Frequências Humanities Symposium & IP Major Projects Award: "Black Utopia LP" Performance by Cauleen Smith

Mar 31, 2023

04:30 PM - 06:30 PM

Becker Communication Studies Building, 101

25 South Madison Street, Iowa City, IA 52245

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Black Utopia LP record

This event is part of the 2023 UI Obermann Humanities Symposium & International Programs Major Projects Award: Frequências: Contemporary Afro-Brazilian Cinema & the Black Diaspora.

Please note that this event has been moved from the Stanley Art Museum to 101 BCSB.

Join us for Cauleen Smith's captivating audio-visual performance, Black Utopia LP. Combining 35mm slide projection with the artist's vinyl LP, this 90-minute "film without film" offers a unique cinematic experience. Emerging from Smith's extensive research on Afrofuturism, this live work ruminates on history, music, outer space, and African divination using the tactics of musician Sun Ra. The performance will be followed by a conversation with Michael B. Gillespie.

Free and open to all.

Cauleen Smith, a filmmaker and multimedia artist, describes her work as a reflection on “the everyday possibilities of the imagination.” Smith’s work explores social, cultural, intellectual, artistic, and political liberation in order to conjure what she has called “a cornucopia of future histories.” Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-20th-century experimental film. Her images incorporate science fiction, the Black diaspora, and the lyrical potential of landscape. Her work also explores site-specificity and engages in social activism.

She has had solo exhibitions at The Whitney Museum of American Art, MASS MoCA, LACMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, Institute for Contemporary Art Pennsylvania, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and a two-person exhibition with Theaster Gates at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Smith’s films, objects, and installations have been featured in group exhibitions including the Whitney Biennial, Prospect 4 New Orleans, Studio Museum Harlem, the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, the New Museum in New York, and BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, U.K. 

Smith is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Heinz Award for the Arts, the United States Artists Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize from the Studio Museum in Harlem, the inaugural Ellsworth Kelly Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Art, the Herb Alpert Award for Film/Video, Rockefeller Media Arts Award, Creative Capital Film/Video, Chicago 3Arts Grant, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Artadia, a Rauschenberg Residency, and Smith was an artist in residence at Artpace. 

Smith was born in Riverside, California, and grew up in Sacramento. She holds a bachelor’s in creative arts from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. She first gained national attention with her feature-length film Drylongso (1998), which she completed during her graduate studies at UCLA. Smith has also been a visiting artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a faculty member of California Institute of the Arts and the Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program.

Major sponsorship comes from the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, UI International Programs, the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, and the Office of the Vice President for Research Arts and Humanities Initiative Program. Generous supporters include FilmScene, the UI Stanley Museum of Art, the UI Department of Cinematic Arts, and the UI Department of Spanish & Portuguese.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at