Crystal Z Campbell
Go-Rilla Means War, 2017
35mm film transferred to 2K video, original stereo sound
Running time: 19 minutes and 21 seconds, with credits
Mixed media, site-specific installation; variable dimensions
Seven years ago, Crystal Z Campbell found a decaying 35mm film on the floor of the abandoned Slave Theatre, a former locus of Black culture and civil-rights organizing in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. In 2015, the theater was sold to a developer and demolished two years later to make way for condominiums.
Campbell spent a year manually scanning 20,000 frames of the film, conducting archival research, and recording a soundtrack that merges fact and fiction. The result is an experimental short film, a kind of collaboration with the original filmmaker, who remains unknown to the artist. As Campbell has said: “Go-Rilla Means War, and its faded and discolored frames, are a metonym for Bedford-Stuyvesant's deterioration by way of neglect, media demonization of Black bodies, and the War on Drugs, all of which formed a constellation leading to Bed-Stuy’s current gentrification.”
Beginning July 23, Go-Rilla Means War will be projected above the bustling dining room at Woolworth on 5th, a restaurant inside the former F.W. Woolworth department store where some of the first lunch counter sit-ins occurred in Nashville during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The film begs questions that the site also prompts: Who will preserve the artifacts and spaces of our cultures? Who gets to tell our stories? How can the arts counter erasure? The lunch counter recalls, as Campbell says, “an interior architecture once forbidden to populations that are currently being displaced in both Brooklyn and Nashville.” For Campbell, Go-Rilla Means War is a relic of gentrification, a memory of what once was that echoes current narratives in communities across the country. The combination of the film, the lunch counter, and the restaurant site collapses different periods and places, connecting sustenance (or the lack of it) to modes of access and removal.
Through September 1, Go-Rilla Means War screens nightly at 7:30pm, with an encore screening at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The film will also be shown at Amqui Station & Visitor’s Center in conjunction with the Amqui Station Farmers Market; check the event calendar for more information.
Woolworth on 5th (221 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219) is a soul food-inspired restaurant and live music venue owned by TomKats Hospitality. F.W. Woolworth first opened its doors in Nashville in 1913. Its lunch counter opened in 1925 and was the site of lunch counter sit-ins led by Fisk University students, including Diane Nash and John Lewis. Renovated in 2017, the new Woolworth on 5th preserves and strives to honors the history of this space.
Discover Madison, Inc. has a mission to celebrate, educate, promote, and preserve Madison, Tennessee through the historic Amqui Station and Visitor's Center (303 Madison St, Madison, TN 37115). Built by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in 1910, the structure was typical of southern station designs found in the region, with deeply over-hanging eaves supported by triangular knee braces, an agent-operator’s office and baggage room, engine room, battery room, second-story signal operator’s room, and separate waiting rooms for black and white passengers. Historically, the Madison area was home to many artists and musicians. The legendary country music singer Johnny Cash often visited the station. In 1979, Cash purchased the train depot, saving it from demolition after the railroad company had vacated the property. He then moved Amqui Station to his property in Hendersonville, a suburb northeast of Madison, and restored it to display his collection of train memorabilia as well as June Carter Cash's antique collection. Upon Cash’s death, Halo Properties purchased Amqui Station and donated it back to Madison. It returned home in June 2006 to be revitalized as a history museum and education center.