Media Arts Program

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

$8 general, $6 students/seniors, $5 members

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From Deep

<em>From Deep</em>
<em>From Deep</em>
<em>From Deep</em>
<em>From Deep</em>
<em>From Deep</em>

a video essay by Brett Kashmere

From Deep is a feature-length experimental documentary about the game of basketball and its shifting place within 20th century American history and culture; focusing on the evolution of basketball from its indoor New England roots, to a Midwestern small town phenomenon, to an outdoor city game, with particular emphasis on its merger with hip hop in the mid-1980s and the rise of Michael Jordan as the world's first corporate branded athlete.

Basketball is everywhere in American life. It can be found on driveways and playgrounds, in gyms and alleyways and backyard courts, across all avenues of popular media, and, recently, at the White House. Its style has been absorbed into mainstream fashion, language and music. Todd Boyd writes that the merger of basketball and hip hop "stands at the forefront of all that is hip, cutting edge, and controversial in contemporary American society." The confluence of new media, marketable stars, compelling social narratives, and changes in the cultural landscape have made basketball the sport that most defines our current moment. Since its invention as a means for taming aggression during the long New England winters of the late-1800s, to rise of Dr. J, the slam dunk, and the integration of urban style into the pro game in the 1970s, to its emergence as the 21st century American pastime, basketball has become a shaping force in American life and a global phenomenon.

From Deep documents the presence of basketball within the sociocultural landscape of contemporary America. Combining self-shot "moving snapshots" of the game in its everyday form with a wide array of archival footage, highlight reels, movie clips, commercials, music videos, video game recordings, and found material, this audiovisual essay offers a layered, non-linear perspective on the merger of basketball and hip hop culture, focused through the wide angle lens of the game's history.

From Deep "looks at basketball and its profound role in American life—as an everyday street game played by millions around the country; a force in fashion, music, and mass media; and a platform for broader issues of race and class. Drawing its imagery from contemporary pick-up games, contemporary films, music videos, and spectacular sports footage, Kashmere charts a history of the game over the last century, including its rapid cultural rise in the 1980s, with the global branding of Michael Jordan; basketball's growing connection with hip hop culture; and its multiplying fan base, which laid the groundwork for the sport's significance today." — Amy Beste, CONVERSATIONS AT THE EDGE

"Using hoops-crazy clips from movies, matches and videogames as well as his own home movies of street games, Brett Kashmere's filmic essay on basketball succeeds as both a cultural history and a work of superfandom." — Jason Anderson, THE GRID

"Over three chapters (The Hoop Moves, The Funky Dialectic, Crossed Over), the film traces basketball's evolution from ground-bound fundamentals to high-flying spectacle, alongside hip hop's popular ascendancy. Together, each of these complementary histories not only feels essential to understanding the others; they also provide insights into the legacies of race, economics, competition, populism and entertainment that define contemporary America. From Deep braids its two threads cleverly, and the resulting insights extend far beyond pop culture into the realm of sociology. Splicing hand-held shots of pickup games with clips from Hollywood movies, rap videos and archival footage, the film is also hugely enjoyable, a testament to Kashmere's obvious passion for both subjects. "... it's on the playground that From Deep really shines. Unlike Hollywood's attempts at portraying basketball, which tend to feel voyeuristic and staged, the film acutely captures the rhythms of the pickup game. Kashmere's goal was to give a sense of 'the distinctive nature of each neighbourhood court, the social environments, the different mixtures of people, to demonstrate a glimpse of the amazing diversity and variety of how and where the game is played.' While plenty can be said about the current state of American politics, From Deep suggests at least one place where democracy perseveres in its most idealistic form: on the playground, and in the streets." — Pasha Malla, THE GLOBE AND MAIL

"Painstakingly researched and chock full of archival footage from the game's century-long history, From Deep is Brett Kashmere's sophisticated essay on the cultural history of basketball. He skillfully balances a poetic consideration of the game with a semiotic inquiry into the symbols created as the game develops from a rec center pastime into a multi-million dollar industry. Kashmere doesn't shy away from complicated analysis surrounding class, race, and capital. Rather he creates slick and compelling collages from the archives, letting his clearly passionate and personal intellectual curiosity lead. From Deep is like sitting next to your smartest friend during the game, the wonk with all the relevant stats and obscure facts, broadening the game into an exploration of wider cultural symbols and one's own involvement with them." — Christy LeMaster, CINE-FILE

"The avant-garde video essay meets Steve James's HOOP DREAMS. Featuring cameos by Run-D.M.C., Adidas, Michael Jordan, Woody Harrelson, and Magic Johnson - which is to say, 1980s America in a nutshell." — Blake Williams, blogTO

"FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET wasn't just the name of a Public Enemy album when it arrived in 1990, coming at the tail end of an epic rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. In Brett Kashmere's 'video essay' From Deep, that era's anxiety over a style of play allegedly taking over the game - and the worry over hip hop's growing cultural importance - form a funhouse-mirror image of America's fear of miscegenation. Watching how the NBA was transformed by Bird-Magic, the Michael Jordan years and hip hop is riveting..." — Dave Morris, THE GLOBE AND MAIL

From Deep "celebrates the street game as the sport at its purest: raw, improvisational, and untarnished by economic exploitation—perhaps like the structure of the movie itself." — Kyle Harris, DENVER WESTWORD

"... Brett Kashmere's compendious, compulsively watchable basketball documentary From Deep. Part pop historiography, part AND1 mixtape, part film-essay in the Andersenian mode (albeit with a good deal more Kurtis Blow), Kashmere's film follows the itinerant mythologies of the sport from the lonesome midwestern garage-side hoop to the brash asphalt stage of the urban playground. Drawing upon his own reflections as well as texts by John Edgar Wideman and Nelson George, Kashmere crafts a rich history of the sport, from its origins as a New England wintertime distraction through the Dunkadelic Era, the professionalization of college (and then high school) basketball, and beyond. Using highlight reels, archival ephemera, mainstream films (Style Wars, White Men Can't Jump, American History X), advertising (Wheaties, Mars Blackmon), and video games (such as Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City), the film situates the sport amid histories of race, politics, and, of course, sneakers, but always with a sensitivity for the game's vernacular appeal—as a site of camaraderie, collaboration, and inclusion." — Leo Goldsmith and Rachael Rakes, THE BROOKLYN RAIL "From Deep is the sort of film I hadn't known I'd wanted to see, but when I did, I realized I had been waiting for someone to make it. Combining copious amounts of research and footage, Kashmere does an incredible job chronicling the importance of what was a complex golden age for culture. Something happened during those decades that had not been done before, and hasn't been done since: the creation of an aesthetics from the collision of sports, music, industry, and visual culture." — Brad Phillips, ARTSLANT

I believe that sports provide an entry point into larger discussions of culture, identity, race, and fandom. In his 1999 book, BLACK PLANET: FACING RACE DURING AN NBA SEASON, David Shields writes that "Fans want to think it's us against them... and that the players on 'our' team are in cahoots with us, in some difficult-to-define way— difficult to define, since their contempt for us is so manifest." LeBron James' decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in summer 2010 demonstrates the tenuous, oftentimes volatile nature of the athlete-fan relationship. As fans, we like to believe the players play "for us" and that "we're" part of the team. That bond is highly illusory, however, and one-sided. Despite the emergence of social media, which provides unprecedented access to the thoughts and activities of our favorite players, and advancements in video games, which allow us to simulate their signature moves, the socioeconomic gap between professional athletes and the common fan has never been greater. Nonetheless, when a cherished star like LeBron James abandons his hometown team, it's hard for those fans not to feel betrayed. Complicating this is the fact that nearly all of the NBA's owners, team executives, and paying customers are white, while nearly all of the players are black. The struggle to possess and control the subjects of our sporting obsession offers a metaphor for this country's racial history, but one that has been upended, where the systems of power are disrupted and de-stabilized.

Emphasizing simultaneities, From Deep borrows from the eclectic, encompassing architecture of the "mixtape" in order to illustrate the shifting relationship between social, cultural, and political forces and developments. Part cultural history, part personal narrative, part landscape film, From Deep coalesces around two interrelated developments from the mid-80s which together propelled basketball to its focal position in the American consciousness. The first was Michael Jordan's entry into the NBA. Soon after joining the Chicago Bulls in 1984, Jordan became, perhaps, the world's first corporate branded athlete. Bolstered by his vertical exploits and high-profile success in the NBA's Slam Dunk contest (inaugurated in 1984), "Air Jordan" sneakers quickly became major fashion symbols within hip hop culture. The mid-80s also witnessed hip hop's movement from counter-cultural margins to the American mainstream. In 1984, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin formed Def Jam Records, and the first major hip hop tour in America, The Fresh Fest, featuring Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, and others was arranged. That same year, Kurtis Blow's hit single "Basketball" was the first song to make a strong connection between hoops and rap.

These developments coincided with my own coming-of-age in the late-80s and early-90s, and greatly informed my then-burgeoning sense of identity. Growing up on the Canadian prairies, I spent my formative years playing hockey. Upon becoming a teenager, however, my cultural interests and attention began to drift. Rap music offered a fantasy of rebellion within my white, semi-suburban small town surroundings, while also expanding my sporting horizons. Together, basketball and hip hop provided an alternative to the oppressive, conservative, hockey culture that shaped my identity early on.

Basketball, like hip hop, is a uniquely American invention. It can be played almost anywhere and practiced alone. It emphasizes improvisation and individuality within an organized team structure. It's democratic—everyone can do everything. And like America, it stresses vertical aspiration (upward mobility) within a horizontal field (the wide-open frontier). However, From Deep intends to provide more than an expose on the game and its merger with hip hop culture. The larger goal is to create an enduring audio-video portrait of 21st century America: a personal attempt to gain some deeper perspective, to feel more at home. Natural concrete, as playground song: the constant, sometimes distant bouncing of the ball, a heartbeat.

Brett Kashmere
is a Canadian-born, Pittsburgh-based filmmaker, curator, and writer. Combining traditional research methods with materialist aesthetics and hybrid forms, Kashmere's experimental documentaries explore the intersection of history and (counter-) memory, popular culture, geographies of identity, and the politics of representation. His 2006 video essay, VALERY'S ANKLE, which examined the spectacle of hockey violence in North American media, has screened internationally at festivals, microcinemas, cinematheques, and galleries, and was named one of the top ten "Underseen, Underdiscussed" films of the decade in CINEMA SCOPE magazine.

Kashmere's new project, From Deep (2013) continues his foray into the skein of sports, identity, and nationality. Supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Film Board of Canada, the Saskatchewan Art Board, and the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, Kashmere's films and videos have been used widely in university curricula and shown at the London Film Festival, the Kassel Documentary Festival in Germany, Made in Video: Video Art Festival in Copenhagen, Anthology Film Archives in New York, Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, the British Film Institute, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, San Francisco's Other Cinema, Conversations at the Edge and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and the Images Festival in Toronto.

As a curator, Kashmere has created programs and exhibitions for the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Strasbourg, the Cinematheque Quebecoise in Montreal, New York's Eyebeam Center for Art + Technology, Light Cone in Paris, TIFF Cinematheque and Vtape in Toronto, the Seoul Net + Film Festival, Portland's Cinema Project, the D.U.M.B.O. Arts Festival in Brooklyn, Synoptique Film Journal, MOCA Cleveland, the Winnipeg Cinematheque, the VIA Festival of Music & New Media, and Pittsburgh Filmmakers' 3 Rivers Film Festival. His curatorial projects include the touring expanded cinema installation and DVD-format catalog, Industry: Recent works by Richard Kerr; the multi-part film series, The Road Ended at the Beach and Other Legends: Parsing the "Escarpment School"; and the touring retrospective Arthur Lipsett: about Lipsett for Senses of Cinema "Great Directors" section, and provided archival research for the NFB documentary, The Arthur Lipsett Project: A Dot on the Histo-Map (2007). He is currently co-editing a book on Lipsett's films and life titled Strange Codes.

Kashmere's writing has appeared in journals, magazines, and anthologies such as The Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Millennium Film Journal, Take One, ESSE, The Films of Jack Chambers, The Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film, Synoptique, Senses of Cinema, Offscreen, A Microcinema Primer: A Brief History of Small Cinemas (edited by Andrea Grover and Ed Halter), and the forthcoming anthology Coming Down the Mountain: Rethinking the 1972 Summit Series (edited by Brian Kennedy). In every city he's lived in, Kashmere has generated a cultural impact, developing numerous collaborative arts initatives over the past decade. He was a founding director of The Antechamber Art Gallery & Cinematheque, a non-profit organization dedicated to the support of emerging independent artists and filmmakers, and Syracuse Experimental, a grassroots film and media collective. He is also the Founding Editor and Publisher of INCITE Journal of Experimental Media.

Kashmere holds a BA in Film & Video Studies from the University of Regina, as well as an MA in Film Studies and an MFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University in Montreal. Kashmere has taught film and video production at Concordia University's Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and in the Cinema Studies Program at Oberlin College.

DJ /rupture
(Jace Clayton) lives and works in New York City. Clayton uses an interdisciplinary approach to focus on how sound, memory, and public space interact, with an emphasis on low-income communities, the latest developments in club culture, and the global South. A rigorous conceptual framework grounds each project as it moves across areas as diverse as software design, sculptural objects, or performance. As DJ /rupture, he has performed and toured widely and released several critically acclaimed albums. His 2001 debut, GOLD TEETH THIEF, was described by VIBE Magazine as "a "stunning, globe-trotting, three-turntable mix... bumping, brash, and without borders." In 2011 Clayton was featured on the cover of WIRE Magazine, and in 2012 he made most of his mix albums available for free download and streaming.

Clayton's originality and grassroots cosmopolitan approach have led to collaborations with Norah Jones, the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, the filmmakers Joshua Oppenheimer and Jem Cohen, and the guitarist Andy Moor (The Ex). His ensemble project Nettle combines musically and geographically disparate traditions from electronic experimentalism to classical North African composition. Nettle's 2011 album EL RESPLANDOR, released on Sub Rosa, soundtracks an imagined remake of THE SHINING set at a hotel in Dubai. In spring 2012, Clayton released Sufi Plug-Ins v1.0, a free suite of audio software tools based on non-western/poetic conceptions of sound and alternative interfaces. And earlier this year he debuted THE JULIUS EASTMAN MEMORIAL DINNER, a performance piece that restages two Julius Eastman compositions using pianos and real-time electronic processing, accompanied by a new libretto about the job search for an Eastman impersonator. The album version was recently released by New Amsterdam.

These artistic activities find counterpart in grassroots curatorial projects such as spearheading 2011's art-research residency Beyond Digital in Morocco, DJ'ing a popular weekly radio show on WFMU for five years, and hosting a book club. Clayton's writing on contemporary music and culture has appeared in The Washington Post, Bidoun, and n+1, and he contributes regularly to Frieze and The Fader. He is currently writing a book on music at the dawn of the digital century for Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He also teaches in Bard College's MFA program. Clayton is a 2010 recipient of the Kindle Foundation's Makers Muse award, a 2012 Creative Capital grantee, and recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Art artists award. He has been an artist-in-residence with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Eyebeam Art + Technology Center. Clayton is also the co-founder Dutty Artz (est. 2008), a record label and production crew based in New York City. A soundtrack of music selected / composed / produced / mixed by Clayton for From Deep will be released on Dutty Artz in 2014.

Jeremy Fleishman
is a Pittsburgh-based sound designer, editor, mixer, and recordist. Selected credits include the award-winning feature THE SLOW BUSINESS OF GOING (Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2000), UNDERDOGS (Silvana Jakich, 2005), AUGUST IN THE EMPIRE STATE (Keefe Murren and Gabriel Rhodes, 2006), PALESTINE BLUES (Nida Sinnokrot, 2006), THE HOUSE OF SUH (Iris K. Shim, 2010), XOXOSMS (Nancy Schwartzman, 2011), NOW, FORAGER (Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin, 2012), and FLOOD TIDE (Todd Chandler, 2013). Fleishman's other projects include programming the PGH Bike-In Theater and drumming for the Mayday Marching Band.