Charlie Tatum visits PARSE NOLA’s exhibition of short films by Kevin Jerome Everson at Engine Room Art + Projects.
Kevin Jerome Everson often takes seemingly simple, even banal, occurrences as the subject matter of his films: high schoolers running drills at football practice, a woman getting a medical exam, Cleveland city employees checking for leaks in the structures beneath streets. In an exhibition organized by PARSE NOLA at Engine Room Art + Projects, curator Maaike Gouwenberg examines this sense of ordinariness within the artist’s tremendously prolific practice.
Over the past few decades, Everson has made 9 feature-length films and over 130 shorts. For “Fighting Weight,” Gouwenberg has chosen 12 of the latter, ranging from 2 to 19 minutes in length. Shown in coordinated loops on adjacent projectors in Engine Room’s cavernous gallery, the 70-minute presentation is split into groups, which take on broad themes like sports or labor. These topics, while not explicitly outlined, become evident in the connections between simultaneously playing films. But what comes across most clearly is Everson’s obsession with movement, mannerisms, and the systems that dictate how bodies—especially black bodies—exist in space.
Workers Leaving the Job Site, 2013, is a contemporary reimagination of an 1895 Lumière Brothers’ film, transposed to a construction site in Columbus, Mississippi. It’s exactly what the title suggests, capturing the flow of workers heading home just after clocking out. In Welterweight, 2018, boxer Armond Richards bounces back and forth in front of a dark background, a series of punches transformed into a non-narrative exploration of power and strength. In A Good Fight, 2018, a man recounts his viewing of a legendary 1978 fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Art McKnight. Through Everson’s camera work and use of asynchronous audio, the subject’s expressive gesticulations become more important than the story he’s telling. Goddess, 2018, lingers on a finger’s swirling motion along a rotary phone.
The Release, 2018, perhaps best hints at the filmmaker’s interest in the social structures that dictate how people move through the world. The silent video shows football moves enacted by art-school students. Removed from their original context, the stretching, crouching, and running are more akin to the choreography of postmodernist dance figures like Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown, concretely highlighting how context can skew or shift one’s perspective on physical actions. With this reframing, Everson hopes that viewers can appreciate both these small gestures and the often ordinary people who enact them.
Kevin Jerome Everson’s “Fighting Weight” is on view through October 26, 2018, at Engine Room Art + Projects (2809 N. Robertson Street) in New Orleans.