Hands Performance, Now Streaming as Part of AfroPoP Digital Shorts

Hands Performance, now streaming as part of AfroPoP Digital Shorts (photo courtesy of Rashaad Newsom Studio)

Celebrate Pride Month with Hands Performance  a new film merging AI, dance and ASL — on Black Public Media’s AfroPoP Digital Shorts series –

Hands Performance, now streaming as part of AfroPoP Digital Shorts (photo courtesy of Rashaad Newsom Studio)

In honor of Pride Month, Black Public Media (BPM) brings viewers a new short film that is an Afrofuturistic homage to Black Queer culture, as Artificial Intelligence meets Black Queer ASL (American Sign Language) meets vogue and flex dance styles to create a one-of-a-kind visual and sonic experience.

From the mastermind of acclaimed artist Rashaad Newsome, Hands Performance focuses on a performance by Being the Digital Griot, an AI in a non-binary robot body, who takes audiences on a unique exploration of movement and Black Queer ASL to Newsome’s original poetry. The Oakland-based creative premiered Being the Digital Griot during his exhibition Assembly at the Park Avenue Armory in 2022 and they were more recently seen as part of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Now audiences across the country have the opportunity to experience Being as part of the AfroPoP Digital Shorts series from BPM.

Taking place on a space station, Hands Performance transports viewers to outer space where a voiceover announces that the performance is “for the deaf and hard of hearing girls” while asking them to “listen with your eyes.” As Being twists, dips and slides with the skill and precision of top vogue and flex dancers against a backing pulsating score, they also translate Newsome’s poem, signing the words using Black Queer ASL.

An unique union of short film, AI and music video, Hands Performance takes its title from the well-known element of vogue fem, highlighting a dancer’s ability to tell a story with their hands while showcasing their musicality.

The film continues Newsome’s exploration of mapping Black cultural production as a form of movement research, data storage and collective wayfinding. Working with a team of Black Queer ASL interpreters, various vogue fem performers, flex dancers and motion capture technologists, Newsome translated his original poetry into a movement dataset exhibiting the uniquely Black and Queer aspects of sign language. Set against the backdrop of stunning visuals and a futuristic score filled with booming bass, synthetic snares, snaps, claps and glitchy computer sounds, Hands Performance is a must-see. Now viewers can stream it as part of BPM’s AfroPoP Digital Shorts by visiting the BPM YouTube page here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPPyVyE-bMQ.

Black Public Media is a Harlem-based national nonprofit which has funded and distributed films about the Black experience since 1979. For more information on the AfroPoP Digital Shorts series and other programs and events from BPM, visit blackpublicmedia.org or follow them on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook at @blackpublicmedia and on X at @BLKPublicMedia.

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