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06.19.20 – Lecturer Yaniya Lee programs an online screening series of works by Black and Indigenous video artists

Daniels Faculty students know Yaniya Lee as a visual studies lecturer and writer — but, for the past year, she has had an unusual side gig.

As a research resident at Vtape — a video archive founded in 1982 by Daniels Faculty professors emiriti Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak — Lee has spent the past few months sorting through hundreds of pieces of video art created over the past four decades. From that collection of films, she has curated "Fractured Horizon — A View From the Body," an online screening series that will continue throughout the months of June and July.

Each Friday between now and July 31, a new video in the series will be posted to Vtape's website. Once the videos are posted, they can be viewed free of charge, at any time. Many of them are rarities, seldom seen outside of art galleries.

Lee's video selections are united by a common theme: they all somehow reflect on the experience of belonging to a marginalized social group. All of them are by Black or Indigenous artists. Lee's aim was to select works from a number of different time periods.

"I was raised by Black feminist activists," Lee says. "Growing up, I heard about so many of the struggles for social justice. My intention when I was going into the archive was to somehow find an aesthetic trace of what the particular equity challenges were in different eras."

The first three videos in the series are already available on Vtape's website. One of them, titled Sum of the Parts, is a family history by artist Deanna Bowen (MVS 2008), a Daniels Faculty alumna. The other — Janine, by Cheryl Dunye — is a short, personal reflection on the artist's complicated relationship with a white high-school friend. A third video, by Indigenous artist Thirza Cuthand, was released on the Vtape website earlier today.

The screening series comes at what seems like an ideal moment. Because of the killing of George Floyd and the resulting global wave of protests, the voices of nonwhite people are being sought and highlighted with a new intensity. "As an arts worker, I've been seeing and experiencing a lot of really intense things in the past few weeks that make me quite angry," Lee says. "Sure, this screening series is relevant right now. But this has been my work for years. The fact that a boiling point has been reached doesn't mean racism is new."

At the conclusion of the screening series, on July 31, Lee will release a scholarly essay in which she summarizes findings from her research in Vtape's archives. Lee will also, on a date to be determined, participate in a livestreamed conversation about her research, with curator and educator Andrea Fatona.

To find out more about the Fractured Horizon screening series, or to view the videos, visit the Vtape website.

Top image: Still from Cheryl Dunye's Janine.