Video Halls (or "bibanda") are often no more than small huts where viewers pay a few cents to watch pirated DVDs on diesel-powered television screens. In the majority of villages and towns, they are the only form of popular visual entertainment, reaching millions of Ugandans every month and hundreds of thousands each day—more than television and newspapers put together. "VJs” (or "video jockeys") translate Hollywood actions, Nollywood dramas, Bollywood musicals, cartoons, and porn into the primary local language of Luganda. Acting as translators, stand-up comedians, and carney barkers, VJs thus operate as nodes of distribution to the bibanda.
Initiated by artist Marisa Morán Jahn with media ethnographer Paul Falzone, Video Slink Uganda is a Creative Capital-supported project that involves translating and burning — "slinking"— experimental art by Ugandan and US diasporan artists onto bootleg DVDs, seen by millions of viewers as previews to the main film, and circulated throughout Uganda's bootleg cinemas.
++ FIRST CHAPTER ++
This pilot project involves VJ Junior, VJ Emmie, and VJ Jingo adapting/translating/re-interpreting the works of artists of the African diaspora: Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky, Rashaad Newsome with Kenya Robinson, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Kamau Patton, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Hank Willis Thomas/Terence Nance, and Saya Woolfalk.
++ SECOND CHAPTER++
Bruce Lee is an internationally beloved figure who unites underdogs around the world and throughout history. Lee shaped the popular imaginary of Asian, Latinx, Black, and White Americans in the early 1970s; hip hop in the 1990s via the Wu-Tang Clan, an ethnically divided community in Bosnia-Herzegovina who erected a statue to Lee – the only person they could agree upon; and a homegrown kung fu and film club in Uganda. Below is a 2 minute animation by Marisa Jahn with Anjum Asharia that will be slinked onto bootleg DVDs and shown in video halls in Uganda.
Most Ugandans see only imported commercial films — not works created by artists/filmmakers from their own country. While many Ugandans thus do not see themselves represented on the screen, so too many in the US and the West do not know what Uganda “looks” like. “Video Slink Uganda” seeks to fill this void by presenting a strong visual imaginary forged by Marisa Morán Jahn and Kampala-based artists, filmmakers, and designers — notably Alim Karmali, Darlyne Komukawa, Bwayo Moses, Stephene Etende, and Gloria Wavamunno.
In these photographs, video, and performances, the mirrored masks stand in for a confrontation with one’s self, one’s creation, loss, death, the spectres of colonialism, and the Other. During a moment of racial and geopolitical unrest, “Video Slink Uganda” provides new ways to see ourselves reflected in each other.
Below is a brief excerpt of the film-in-progress.
"A parasite, physical, acoustic, informational, belonging to order and disorder, a new voice, an important one, in the contrapuntal matrix."
Artwork produced within a Western paradigm of commodity production typically controls the distribution, reproduction, and profits of the work. In doing so, a certain stability is ensured; this system of exclusion in fact produces what Jacques Derrida refers to as the ‘bastard’: “Bastards appear and (disappear) to enact impropriety. Accordingly, the bastard might be named 'impropriety itself' [...] Bastards, however, cannot be named properly and the one thing impropriety cannot be is one thing.”
By comparison, cultures built upon a largely informal or blackmarket economy thrive on piracy and derivation as an inevitable force with its own set of tacit rules. Here, the illegitimate (the bastard) is not disavowed. Instead, the copy, bootleg, or knockoff becomes the currency itself, and increasing degrees of degradation, remove, or infidelity in fact heighten the work’s authenticity. Privileged here are translation and adaptation — skills honed in informal markets — as opportunities for disruption.
Video Slink seeks to question specific ways and moments in which narratives (and therefore power) are transmitted, translated, regenerated, and forged anew. How can we share power and expand who gets to create meaning?
Of Chinese and Ecuadorian descent, Marisa Morán Jahn is an artist and the founder of Studio REV-, an art + media + social justice non-profit organization. Her work has been presented at The White House, Walker Art Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and more. A graduate of MIT, Jahn has edited three books about culture and politics, was an artist in residence at MIT's Media Lab; and was a CEC Artslink Fellow to Tajikistan, Estonia, Kaliningrad, Armenia. She has received awards from Rockefeller Foundation, Creative Capital, Tribeca Film Institute, the National Endowment for the Arts, and CNN named her Domestic Worker App one of "5 apps that could change the world." Her work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times, BBC, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, Art in America, Hyperallergic, and more.
Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky
Akosua Adoma Owusu
Hank Willis Thomas and Terence Nance
VJ Emmy, VJ Jingo, VJ Junior
Anjum Asharia, Melanie Butler, Alan Hoffmanis
Anjum Asharia, Teva Kohavi, Huicho Mata, Estela Sanchez, Diana Vivar
Film Director: Alim Karmali
Photographer + Actress: Darlyne Komukawa
Director of Photography: Bwayo Moses
Designer: Stephene Etende
Designer: Gloria Wavamunno
Actors: Ore Gbadebo Smith and Angella Kemirembe
Lighting: Emmanuel Gashumba | Transportation: Abraham Kiyonga
Studio Assistance: Richard Kuan, Taehee Whang