Un espacio
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PROGRAMMING: The Cinematic Archive of Black Madness

The Cinematic Archive of Black Madness

Session led by ariella tai
Tuesday 18 February 2020, 6-8 PM

Trinity Square Video
121-401 Richmond Street West, Toronto
Co-presented with Vtape

James Baldwin writes that, “to be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” Locating rage, incurable anger and Black protest on the axis of madness, we will work from the shared understanding that global anti-blackness has produced the conditions of violence that preclude Black sanity.

In the cinematic archive, the black mind is rarely portrayed fully. In mainstream films representing mental illness, Black characters are usually absent or placed in service of white protagonists. In this session, we will screen clips from the films Shock Corridor, Gothika and The Caveman’s Valentine, in order to demonstrate some of the ways that films delving into black madness use cinematic techniques open up non-normative representations of black consciousness and cognition. Taking up the many activations of “mad” in Black vernacular language, performance and film, the session will build on thinking from Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Protest Psychosis by Jonathan Metzl, Medical Apartheid by Harriet Washington, and Black Madness:: Mad Blackness by Therí Alyce Pickens.

How do these mediums and texts help us to understand the different ways in which madness and Blackness exist in spaces between historical fact, archival abstention and nationalist/white supremacist narrative? What are the different ways in which the stories of madness and blackness can be told? What tools do we already have?

Please join us for this session as a part of the exhibition “Architecture after the Asylum” on from 17 January – 22 February 2020 at Trinity Square Video and ariella tai’s residency at Vtape. Participants will be invited to offer their meditations on these questions as we consider these various source materials. Food will be provided.

If you are interested in joining, please send a quick email to Emily Fitzpatrick at emily@trinitysquarevideo.com.


ariella tai is a video artist, film scholar, and independent programmer from Queens, New York. They are interested in black performance and cultural vernaculars in film, television and media studies. They are one half of “the first and the last,” a fellowship, workshop and screening series supporting and celebrating the work of black women and femmes in film, video and new media art. They have shown work at Anthology Film Archives, the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival, Portland Institute For Contemporary Art, Northwest Film Center, Boathouse Microcinema, Wa Na Wari, the Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival, MOCA and Smack Mellon.

Architecture after the Asylum is a curatorial project that presents an open dialogue about asylums, psychiatric hospitals and mental health institutions that flows through sanity and insanity. The exhibition runs from 17 January – 22 February 2020 at Trinity Square Video. It is generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council – Conseil des arts de l’Ontario

Trinity Square Video is an artist-run centre in Toronto, Canada. It is known for supporting the production and exhibition of video-based work. It was founded in 1971.

Vtape is Canada’s leading artist-run, not-for-profit distributor of video art. Featuring more than 1,000 artists and over 5,000 titles, Vtape’s diverse collection includes works from the early 1970s to the present.