Author: ckirkley

Uchronia: The Unequivocal Interpretation of Reality


Uchronia: The Unequivocal Interpretation of Reality
w/ Maciek Pozoga
Exhibition, photo book, and sound recording (vinyl record), 2015

Surreal ethnographic documentation of travel to a fictional Bamako. Over 10 days, photographer Maciek Pozoga and I meticulously documented the real and the unreal through photo and sound. The imagined capital evolved out of discussions with Bamakois: visual artists, science fiction scenarists, traditional griots, DIY filmmakers, and hip hop studio producers.

The resulting exhibition, Uchronia: The Unequivocal Interpretation of Reality featured photo from Maciek Pozoga, a photo book, edited by Pierre Hourquet, and vinyl record of field recordings (“Field Recordings from Alternate Realities”). The record draws on the experience of a number of musicians, including Mamelon, Luka Productions, and Super Onze.

Exhibition Link – 12Mail/Red Bull Studio Space
Field Recordings from Alternate Realities – Soundcloud

Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai

Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
Directed by Christopher Kirkley
w/ Jerome Fino, Mdou Moctar
75 min, HD, 2015

The first ever Tuareg language fictional film, based on the legendary rock-u-drama “Purple Rain,” Akounak or “Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in it” explores the world of a musician trying to succeed in the raucous subculture of the Niger guitar scene. The protagonist, real life musician Mdou Moctar, must battle fierce competition from jealous musicians, overcome family conflicts, endure the trials of love, and overcome his biggest rival – himself. Carried by stunning musical performances from Mdou, the film is a window into modern day Tuareg guitar and an experiment in participatory ethnographic filmmaking.

Developed and written by Mdou Moctar, Jerome Fino, and Christopher Kirkley and shot over 10 days, the film draws from the stylistic choices of Western film, filtered through a Saharan lens. Borrowing heavily from Purple Rain, Akounak is based on the struggle of a musician as a universal hero, and utilizes these sources while reinterpreting through protagonist Mdou Moctar’s real life experiences. In execution, many techniques have been adapted from the experimental technique of Jean Rouch – in particular, the collaborative nature to produce something that can resonate across both cultures. Akounak is the first feature fiction film in the Tamashek language. The title translates to “Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in it,” a literal translation of Purple Rain (the Tuareg language has no word for Purple) – a nod to its unlikely origins and the difficulties of translating ideas across cultures.

Akounak has screened at festivals around the world.

In Tamashek, with English/French/Spanish subtitles.

Hama “Ataraghine”

Performed by Hama.
Composed by Agaly Bekaye.
Edited by Christopher Kirkley
4 min, HD, 2015

Music video for Hama’s “Ataraghine.” Filmed in Niamey and Ingall, Niger in 2013 & 2014.

A Cosmic and Earthly History of Recorded Music According to Mississippi Records

A Cosmic and Earthly History of Recorded Music According to Mississippi Records
Edited by Christopher Kirkley
45 min, HD, 2014

A combination film, lecture, slideshow and soundscape performance. This presentation sums up the entire history of recorded music from the time of the first star in the universe being born all the way to the dark ages of the 1990’s. Mixing history with mythology, the presentation creates a narrative informed by the philosophies of Mississippi Records founder Eric Issacson. Exploration of the rise of revolutionary musics, and a catalog of the forces that destroyed them. Includes some vibrant footage of 1960’s American music, including Bo Diddley, Nina Simon, Rosetta Tharpe, and The Staple Singers.

Sahel Sounds: Modern Music from Mali

“Sahel Sounds: Modern Music from Mali.”
Produced with Sam Backer
Afropop Worldwide
Radio broadcast, 59 min, 2013

Afropop Worldwide broadcast, produced by Sam Backer in collaboration with Christopher Kirkley, this hour long radio show highlights the new gerenation of musicians Mali. Focused on new possibilities of sound, transformed by technology and global influence, these young musicians are radically rethinking centuries old traditions. Highlights include Tuareg guitar bands from the North, Balani Show street parties of Bamako, and the digital MP3 markets of future Mali.

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore – Archival footage from the Mississippi Records & Alan Lomax Archive
Edited by Christopher Kirkley
50 min, HD, 2013

Film, stories & images from the Mississippi Records and Alan Lomax archive. Staggering and fascinating footage of musicians shot by the world famous song collector Alan Lomax as well as archival film, images & stories carefully dug out from Mississippi’s archive, spanning 1890 to the present day. The live footage performances are culled from rarely seen film shot during Alan Lomax’s North American travels between 1978 to 1985, as well as Mississippi Record’s own enormous library of folk blues, gospel, esoteric, international and punk music archives.

I Sing the Desert Electric

“I Sing the Desert Electric”
Short Film
19 min, HD, 2012

Recorded over three years, a collection of video shorts taken in four locations and representing four distinct and highly regional music scenes. From fuzzy electric guitars of Mauritania to raucous electro street parties of Bamako, the short survey is a window into contemporary performance in the Western Sahel.

Full video link

L’Art Digital du Sahel

Sahel Digital Art

L’Art Digital du Sahel
Installation and Projection, 2013

The Sahel area has recently been thrown into political turmoil with an ongoing rebellion in Northern Mali and the creation of an independent nation known as “Azawad” in june 2012. Over the last years, the introduction of digital tools of creation have resulted in an abundance of graphic ephemera circulating via Facebook, Cyber Cafes, and cellphones. Utilizing PC based templates, automated web based montage, and built-in cellphone photo manipulation, and combining personal photos with superimposed graphics, those self described designers of the digital realm reveal a unique and evolving aesthetic.

The installation includes a fake “cyber-cafe” and creation space and a projection of images drawn from collected artwork.

Azawad Libre! New Media and Imagined Geographies in the Sahel


Azawad Libre! New Media and Imagined Geographies in the Sahel
Exhibition, 2012
Portland Museum of Modern Art

The West African Sahara is a sparsely populated landscape that often conjures up images of emptiness and quietude in the Western imagination. The newly introduced integration of digital tools into this region has resulted in an abundance of graphic ephemera circulating via Facebook, Cyber Cafes, and cellular phones. In contrast and defiance to both geography and tradition, new technologies are being utilized to create inspired new genres of art.

With a barrage of multipurpose functions, the cellular phone plays a central role in digital art throughout West Africa. Cheap and ubiquitous throughout the desert, features such as the camera, video recorder, mp3 player, and hard drive have established the cell phone as the first personal digital device, analogous to the Occidental personal computer. Built-in photo manipulation software has led to stylistic trends, combining personal photos with superimposed pixilated graphics. The recent proliferation of home PCs further introduces new techniques of photo manipulation. Utilizing software-based templates and automated web-based montage platforms, the personal identity is altered and re-imagined into new forms; desires, hopes, and dreams are expressed in hyper-real manifestations. Invoking colorful and sometimes garish worlds of montage, digital distortions and lens flares, the images are informed by Western cultural objects, yet liberated from the points of origin.

As political unrest has spurred a rebellion in Mali and a presidential coup d’état, the fast-trending digital art medium is finding a new purpose among information sharing. Central to the rebellion is the concept of “Azawad” (translation: “land of transhumance”), a name coined over 40 years ago for an independent Tuareg state proposed to stretch across seven countries. The concept was previously relegated to an ideology exchanged in political folk ballads, but recently the availability of graphic tools has engendered new forms of propaganda around this subject. As “Azawad” languishes in political stalemate and uncertainty, the geography of this “promised land” thrives in the collective dream of digital statehood.

Challenging the concepts of folk art and ethnography, this exhibition showcases digital art from West Africa collected from within the country and via the internet: personally crafted avatars, viral propaganda disseminated through cell phone videos, imagined geographies of non-existent states, and personal identities redefined through designers of the digital realm. Examining the rich content of the digital artifacts which circulate through the networks of the Sahel, Azwad Libre! considers not only the roles of new media and democratization of creative tools, but the beauty of uninhibited inspiration.

Global and Mobile Pop


Global and Mobile Pop
w/ Brainstorm, Jason Urick, Iftin Band
Multimedia presentation and performance, 2012
PICA, Time Based Art Festival

Thanks to the spread of mobile phones and the Internet, the remote caravan towns of the Sahara now feel as close as Bushwick. BRAINSTORM and Sahel Sounds have curated a multimedia presentation consisting of musical performances, Skype video concerts from western Africa, YouTube remixes, and live cellphone feeds. With performances by local musicians (including Jason Urick and Iftin Band) reinterpreting global music, international acts playing to American audiences through populist technologies, and a dizzying slew of Internet-derived content presented through video projections, the night is rich with cross-cultural content and the vast weirdness of the Internet era.