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The Motion Picture Association for Maintaining Personal Ambivalence

Rashayla Marie Brown in Collaboration with Jamila Raegan

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

April 2–May 6, 2022

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Each year movies or TV shows are released featuring minoritized characters in entirely predictable and depressing plotlines, often under the guise of “uplifting” a trans or POC character. However, given that they are made in the context of a white supremacist, hetero-patriarchal culture of Hollywood, this media generally relies upon a three-act structure,following a “hero’s journey” character development arc. When a minoritized subject is involved, they are often submitted to various forms of violence to ratchet up the drama including: imprisonment, murder, pseudo-pornographic portrayals of sexual violence, or self-sacrifice to allow the main protagonist to further their quest.

As an intervention into this mainstream culture that exploits Black and queer pain, Rashayla Marie Brown (RMB) proposes The Motion Picture Association for Maintaining Personal Ambivalence. Along with collaborator Jamila Raegan, RMB will fashion the Session gallery into an independent filmmaking space where underrepresented audiences can alter the traumatic endings of movies they want to love, but cannot bear to witness. Using the aesthetics of a 1950’s writers’ room and photographic studio replete with carefully curated props, The MPA for MPA offers local filmmakers, activists, artists, and the public a chance to convene for cinematic ideation conversations that lead to the co-creation of storyboards and photographic images through the lens of Black Femme Aesthetics.

RMB will host two public Writers’ Room Sessions to collectively evaluate a variety of plotlines in recent films, especially those embroiled in public controversy or a current event. These convenings–centering comfort, process, and joy–will focus on the collaborative ideation of alternative endings. RMB will hand-draw storyboards and display them in an archive that grows throughout the Session. These will be followed by two photoshoots in which participants will style, light, and potentially pose/act out select storyboard images that evoke new narrative possibilities.

The project will culminate in an art installation consisting of the hand-drawn storyboards and photographic still images that have been created and staged to give voice to people who are left out of the filmmaking process – the viewers.

RMB is also organizing a Work-in-Progress screening of her experimental documentary “Reality Is Not Good Enough” towards the end of her Session, date TBD. Beyond parody, the film is a sincere investigation of her mother’s failed attempt to become a reality TV star as well as RMB’s own failed attempt to redeem her experience as a filmmaker. It involves an all-POC and female crew, with producer Jennifer Reeder (Dir: Knives and Skin). This will be screened offsite at Metrograph Theater in Manhattan in collaboration with Alfreda’s Cinema, a micro-cinema project founded by Melissa Lyde in 2015 with a mission to screen films that celebrate Black and non-Black people of color.

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Rashayla Marie Brown

Rashayla Marie Brown (aka Professor RMB) is an “undisciplinary” artist, rejecting the formality of institutional artmaking in favor of a practice that questions the hierarchies these labels allow to persist. Working principally in performance, installation, writing, filmmaking and photography, while drawing from a background as a DJ, graphic designer and spoken word artist, her work considers what historical narratives omit. A lifelong nomad who has moved 24 times, RMB regularly travels to assess the impact of art institutions internationally. Her works and words have been featured in publications and galleries internationally including Art Forum; Embassy of Foreign Artists, Geneva; Hyperallergic; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco; Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art; Performa Magazine; QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking; Rhodes College, Memphis; Tate Modern, London; and Turbine Hall, Johannesburg. Previously, RMB founded the graphic design firm Selah Vibe, Inc. (2004-2011) and served as the inaugural Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2013-2017). She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at Northwestern University in collaboration with the Isaac Julien Lab at UC-Santa Cruz.

artist website

Jamila Raegan

Jamila Raegan is an interdisciplinary artist whose work addresses inequity and violence, a marker of her personal and cultural experiences. She most often creates sculptures and environments to provide a space for mourning and collective healing. Her practice is material-centered, which includes: familial relationships, ancestors, hybrid belief systems, plant cultivation, and preservation through sculpture, performance, and installation. Raegan studied photography and Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville and later served as a founding board member and arts educator at Extreme Kids and Crew, a not-for-profit arts organization for children and families with special needs in New York City. She completed her BFA in Studio Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2020. Currently residing in Brooklyn, New York, Raegan has focused more recently on film and video work, collaboration, and painting.


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