Sociopolitical Narratives

As part of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, hosts a special programme of feature and short films. For 10 consecutive weekends, the Biennial will present new moving image works in the Susan and John Hess Family Theatre. This is the 78th instalment of the longest-running survey of American art, which arrives at a time rife with racial tensions, economic inequities, and polarising politics. Throughout the exhibition and film programme, artists and filmmakers challenge us to consider how these realities affect our senses of self and community.

Simultaneously radical and quiet, global and intimate, the selected works explore subjective and affective experiences of the contemporary political and social moment. Organised by Christopher Y. Lew, Mia Locks, and Aily Nash, the film line-up features some of the most exciting voices working in moving image today. In addition to the screening schedule, the artists will be present for a showing and conversation each Sunday at 3pm.

The 2017 Biennale filmmakers include James N. Kienitz Wilkins, whose pieces take the legal systems as a starting point and incorporate strategies of formal experimentation with language and performance. He reflects on the intersections of race, class, and technology in a conversation with Aily Nash, co-curator of the 2017 Whitney Biennial film programme on 2 April in conjunction with a showing B-ROLL with Andre, 2015 and Mediums, 2017.

Also featured is Kevin Jerome Everson’s recent short films, which continue to challenge distinctions between documentary and fiction by employing narrative devices, artifice, and reenactments of histories to reveal incisive observations on race and the socio-economic conditions of African American life. Elsewhere, in her first feature length film Ouroboros, Basma Alsharif pays homage to the Gaza Strip, upending mass-mediated representations of trauma. Journeying outside of time, the allegorical narrative is based on the eternal return and how we move forward when all is lost.

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz uses an observational style to record performed gestures, creating revealing tableaus of life and locality that examine postcolonial experiences in the Caribbean, and Eric Baudelaire premieres Also known as Jihadi, a feature length film that utilises Japanese filmmaker Masao Adachi’s landscape theory to examine the life of his subject, a young French man who left his native country to fight alongside ISIS in Syria.

Whitney Biennial 2017, until 11 June, Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014

For details of the entire film programme, visit

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1. Basma Alsharif (b. 1983), still from Ouroboros, 2017. High-definition video, color, sound (work in progress). Courtesy the artist and Galerie Imane Farès, Paris.