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Barbara McCullough
60 minutes
Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections On Ritual Space

This video investigates the use of ritual in the work of artists using different media. Here ritual is defined as the creation and utilization of objects, words or tones used in a repetitive or habitual way to generate a spiritually cathartic experience. Through this catharsis, the artist is able to transcend one level of reality to touch upon her/his cultural past. This experimental documentary features the artists: David Hammons, Betye Saar, Houston and Kinshasha Conwill, N'Senga Nengudi, K. Curtis Lyle, Ojenke, Kamaau Da'oud, Kenneth Severin and Freedom in Expression.

"Barbara McCullough’s journey as a film- and video-maker has focused less on finished products and more on processes, at once aesthetic and spiritual. SHOPPING BAG SPIRITS AND FREEWAY FETISHES: REFLECTIONS ON RITUAL SPACE represents a significant stretch along McCullough’s path, where she conversed with other L.A.-based Black artists about the role of ritual in Black life and creative practice. Visual artist David Hammons likens his activities to vanguard musicians as he improvises an outdoor composition of found objects. Poets Raspoeter Ojenke, Kenneth Severin, K. Curtis Lyle and Kamau Daa’ood describe and display their synergistic approaches, as do improvisational musicians Freedom in Expression, accompanying one another with voice and percussion. Kinshasha Cornwill and Houston Cornwill describe their performance/visual art collaborations. Senga Nengudi recalls feeling “possessed” while dancing in costume at the collaborative performance she staged to open her “Freeway Fets” installation at a Los Angeles freeway underpass. And in an intimate conversation, Betye Saar offers McCullough an inspiring definition of ritual: It is not just a rite, but also what feels “right,” a process that builds the artist’s confidence and the traditions that can be passed along to future generations. McCullough uses video footage, still photographs, interview audio and musical selections by Don Cherry to explore how her own film and video practice fits into Black traditions of performance and visual arts. McCullough opens SHOPPING BAG SPIRITS with footage from her own project, WATER RITUAL #1: AN URBAN RITE OF PURIFICATION, a landmark of Black and feminist experimental filmmaking. In addition to featuring alternate shots, McCullough’s 16mm film footage is enhanced with video effects. Blighted urban ruins become enchanted with glowing purples and blues, as video technologies (explored in courses with Shirley Clarke), add new dimensions to McCullough’s repertoire"
- Jacqueline Stewart, L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema Exhibit

"Pioneering, provocative and visionary, the L.A. Rebellion films form a crucial body of work in post-war cinema… Spanning performance to spoken word, environmental sculpture to music, this experimental essay intercuts interviews, documentation and photographs with music seeking to adjust the criteria and language used to talk about artists of color."
- George Clark, Tate Modern

"...A study of ritual and its influential role within the improvisational and assemblage practices developed by black artists in Los Angeles in the late 70s and early 80s... While rooted in the prismatic urban experiences of LA, Shopping Bag Spirits draws upon numerous ancestral mythologies of the African diaspora."
- Harry Burke, Spike Art Quarterly

She is one of those artistscompelled to go extremes, risking pretentiousness in order to create dazzlingly surreal experiences. Her work compromises a bold exploration of her medium. As She is one of those artistscompelled to go extremes, risking pretentiousness in order to create dazzlingly surreal experiences. Her work compromises a bold exploration of her medium.
- Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

  • Tate Modern, 2015

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    Barbara McCullough
    60 minutes
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