Steffani Jemison. Personal. 2014. Video (color, sound), 6:39 min. Committee on Media and Performance Art Funds. © 2021 Steffani Jemison

Steffani Jemison’s Personal screened here November 18–December 2, 2021. The video is no longer available for streaming. Join us for the next Hyundai Card Video Views screening, beginning December 15, 2021.

Like many of my video works, Personal was inspired by something specific. In this case, I was responding to a turn-of-the-century film that begins with a man waiting in a park for a woman to arrive in response to his personal advertisement. In the original film, the man is overwhelmed by suitors and runs away; a group of women follow, and a chase ensues. When I conceived my piece, I was thinking about the way the chase structures time—the chase being a key subject of study in my earlier work—and the way the wait, the unconstrained narrative space before the chase, opens it up. “No loitering” signs are common in my neighborhood, where Personal was filmed. Anti-Blackness is built into the structure of vagrancy laws, which criminalize leisure: “free” time has often been seen as a threat. The notion of freedom is impossible to disconnect from ideas of space, time, and self-possession.

I’m very interested in the distance between public perception and private experience. For that reason, I often work in public space. Especially during the early years of my practice, I thought a lot about the demand to participate in a politics of representation—the insatiable appetite for images of Black people, and the many (often predatory) sources of that appetite. In my work, the viewer always rests some distance away from the action.
—Steffani Jemison, as told to Gee Wesley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance

Learn more about Steffani Jemison’s work here and here. And join us for other screenings in the Hyundai Card Video Views series, which considers artists’ engagement with a technology that has become central to our daily lives.

Media and Performance at MoMA is made possible by Hyundai Card.

Major support is provided by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Director’s Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art.

Generous funding is provided by the Lonti Ebers Endowment for Performance and the Sarah Arison Endowment Fund for Performance.