April 2019

Barbara McCullough: Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes

Performance Assembles Publics: Contact Improvisation as Landmark

Barbara McCullough is one of the least known members of the “LA Rebellion,” but if one considers how Julie Dash once had to travel around with prints of Daughters of the Dust in the trunk of her car to have people see a film that has now been appropriated by icons of mass culture, then perhaps McCullough will soon also get her due.

The “LA Rebellion,” as this group of filmmakers and thinkers, arguments and films came to be called, was a remarkable intersection of young African and African American filmmakers: Haile Gerima, from Ethiopia, studying and working alongside Watts native Charles Burnett, and informed by teachers like Teshome Gabriel, who positioned the medium as a form of political struggle. In Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes, from 1979, McCullough builds on that principle as she intersects with prominent figures in poetry and the visual arts, reflecting on the meaning of ritual as a kind of survival strategy. In this clip, David Hammons is captured at work on an improvised sculpture in an empty lot, re-composing ruins, speculating out loud about which public the work might be for.

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