Steffani Jemison: Maniac Chase, Escaped Lunatic, and Personal
Steffani Jemison’s videos Maniac Chase (2008-2009) and Escaped Lunatic (2010-2011) present interwoven narratives composed of repetitious actions enacted by a group of actors that move through Houston’s outer wards and urban public spaces. Personal (2014) portrays three actors who each move forward and backward within the urban landscapes of Brooklyn, creating an altered space in time in which chronology, duration, and distance are conflated. All three works engage a compound political critique of urban space and architecture.
Support for the RISD Museum provided in part by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA), through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and private funders.
Steffani Jemison’s videos Maniac Chase (2008–2009), Escaped Lunatic (2010–2011), and Personal (2014) use common styles of choreography and film and video production in uncommon ways. The works manipulate chronology, duration, and character psychology to create visual and narrative metaphors for the contemporary Black American experience, and for perceived and actual social progress.
Maniac Chase and Escaped Lunatic were created in response to Jemison’s study of the chase genre, which originated in the first decade of 20th-century film. Both videos use repetition and subtle differences in action and shooting styles to depict a series of vignettes in which identically dressed individuals chase one another through urban landscapes.
Personal employs similar editorial and stylistic devices—static camera shots, long-duration single shots, and nuanced ambient sounds—subtly and at times obliquely pushing these conventions to disorient the viewer’s sense of time, place, and subject.
Steffani Jemison (American, b. 1981) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She uses time-based, photographic, and discursive platforms to examine “progress” and its alternatives.