche Zeitung. He is an Associate Professor at New York University where he also directs the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture.

Deborah Stratman makes films and artworks that question power, control and belief, considering how places, ideas, and society are intertwined. She regards sound as the ultimate multi-tool, and time to be supernatural. Recent projects have addressed freedom, surveillance, broadcast, sinkholes, comets, raptors, orthoptera, levitation, exodus, evolution, sisterhood and faith. Stratman has exhibited internationally at venues including MoMA (NY), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Hammer Museum (LA), Austrian Film Museum (Vienna), MCA (Chicago), Whitney Biennial (NY), Flaherty Seminar and festivals including Sundance, Viennale, Berlinale, CPH:DOX, True/False, Locarno and Rotterdam. She is the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim and USA Fellowships, an Alpert Award and grants from Creative Capital, Graham Foundation, Harpo Foundation and Wexner Center for the Arts. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at the University of Illinois.

Forms of Errantry

How can the form of experimental documentary address the legacies of colonization as they are lived today? Scholar Lakshmi Padmanabhan and Filmmaker Miryam Charles will be following the routes opened up by this question, traveling and filming in India and Haiti (places of origin and belonging for them), to hear from women both dead and alive about their histories of survival and aesthetics of errantry. They will seek answers in the fissures between image and sound, personal narrative and political history, and in the juxtapositions between the dream of an anticolonial future, and the nightmare of our globalized present.

Lakshmi Padmanabhan is assistant professor in Radio/TV/Film at Northwestern University. She is co-editor of “Performing Refusal/Refusing to Perform,” a special issue of Women & Performance. Her teaching and research focus on world cinema and experimental film, postcolonial theory, feminist theory and queer theory. Her current book project addresses the ways in which feminist documentary artists from South Asia experiment with cinematic form in order to imagine a radical postcolonial ethics. Her academic writing has been published in journals including Camera Obscura, and Art History, and she has contributed reviews and criticism to venues including Seen, Public Books, and Post45. She has programmed film and video at venues including BRIC Arts, AS220, and Magic Lantern Cinema.

Miryam Charles is a director, producer and director of photography living in Montreal. She has produced and photographed several short fiction films as well as feature films . She is also the director of several short films which have been presented in various festivals in Quebec and internationally. She is working on her first feature-length documentary Cette maison (Talents en vue, SODEC), on short fiction film Au crépuscule (SODEC créateurs émergents), a fantastic series Jou va, jou vien (Banff/Netflix Diversity of Voices + Trio Orange) as well as a feature-length fiction film Le marabout (La forge Québec cinéma/Netflix + Voyelles Films). She is currently artist-in-residence at Concordia University and on the board of directors of RIDM, Dazibao and La Coop vidéo de Montréal.

Two Spirit Life Cycles

Writer and critic Jas Morgan and filmmaker / artist TJ Cuthand propose to advance Two-Spirit Indigiqueer life cycles through forms of mutual recognition, contemporary kinship, and world-building. Reflecting on the ways Indigenous queer, trans, Two-Spirit, and gender non-conforming peoples have lost knowledge about their social and cultural roles, and of homophobic shame imposed on Indigenous Peoples through punishment and policing of non-normative sexualities, they will expand on the impact of feminist material aesthetics, private documentary style filmmaking, and experimental realms for consciousness raising. Cuthand and Morgan will engage in a “call and response” dialogue working through archival material, photos and journal entries, from Cuthand’s personal archive with autotheoric responses by Morgan reflecting on what they have learned about Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer life cycles.

Jas Morgan is a Toronto-based SSHRC doctoral scholarship recipient, a McGill University Art History Ph.D. candidate, and an assistant professor in Ryerson University’s Department of English. They previously held the position of Editor-at-Large for Canadian Art. Morgan’s first book nîtisânak (Metonymy Press, 2018) won the prestigious 2019 Dayne Ogilive Prize and a 2019 Quebec Writer’s Federation first book prize, and has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and an Indigenous Voices Literary Award.

TJ Cuthand was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1978, and grew up in Saskatoon. Since 1995 he has been making short experimental narrative videos and films about sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity, which have screened in festivals internationally, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, Mix Brasil Festival of Sexual Diversity in Sao Paolo, ImagineNATIVE in Toronto, Ann Arbour Film Festival, Images in Toronto, Berlinale in Berlin, and Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. His work has also exhibited at galleries including the Remai in Saskatoon, The National Gallery in Ottawa, and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. They completed their Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Film and Video at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2005, and her Masters of Arts in Media Production at X University in 2015. He currently resides in Toronto, Canada.

Complete Schedule [UTC–5]

*Fill out a simple application by to join a Study Group.
Space is limited, so fill yours out ASAP to join. 

Oct 29—30, 2022

Schedule will be posted in the future.

How it works

How do I attend?

Everything is online and pay-what-you-wish. Each topic includes a Film Program, a Study Group, and a Dialogue between the artist and writer pair. Register to get reminders to watch the livestream, or fill out a simple application to join the study group. 

How do I stream?

Film Programs and Dialogues will be streamed live on our Twitch feed. Times listed are UTC–5. If you register in advance, you’ll get an email with a reminder and the links.

Stream live to chat, or watch for 24-hours after the event start time. For additional questions or technical support, contact us. 

Where do I register or apply?

Ways to Participate

Watch the Film Programs

Break ꩜ut Film Programs are free and open to the public. Each program is a selection of work from the artist fellow (or artist couple in the case of the ReStacks). 

Listen in on the Dialogues.

Each research topic is approached in a conversation between the artist and writer pairs, who will respond to some videos generated in the Study Group. These will happen on Sundays and are 90 minutes long.

The UnDo Study Group

Take a deeper dive into this research. Read a bit, watch a bit, gain access to the writer fellow, and discuss with thoughtful collective. See the details below. 

What's The UNDO Study Group?

Curious to engage one or more of these topics deeply with a passionate group of thinkers, practitioners, and enthusiasts? Then you’ll want in on this experience, a mode of studying that we are doing our best to make social, participatory, rigorous and fun.

You’ll get some material to read and a few links to watch in advance. Then, you‘ll get a link to participate in a highly structured conversation led by the writer fellow for that topic. You’ll have the chance to ask questions, discuss your thoughts in smaller groups, and contribute to a collective video essay that will feed your questions, thoughts and ideas back to the fellows as part of their public dialogue the following day. Watch the video to get the idea.

Space is limited for this engagement, so we are offering participation through a very simple online application. If accepted, entry is pay-what-you-wish. Please only apply if you are committed to showing up and being prepared for the conversation.

How to Study?

Read & Watch

We will send all Study Group participants a “reader” that brings together drafts of the writing from this year’s fellows, along with evocative quotes, clippings, and behind-the-scenes discussion excerpts from the course of this research period. It’s something we’ll eventually publish, and you’ll get it first as a kind of print-at-home zine. We will also provide links to watch the films on your own time, plus some additional short videos that we hope will open up a generative dialogue in the Study Group sessions.

Discuss & Respond

In the Saturday session, you will get a chance to hear from the writing fellow from the topic, ask questions, and to develop your thoughts in small groups. Prompts to participate and respond will be a core element of this experience. Together, we’ll compile and publish a small series of short essayistic responses that will capture the Study Group’s learning, ideas, and questions. UnionDocs will edit these videos and feed them back into the public dialogue on Sunday. In this way, your contributions will be integral to the symposium process.

Keep It Going

This is a new experiment we’ve been developing at UnionDocs that we plan to continue with additional films and writers. We imagine it as a kind of grassroots book club, but for documentary art, focused on sharing ideas, urgent issues, and inventive approaches. It’s about sparking powerful discussion and deeper investigation, through reading, listening and responding in small, self-organized groups that together form a larger collective experience. More about this.

Accessibility

UnionDocs is committed to hosting accessible and inclusive events.

Real-Time Captioning will be provide on all the streams in Break ꩜ut 2021. In addition, sessions are pay-what-you-wish.

If you have any questions regarding accommodation or accessibility please contact us.

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