Artist, Filmmaker

Crystal Z Campbell

 
 Crystal Z Campbell,  Go-Rilla Means War , 2017.

Crystal Z Campbell, Go-Rilla Means War, 2017.

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.”

Go-Rilla Means War is presented inside a replica of a mid-twentieth-century lunch counter, an icon of civil-rights activism and Nashville history that 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 temporary lunch counter, and the site collapse different periods and places, connecting sustenance (or the lack of it) to modes of access and removal.

 

 
 

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