Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to EyeContact. You are invited to respond to reviews and contribute to discussion by registering to participate.

JH

Trans-Atlantic Celebration of Gospel Music & Its Ethos

AA
View Discussion
Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru. Still from Ufuoso Essi's forty-one minute long film on Black congretational communities in London and Philadelphia, Is My Living in Vain. Currently screening at Te Uru.

One salient historical theme is that of survival strategies for the Philadelphia and London churches in the face of greater community secularisation, encroaching gentrification and higher taxes—with the young drifting away to leave an also diminishing older congregation. To help stall this crisis the Baptists have started to join forces with other denominations, and proactively consider new ways of broadening their congregations.

Titrangi

 

Ufuoma Essi
Is My Living in Vain


13 May 2023 - 23 July 2023

This stirring trans-Atlantic film and cleverly immersive ‘ecclesiastical’ installation—with its four pews and large black curtain—examines the evangelical and musical connections between a group of Black Baptist and Pentecostal churches in South London and West Philadelphia (often called ‘storefront’ churches).

We see informative interviews with the pastors and deaconesses, and performances from leading soloists, small choirs and congregations—who provide exuberant and passionate gospel singing. Images of revered remembered icons like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X (plus the Black Panthers) regularly appear in this fervent feminist community project that focusses on Black women—but not exclusively.

English filmmaker Ufuoso Essi (trained in Philadelphia, lives in London) mixes several film/video types in her forty minute examination of working class Black worship and exulted community faith, allowing the optical switches, restless movement, cutting rhythms, close-ups, site geographies and histories to regularly shift with the documentation / narrative.

One salient historical theme is that of survival strategies for the Philadelphia and London churches in the face of greater community secularisation, encroaching gentrification and higher taxes—with the young drifting away to leave an also diminishing older congregation. The Black Bottom district of Philadelphia underwent slum clearance in the sixties, and became gentrified when the professional classes moved in and institutions like universities were built. Some churches are located in that area. To help stall this crisis the Baptists have started to join forces with other denominations, and proactively consider new ways of broadening their congregations.

Music is therefore seen as a means of attracting wider audiences, mixing it with charismatic preaching that references Black experience and history, while also introducing musical bands to pull in the young, for initially gospel music had a prohibition on drums and dancing.

Of the featured performances, particularly evocative and vibrant are the renditions of Is My Living in Vain (with a ‘call and answer’ format) and If You Read God’s Letter. The harmonising voices (particularly the women’s) and trilling organ have a penetrating emotional impact, for the hypnotic physicality and rich textures of the vocalisations reach anybody who has more than a halfway interest in blues, field hollers, varieties of jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, slices of rock ‘n roll, or soul music.

The film’s soundtrack is an immensely pleasurable and powerful component of this fascinating study of demographic shifts. The project itself was produced and commissioned by Gasworks, London, alongside Te Uru and Le Magasin CNAC, Grenoble.

John Hurrell

Print | Facebook | Twitter | Email

 

Recent Posts by John Hurrell

JH
David McCracken, Pursuit--On the Road to the Sea House, 2024, corten steel, 2720 x 3170 x 1100 mm. Photo: Guy Quartermain

Clever Physical McCracken

Gow Langsford (Onehunga)

Onehunga

 

David McCracken
Attraction and Transmission

 

15 June -13 July 2024

JH
Richard Killeen, Destruction of the Circle, 1990,  acrylic and collage on aluminium, 55 pieces, 1900 x 4250 mm pictured, dimensions variable.

Gow Langsford Killeen Cutout Survey

GOW LANGSFORD GALLERY

Auckland Tamaki Makaurau

 

Richard Killeen
Hang in any order

 

3 July - 27 July 2024

JH
Trenton Garratt, Glencairn (GPS-37.39073, 174.84199, 2015. Photo: JH

A Kelliher Selection and its Limitations

TE TUHI CENTRE FOR THE ARTS

Titirangi

Derek Ball, Austen Deans, Michael Dell, Trenton Garrett, Aroha Gossage, Rodney Hamel, Imogen Taylor, Rex Turnbull, Robert Watson, Toss Woollaston
Eternally Temporary

Works picked from the Kelliher Art Trust Collection


25 May - 4 August 2024

JH
Ava Seymour, ‘Strange Ways, Here We Go’, 2023. Offset prints on 250gsm matt art paper, 2 units, 841 x 594mm ea. Edition of 300. Photo: Sam Hartnett

Choosing Your Footwear

TREADLER

Auckland

 

Ava Seymour
Strange Ways, Here We Go


20 June - 13 July 2024