Referenced throughout the exhibition, the Watts Towers take on an expanded role in Sojourner. In the video, Smith reimagines the 1966 group portrait taken by Bill Ray using a diverse cast of female actors whose actions were both scripted and improvised. The video was shot at the Joshua Tree Outdoor Museum, a freely accessible, ten-acre environment created by assemblage sculptor Noah Purifoy, who began his practice by transforming detritus from the 1965 Watts Rebellion into works of art. Purifoy was also a founding director of the Watts Towers Art Center and, as a member of the California Arts Council, initiated projects focused on using art as a tool for social change.

 

Additionally, Sojourner references the Combahee River Collective (1974–80), a Boston-based group of anti-capitalist Black lesbians who fought to redress concerns overlooked by mainstream (heterosexual, white, middle-class) feminism. Widely credited with coining the term “identity politics,” their influential document, “The Combahee River Collective Statement” (1977), is quoted throughout the film, and interwoven with the words of Alice Coltrane and Rebecca Cox Jackson.

Image
Sojourner, 2018
Tombstone

Single-channel video (color, sound); 22 minutes, 41 seconds
Courtesy of the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Kate Werble Gallery, New York

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