Video Jam x Basquiat, Barbican Centre

Video Jam x Basquiat

28th January 2018 / Barbican Hall / 20:00

"The diverse programme of filmmakers and musicians that Video Jam put together on Sunday night is testament to the power of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art: it’s political, it’s playful, it’s joyous, it’s angry, it’s warm, it’s confrontational - and so much more. I can’t help thinking the man himself would have revelled in the talent and admiration offered up to him here." - review in Ransom Note

Video Jam x Basquiat marked the closing of Basquiat Boom for Real, the first large scale exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s in the UK. We presented a unique programme of new short films, each with its own original live musical accompaniment, commissioned in response to this ground breaking exhibition.

Basquiat: Boom for Real focussed on Basquiat’s relationship to music, literature, film and television, placing him within the wider cultural context of his own time. Famously self-taught, Basquiat sampled from a dizzying array of sources - from artist monographs to record liner notes to surrealist film - which have been the subject of rigorous new research, enabling the rich depth of his visual compositions to be understood as never before.

Following a call for submissions, we commissioned artists based on either side of the Atlantic to make new short films taking any aspect of the exhibition as inspiration. Upon completion, each film was paired with a composer, band or sound artist who have been given creative license to compose an original musical accompaniment of their own interpretation. 

At the height of his fame Basquiat was shifting the art world, yet due to the colour of his skin was often unable to hail a cab. Our intention was to encourage artists to look beyond a pervasive media fascination with his persona and celebrity which has threatened to override the politics in his paintings, and to engage with the complexities and paradoxes of his work, identity and inspirations.

Our programme crossed cultures, backgrounds, genres and all levels of experience; from a first time filmmaker to a Mercury Prize winning band.

Running order

  1. Presence by Haley Elizabeth Anderson scored by Woddy Green & LayFullStop (Roots Raddix)
  2. Strays by Scout Stuart scored by Tombed Visions
  3. Sketches and Portraits for Jean-Michel by Ephraim Asili followed by Fishbowl by Gabrielle Ledet and Jack Wedge, both scored by Ibibio Sound Machine
  4. Test Patterns by Victoria Keddie scored by Seaming To
  5. Fetish by Topher Campbell scored by Young Fathers
  6. '88 by ruffmercy scored by Danalogue, Sarathy Korwar, Leafcutter John and Idris Rahman

Act 1  | Presence by Haley Elizabeth Anderson Scored by Woddy Green & LayFullStop (RootsRaddix)

Presence is a double frame film portrait dedicated to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart) and his work as a young street artist under SAMO (“Same Old Shit”), on the cusp of immense fame. Defacement depicts the beating of 25-year-old fellow graffiti artist Michael Stewart, who later died from his injuries, by New York City police officers in 1983. In recent years the painting has become linked to discussions around state violence, police brutality, activism and #BlackLivesMatter.

Defacement’s history and intention informs Presence. Shot on a variety of formats, the film captures two young men who could be either Basquiat and Michael Stewart; there appears little to differentiate between their lives. They engage in mundane activities expressing joy, frustration and contemplation as the film ruminates on Basquiat’s reflection following Stewart's death: ‘It could have been me.’” - Hayley Elizabeth Anderson

Bio Haley Elizabeth Anderson is a filmmaker from Texas currently residing in New York City. Inspired by her southern roots, she has developed a unique aesthetic capturing Gulf Coast culture. Her short film Get Out Fast, about a teenage train hopper, was shot entirely on film in New Orleans and premiered at Slamdance Film Festival 2017 where she was named a “Filmmaker to Watch”. Haley received her Bachelor’s degree in Playwriting and Filmmaking from the University of Texas. During this time, she street cast films for Jason Reitman and Terrence Malick, which nurtured her ongoing interest in working with non-actors. She is currently a Dean’s Fellow at NYU’s graduate film program, where she is developing her first feature film.

Woddy Green & LayFullStop (RootsRaddix)

Woddy Green is an upcoming artist and member of Manchester’s Hip Hop collective ‘Roots Raddix.’ His music is both captivating and complex, his accent swinging from London to Manchester with twinges of a more worldly sound, from the US to the Caribbean.

LayFullStop is a female hip hop and soul artist from Manchester by way of Birmingham. Now seen as one of Manchester’s very own, Lay has been performing on stages alongside collectives such as Cul Dé Sac and has built a cult following since the release of her solo tracks ‘Ying Yang’ and ‘Aura.’ Her style is an authentic mix, with a sweetness of tone whilst able to unleash ferocious bars, with neither style being compromised.

Both are inspired by Basquiat’s distinct mark in New York’s hip hop scene, his infinite creativity, his work on black culture and his fearlessness of self expression.

Act 2 | Strays by Scout Stuart scored by Tombed Visions

A young artist, moonlighting as a dog walker, takes a dog for an early morning walk around a London suburb. Told in a series of still, mostly wide shots, the pace and structure of Strays takes influence from Downtown ‘81 (dir. Edo Bertoglio), on display in the exhibition. Filmed on the streets of NYC and starring a young Jean-Michel Basquiat, Downtown ‘81 centers on the night wonderings of his character as he attempts to find employment and a place to sleep, crossing neighbourhoods that bridge affluent and neglected corners of the same city. Strays extends an ongoing theme of Stuart’s work around isolation in the urban environment.

“The film was made as a response to what being an artist means for me, today, living in a capital city. I wanted to touch on the theme of precarious employment, especially from the point of view of someone living in a country not native to them - like that of the protagonist, Juliet - adding a further element of uncertainty for her character. I chose to respond to the exhibition through Downtown ‘81 which felt relevant to reference today. In making my homage, I was especially interested in creating something that was relatable to artists from working class backgrounds, who have to balance their passion (art) with paying the bills.” - Scout Stuart

Bio Scout Stuart is a filmmaker from Manchester, currently based in London. As a screenwriter, her short narrative films have received funding and support from BFI.NETWORK and Creative England, and have been screened at major international festivals including Edinburgh and Palm Springs. In 2015 she was selected for prestigious development scheme iFeatures. As a filmmaker, she has been mentored with BFI Flare, an initiative to help develop LGBTQ filmmakers. Scout has received support from Arts Council England for her moving image work and from The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for her work as a director.

Tombed Visions

David McLean, founder of Tombed Visions records, leads an ensemble of some of the most prolific and critically acclaimed musicians that have recorded for the label, melding free-jazz, spoken word and dance in a contemporary tapestry befitting Basquiat’s vibrant artwork. Drawing upon avant-garde musical influences from the downtown New York scene and Jean-Michel’s association with writer William Burroughs, saxophonist Colin Webster, double bassist Otto Willberg, drummer Andrew Lisle and poet Lauren Bolger will aim to mirror the explosive use of colour and inventive use of text found on the Basquiat’s most famous canvasses.

Act 3 | Sketches & Portraits for Jean-Michel by Ephraim Asili scored by Ibibio Sound Machine

“Start with the streets, then chronicle the struggles of the people there.” - Ephraim Asili.

Shot on 16mm using a Bolex film camera, Sketches & Portraits for Jean-Michel is his tribute to an artist whose creative approach was, and continues to be, a significant personal influence. The film was mostly photographed on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, two areas familiar to Basquiat, and visually explores many of the themes and influences found in his paintings: street life, street art, politics, jazz, bodies in motion, bodies at rest, life, death, and black resilience.

The film also examines the life Basquiat in the light of his untimely death. Sketches & Portraits makes reference to a sculpture in Harlem by Elizabeth Catlett dedicated to the novel Invisible Man and it's author Ralph Waldo Emerson, next to which is engraved the following words: "His pioneering novel, Invisible Man (1952), details the struggles of a young African-American man in a hostile society". The same, suggests Asili, could be said of Jean Michel Basquiat’s oeuvre; arguably a famous "Invisible Man" of his own generation.

Bio Ephraim Asili is a filmmaker, DJ, and traveler whose work focuses on the African diaspora as a cultural force. His films have screened in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Milano Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, MoMA PS1, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Whitney Museum. Asili currently resides in Hudson, NY, and is a Professor in the Film and Electronic Arts Department at Bard

Ibibio Sound Machine

Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine is a clash of African and electronic elements inspired in equal measure by the golden era of West-African funk & disco and modern post-punk & electro. Weird and wonderful folk stories, recounted to Eno by her family as a child in her mother’s Ibibio tongue, form the creative fabric from which the band’s unique musical tapestry is woven. Ibibio Sound Machine are Eno Williams (vocals), Alfred Kari Bannerman (guitar), Anselmo Netto (percussion), Jose Joyette (drums), Derrick McIntyre (bass), Tony Hayden (trombone, synth), Scott Baylis (trumpet, synth), and Max Grunhard (saxophone, synth). For Video Jam x Basquiat the band are bringing the African tone of Basquiat’s work to their interpretation of the films. Basquiat embodies a sense of freedom and captured a moment in time that the band feel inspired by and connected to.

Followed by Fishbowl by Gabrielle Ledet and Jack Wedge scored by Ibibio Sound Machine

Fishbowl is a film about freedom; being free from one’s negative thoughts. Usually a painter and designer, it is Gabrielle Ledet’s first animated film and draws stylistically on Surrealism, an influence on Basquiat’s work uncovered by the exhibition’s research. Fishbowl was made in collaboration with animation student Jack Wedge. 

“Basquiat has inspired me to express myself however I want, and not to be boxed in. I chose animation because I knew that I could make anything in my head come to life, no matter how dreamy or supernatural it may seem. My life is a spiritual, scary, emotional, happy, weird roller coaster. I wanted to take a excerpt of this ride I call life and put it into a 3min short film.” - Gabrielle Ledet

“I like how prolific and energetic Basquiat was. It didn't seem like he treated his work so preciously, and I try to reflect that in my own work. I read that he would walk on his paintings and get sneaker marks on them. I also respect him for how he incorporated his own character and personal thoughts into his paintings. The surroundings of my favorite of his paintings are super literal reflections of his mental state. I'm super lucky to have met Gabbie and had the opportunity to make the animation with her. We met on the internet and then she came and lived in my apartment for 10 days. We're going to make more videos. She's an amazing friend.” - Jack Wedge

Bio Painter, designer and filmmaker Gabrielle Ledet is based in New Orleans. Her work explores black identity. In March she was interviewed about her life and work for YouTube’s StyleLikeU channel which has since received over 50K views.

Bio Jack Wedge is a 20 year old artist from N.Y, currently at NYU studying Film and Video games. He is interested in surreal and subliminal storytelling. He is most interested in how he can use commentary and satire to help the world, specifically involving environmental conservation, civil rights, and getting rid of the 45th president.

Act 4 | Test Patterns by Victoria Keddie scored by Seaming To

Test Patterns takes inspiration from the pioneering use of early video broadcast, a nascent art form in the 1980s. Keddie uses the tools of lo-fi video to explore the portability, speed and colour of this analogue technology, a visual language pivotal to the downtown NYC “scene” that was Basquiat’s world. Video broadcast and community access TV became a tool for artists to connect, challenge, create and transmit their message in any way possible - a famous example of which includes Glen O’Brien's TV Party which hosted Basquiat on several occasions. 

“Test Patterns is the artist’s journey through the lens and into the cathode. The three channel video uses analogue technologies present at the dawn of video. Titled after the name of Jean Michel Basquiat’s first noise band, the video explores a world of analogue video from the inside out.” - Victoria Keddie

Bio Victoria Keddie is an artist working in sound, video composition, and transmission. Of interest in her work are the fluctuations of electromagnetic activity, stereoscopic image and dimensional spaces, satellite debris and collision, image and sound synchronicity and collapse, time sensitivity, and the body in relation to the machine. For five years she has been Co-Director of E.S.P. TV, a nomadic TV studio that hybridizes technologies to realize synthetic environments and deconstruct the televisual for live performance. Her video works are distributed through Lightcone, (Paris), and she has performed and exhibited around the world.

Seaming To

Composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Seaming To was born in London and comes from a family of concert pianists. She studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and during her time in Manchester began performing and releasing albums with supergroups Homelife (Ninja Tune) and Graham Massey’s Toolshed.

She has been described as ‘the voice of a 21st Century’ (Radio1), “An astonishing vocalist of haunting emotional power” (The Guardian), “One of the most captivating , and unclassifiable performers on the British music scene.” (Financial Times) and an artist that is truly ‘avant garde’ (‪Robert Wyatt‬). Her experimental ethos and mastery across a variety of instruments has enabled her to collaborate with some of the most respected and radical artists of this decade, particularly in electronic, classical and experimental genres. She has been seen to perform and record with ‪Robert Wyatt‬, Jean Claude Vannier, Herbaliser, Punchdrunk Theatre, ‪James Ford‬ (SMD), Leila on Warp records, electronic outfit Funckarma and Michael England. For Video Jam x Basquiat, Seaming will be scoring Test Patterns on voice, clarinet, analogue synthesisers and other keyboard instruments, taking inspiration from Basquiat’s poetry.

Act 5 | Fetish by Topher Campbell scored by Young Fathers

“The character of Fetish is a representation of so many things. He is at once a clear form - a body - and formless, like the bodies of Basquiat. As a Black man in the streets, he is both positioned by othering and places himself in a world of looking, power, strength, harassment, fashion, sexual objectification, invisibility, visibility, admiration, CCTV, selfies, vulnerability, humour, performance, protest, danger, violence and humour. If you have ever been stopped by police for being Black, embarrassment, futility and vulnerability are at the apex of the experience. Or, as is the case with Tamir, Philando, Freddy, Sandra and so on, being dead and treated like shit is what happens. Fetish in this film experiences and represents this painful embarrassment and vulnerability. It's hard to watch and painful to experience.

By the end of the film through magic, through fire, through defiance, through being a multi-dimensional being in touch with the elements, Fetish reclaims his body and stands like a colossus in The City.”                    - Topher Campbell

Bio Topher Campbell is a director of film, television and theatre and writer. He is a recipient of the 2005 Jerwood Directors Award. In 2000 alongside artist-photographer Ajamu he set up rukus! Federation Ltd, an artist led company dedicated to presenting the best work by Black Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual, Transgender (BLGBT) artists. Current projects include the UK's first and only BLGBT Archive now housed at the London Metropolitan Archive. In 2008 rukus! received the Archive Landmark Award by London Metropolitan Archive. His short films The Homecoming and Mulatto Song (Ch4) have been shown worldwide.

Young Fathers

Young Fathers are an alternative lo-fi R&B trio; however, they don't completely fit in that box, with their wide-spanning spread of Hip Hop, Punk, Dub, Gospel and Pop. Formed in Scotland in 2008 by Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G. Hastings, the group started performing in nightclubs when the band members were all still in their early teens. Almost immediately they started writing and recording music together, initially on an old karaoke machine plugged into a cheap cassette recorder at G’s bedroom.

In 2011 they set about writing introductory mixtape TAPE ONE in just over a week, finishing a track a day and having it available for download within two weeks of recording. They quickly followed this up with TAPE TWO, which was written and recorded in a similar fashion. The trio then signed to Big Dada and released debut album, Dead, which was released in 2014. The album gained a lot of critical attention and went on to win the prestigious Mercury Prize. Following an extensive world tour the band decamped to a studio in Berlin to begin work on their sophomore album, White Men Are Black Men Too, which was released in April 2015.

In 2016, the band were invited to support Massive Attack on their UK and European tour after working together on Massive Attack’s single “Voodoo In My Blood”, which was released in January 2016. 

Their new album is due to be released in March on Ninja Tune. The band are inspired by Basquiat’s vast body of work, his tireless personality, undeniable talent and the dizzying array of sources he drew from. They will bring their energy in true Basquiat style to their score.


Act 6 | ‘88 by ruffmercy scored by Danalogue, Idris Rahman, Sarathy Korwar and Leafcutter John

Unlike the other work in the programme, ‘88 was made via open collaboration between filmmaker ruffmercy and composer Danalogue. 

“The first thing that struck me about Basquiat's work is his use of colour, a tangible sense of emotional transference, and a vibrant energy that leaps off the canvas. Delving deeper, I became aware that underneath the immediacy of his aesthetic there are celebrations of his heroes, references to mythical texts, and hidden, personal messages that express more than meets the eye. I also felt an affinity between the thriving underground artist scene of the Mudd Club in the late ‘70s and the community of artists I'm part of. For this special collaboration, between the ostensibly disparate and idiosyncratic musicians in the Danalogue group and filmmaker ruffmercy, I wanted to combine our myriad inspirations and musical languages, and encode them into a new sonic space that resonates with the bombastic intensity and colour that I perceive within the fabric of Basquiat’s incredible works.”  - Danalogue 

“I feel like a thief that has been given keys to a palace for an evening. Once entering that palace there is only me and the treasures within. I get to wear his crown and to dance in his slippers; what an opportunity, if only for one night.” - ruffmercy 

Bio ruffmercy is an animation director. After cutting his teeth at MTV in the late 90’s as a promo producer he moved on to become a freelancer animator working for a variety of broadcasting networks and agencies before moving into the world of music videos full time around 2001. He has become known for his loose hand drawn animation style sometimes utilised over live footage and mostly within the genre of Hip Hop music.

Bio Danalogue is an English synthesiser player, composer and record producer based in London. Most known for his keyboard and production duties for Mercury Prize nominated The Comet is Coming, and synth-drum duo Soccer96, Danalogue operates from legendary underground studio The Total Refreshment Centre. His approach is based around a modern reinterpretation of older analogue keyboards, combining his trademark Roland Juno-60 and SH-09 with various echoes and drum machines to create a sonic palette that leans towards the celestial and psychedelic.

For this programme, he has formed an exciting new collaboration which combines instrument-maker/sound designer Leafcutter John; percussionist, composer and classically trained Tabla player Sarathy Korwar; and, from groups Wildflower, Soothsayers and Ill Considered, Idris Rahman on tenor saxophone.