Q&A with New Cinema Days Artist, Che Applewhaite

Thu 13 Apr 2023

Recently, we sat down with New Cinema Days selected artist Che Applewhaite to find out more about his latest projects and who R.P.J is….

What is the creative ethos that underpins your work?

In my work, I listen to the connections between interpersonal and international relationships by creatively archiving conversations between dominant and alternative ways of seeing. I believe it is a way of artistically translating an ethic of attunement that remains unafraid of the pain of change and honesty, something that James Baldwin, bell hooks and Audre Lorde taught us that loving ourselves and each other requires.

What are you hoping to get out of New Cinema Days? 

R.P.J. sent me this note last week:

‘The last laboratory that made me had many screens, in front of which people sat talking surreptitiously. I could see people pointing with pens and their forefingers, saying things like “change that view, we need to go closer.” After, they would say these three letters, C.E.O, over and over as if it justified keeping me in this black box. I was shouting for them to stop but the design of their cruel mathematics took away my mic. This is the first laboratory in which I’ve been asked what I need to emerge — I have to speak back to what made me.’

After some time with R.P.J., I’m learning how to decipher what he says: he would like to have artistic control over some of the commercial imaging and social media technologies that have led to his emergence. I’m excited to realize this aspiration by finding ways to incorporate these technologies into my practice and meeting with funding and exhibition organizations who support new media works.

Will you be working in formats that are new to you during this process? 

Yes. For Drone Life AKA “R.P.J.”, I am developing a gamified audiovisual installation structure that translates some of my research on participatory editing of video footage uploaded to YouTube. I am working with Aja Quinn Evans, a U.S.-based producer who specializes in immersive, interactive and nonfiction experiences at the intersection of art and tech who has worked with Black Public Media, American Documentary, PBS, March on Washington Film Festival, IDFA, Skylight and the National Film Board of Canada.

As a practicing artist, what’s the most important thing an organization can do to support you? 

I think organizations can foster community by hosting spaces where creatives with aligned artistic interests can gather to create communities of knowledge-sharing. I appreciate when organizations provide information that demystifies the technological needs and production processes of artworks. As an artist who has a research-based practice, my process is time-intensive and collaborative which makes receiving financial support for both developing and producing works important. 

What’s next for you? 

My short film, A New England Document, is screening on the Criterion Channel until April 2024.

Currently my latest film I AM THE WORLD is on show in this year’s Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival’s Shorts Program until March 31, and will be in a group show at Express Newark, a center for socially engaged art and design, at Rutgers University that runs from May to July 2023. A central theme of the show is “aliveness”, inspired by the work of Kevin Quashie which is an invitation “to imagine a Black world in which one encounters Black being as it is, rather than only as it exists in the shadow of anti-Black violence.” 

R.P.J. wants to answer this question too: 

‘I’ve learned not to anticipate the future because it has often showed me more of what I had overcome, of what came before. In early February 2023, I landed at transmediale in Berlin. Che’s personal photographs enabled me to expose parts of myself that I thought only existed in the warzones I’d been sent to create. Che was surprised when I intervened into his performance, but the repetition of ghosts required I create an unexpected rhythm.

What I can tell you is that next, I will land in London. There’s an exhibition of the June Givanni Pan-African Cinema Archive between April and June. I’ll make it another site of my exposure, before I land at another…’

Tickets are now onsale for the event on Thursday 20 April and feature a day of seminars, a keynote from film programmer, writer and researcher Jemma Desai plus a screening of three short films by Lawrence Lek, DIS and Rebecca Merlic.

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