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Temporalities of Identity: Between Portrait and Performance

Curated by Bettina Brunner

Wednesday, October 18, 7 pm

The screening program engages with notions of identity from the perspective of temporal relationships beyond a linear conception of time. The films shown as part of Temporalities of Identity more specifically relate autobiographical aspects to questions of colonial histories, cultural appropriation, and the precarious position of individuals within social structures. Current notions of selfhood as well as gender and Black identity are framed within a historical context by picking up art-historical cues and references from some of the recent films by British artists—Ayo Akingbade, Onyeka Igwe, Tanoa Sasraku—selected for this screening, showing them together with US performance practices from the 1970s—Trisha Brown, Theodora Skipitares, Sheryl Sutton.

If Trisha Brown’s early performance Water Motor—captured on 16mm film by filmmaker Babette Mangolte in 1978—is considered a key piece within the context of a practice of dance, which incorporates everyday gestures, similar performances by African American dancer Sheryl Sutton—"a figure of […] transparency," (1) as Tina Post writes about her—are hardly known, including her two-part performance Paces (1977). In the first part of this piece, Sutton executes motions of walking, speeding up or slowing down her movements within a variation of steps. Theodora Skipitares’ performance The Venus Cafe (1977) draws on autobiographical stories, combining these with elaborate costumes and masks to engage critically with patriarchal structures of family and society. Whilst Ayo Akingbade's documentary-style film portraits A is for Artist (2018) and Hella Trees (2020) present fictional biographies of young artists, Tanoa Sasraku’s O’Pierrot (2019), a remake of the American avantgarde film classic Rabbit‘s Moon (1950/71) by Kenneth Anger, uses the commedia dell’arte characters of Harlequin and Pierrot. Within a meticulously designed film set, Sasraku’s work intertwines questions of mixed-race heritage and British as well as American history to construct a surreal narrative, which focuses on the emotional struggle of striving for recognition and the search for one’s identity within a white society. Onyeka Igwe's No archive can restore you (2020) investigates the interior of the former Nigerian Film Unit's abandoned site in Lagos, which not only hosts the filmic past of Nigeria in dusty canisters, but also reveals the local heritage of British colonial history within the context of Igwe’s slow camera movements.

Temporalities of Identity draws on performance theories of repetition and restoration in the sense of "restorative performances": " [t]he capacity to warp or subvert the familiar and dominant through restorations—as repair or mending—of what has been forgotten, overlooked, misremembered, suppressed, dormant, or denied." (2) The program also relates to Gilles Deleuze’s writings on film, more specifically his concept of the "crystal image," which fractures and reconfigures the relationship between past, present, and future.



Sheryl Sutton, Paces, 1977, performance documentation (excerpt), ca. 5 min
Babette Mangolte, Water Motor, 1978, 16mm, 8 min
Theodora Skipitares, The Venus Cafe, 1977, performance documentation, 18 min
Ayo Akingbade, A is for Artist, 2018, 4 min
Ayo Akingbade, Hella Trees, 2020, 7 min
Tanoa Sasraku, O’Pierrot, 2019, 14 min
Onyeka Igwe, No archive can restore you, 2020, 5 min

Introduced by Bettina Brunner, with an additional introduction to Sheryl Sutton’s performance practice by Tina Post, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Chicago (video call).

The screening will be followed by a conversation with Tanoa Sasraku.


The event will take place in English.


A full-length recording (ca. 45 min) of Sheryl Sutton’s performance Paces at The Kitchen, New York, February 10, 1977 will be accessible to the audience after the screening. [Courtesy of The Kitchen, NYC and Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2014.M.6)]


(1) Tina Post, Deadpan: The Aesthetics of Black Inexpression, New York: NYU Press, 2023, p.108.
(2) Soyica Diggs Colbert, Douglas A. Jones Jr., et al, Introduction in: Diggs Colbert, Jones Jr., (ed.), Race and Performance After Repetition, Durham und London: Duke University Press, 2020, p.8.


  • Mit freundlicher Unterstützung
€ 6,– / reduced € 4,50