The I and S of Lives
Kevin Jerome Everson
The “I” and “S” of “Lives” are the smoothest area of resistance. A rollerblader (Jahleel Gardner) navigates the letters on the pavement of Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C. on a summer afternoon, 2020.
©Kevin Jerome Everson; courtesy the artist; trilobite-arts DAC; Picture Palace Pictures
Kevin Jerome Everson, a guest at Cinéma du réel two years ago, continues the remarkable work of a painter, film after film (already over a hundred). The I and S of Lives presents a new scene of genre painting: a young and wonderfully graceful black man on roller skates traces arabesques on Washington’s 16th Street. His yellow shorts echo the yellow painted bands that demarcate his comings and goings on the tarmac. Close by, drums resonate and finally tip the film into a trance. To realise that the performance takes place only a stone’s throw from the White House, on the “Black Lives Matter Plaza” inaugurated in 2020, you need to recognise that these wide yellow bands are letters and form the name of the movement born after the death of George Floyd. The skater, Jalheel Gardner, only skates on the “I” and “S” of “Lives” because these two letters oppose the least resistance to his rubber wheels: so much for the title – and the context and the symbol, barely visible in the background of the image, which remains focussed above all on the performance. Because The I and S of Lives is no more of a pamphlet than Everson’s previous films. Only the imprint left by the duration of several bouts of skating, a sculpture hewn in the kinetic energy of a dance that finally carries away the film itself – starting off motionless to mark out the dancer’s stage, then finishing as a dervish, totally in keeping with the method that Everson defends: trust the character, and no one else.
Kevin Jerome Everson (b.1965, Mansfield, Ohio). MFA Ohio University; BFA University of Akron. Professor of Art at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Everson was awarded the 2020 Berlin Prize, the 2019 Heinz Award in Art and Humanities, and the 2012 Alpert Award for Film/Video. Everson’s art practice covers sculpture, street photography, and his award-winning films, including 11 features and over 180 short-form works, have exhibited internationally. His films have been the subject of mid-career retrospectives at Cinematek Brussels/Courtisane, Cinema du Reel, Glasgow Short Film Festival, Harvard Film Archive, Tate Modern, Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (Seoul), Visions du Reel, The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY and Centre Pompidou and featured at the 2008, 2012 and 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 2013 Sharjah Biennial and the 2018 Carnegie International.
© Sandy Williams
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