Preserving Time is a brief movie by Darol Olu Kae, an artist and filmmaker born and based mostly in South Los Angeles. It ruminates on the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (the Ark), an avant-garde jazz group from South Central LA, energetic since 1961, outlined by its malleability and its musicians’ allegiance to pure and nuanced jazz types as established by its founder, the late composer and pianist Horace Tapscott. The Ark emerged in an period when many Black musicians had been being exploited by main document labels to fabricate music pushed by document gross sales and po-culture enchantment. The event of the Ark, and its modern and improvised method to jazz, was paired with Tapscott’s apply in outmaneuvering document labels to deliver Black music on to Black communities.
Kae’s movie, which intersperses authentic 16mm, 35mm, and digital movie codecs with not too long ago excavated archival footage from Tapscott’s private residence motion pictures—typically located in websites of communion, reminiscent of houses, garages, and public parks—attracts inspiration from the collective’s foundational organizing construction that foregrounds neighborhood interdependence and preservation. The title, “Preserving Time,” invokes an insular perception widespread amongst jazz musicians that timekeeping in efficiency is the drummer’s duty. Nonetheless, as Thelonious Monk as soon as declared, “simply since you’re not a drummer, doesn’t imply that you just don’t need to maintain time.” Within the Ark, rhythm is accounted for collectively, a apply that gestures again to an African indigenous relationship to time that’s depending on ritual, instinct, and fellowship—parts that allow repetition. Scholar James A. Snead writes that, “each time we encounter repetition in cultural types, we certainly should not viewing the “identical factor,” however its transformation.”1 Members within the Ark featured in “Preserving Time” embody the multi-hyphenate roles required for avant-garde music making, they usually assist us query how helpful repetition will be as a software for survival evolution.
In making the movie, Kae studied the Ark and developed a script in collaboration with its members who additionally “carry out” within the movie, simulating their very own experiences throughout the band’s group. Because of this, distinctions between fiction, actuality, and documentary are blurred. Kae’s movies follows group members and its prodigy, Mekala Session, son of Tapscott’s proper hand and saxophonist, Michael Session. Appointed the Ark’s band chief after bringing the collective out of dormancy, Mekala should steadiness being each progeny and principal in a band that prides itself on welcoming artists of all ages. In his multigenerational rendering of the Ark, its members, and south central LA, Kae codifies for viewers what types of ritual and relation are engendered once we share house and time to make inventive work. The exhibition additionally consists of archival supplies that Kae newly excavated from non-public collections and the Los Angeles Public Library.
Taylor Renee Aldridge
at California African American Museum, Los Angeles
till January 15, 2024