Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs

work-in-progress

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Enter the immersive graphic novel, Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, and step into the Chicago South Side during the period spanning the Great Migration, the Great Depression, Jim Crow Segregation, World War II, and The Chicago Renaissance. It is a tapestry, woven of the tales of a family and community surviving, and sometimes thriving, spanning five generations, and ranging from crowded kitchenette apartments, artists’ studios, and the sporting life on the South Side, to a sharecropper’s yard and dusty roads in Franklin County, Kentucky. Time and place can shift with the opening of a door, or the turn of a corner.

This is a work of imagined memory and expressive visualization, a collage in motion, a theater-of-the-surround. The stories are derived from the fiction, poetry and oral history recordings of Dorothy Mallory Jones, and other witness/participants in the times and places depicted.

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The setting is an impressionistic rendering of South Side Chicago, circa 1940’s, and the neighborhood is populated by distinctive recurring characters, interactive objects and dramatic tableaux. The visitor enters a richly detailed immersive environment, dynamic with activity, and responsive to the visitor’s presence and interaction.

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Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs is a tapestry woven of narrative threads that intersect and intermingle. Through exploration and interaction, the visitor encounters characters and scenes, finds stories within stories, and follows paths, some of which are only discerned after interacting with a particular character or object.

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Among the locations, scenes and events which the visitor encounters in Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs v1: several kitchenette apartments, front stoop and basement at the Park Manor Arms; Pearl’s Beauty Parlor; show time at the Club Delisa; 47th St. and South Parkway on a Saturday night; sporting life on 57th St., “bucket of blood”; the South Side Community Art Center; Elizabeth Catlett arriving as Cleopatra for the Artists & Models Ball at the Parkway Ballroom; and visions of the past of a centenarian, peering into the past across sharecropper fields in Franklin County, Kentucky. Also in the neighborhood are the corner juke joint, a poolroom, barber shop, funeral parlor, storefront church, soda fountain and shoe shine stand.

An expanded version (2) is planned, which will include scenes in the Parkway Community House and The Skyloft Players; a soiree at Horace Cayton’s apartment; the Hall Branch Library and South Side Writers’ Project; Easter Monday Ball at the Savoy Ballroom; amateur bouts at the Savoy Outdoor Boxing Arena; the Regalettes on stage at the Regal Theater; the Bud Biliken Parade; and a visit to Madame Bertha, Reader & Adviser.

motion study 4: The Neighborhood (03:40)
click image to play animation (Unity 3D game engine)

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In these locations, and the streets and alleys in between, the visitor encounters scenes and tableaux through which the narratives unfold. Characters will occasionally address the visitor, providing background and commentary on the scene and characters, or suggestions for a next destination.

The visitor moves in and out of areas with particular compositions of voices, sound effects and ambiance, with elements triggered by visitor movement, manipulation of objects, and interaction with characters. The soundscape is an expressive composition, weaving voices, environmental ambiance, the distinctive sounds of the time and place (radio, phonograph, film, TV), and original music.

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motion study 5_Pearl’s Beauty Parlor (02:20)

click image to play animation

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The distinctive visual style of the environment is intended to evoke, at times, an experience of exploring a three-dimensional collage in motion, a glimpse through a mind’s eye, fracturing point-of-view, collapsing past-present-future. This aspect of the production design concept begins with the complexity, coherence, and precision of Romare Bearden’s 2D photo-montage and collage works. This is the temporal terrain of magical realism. How the story is told, and the meanings conveyed, are integral to the design of the environment. As Bearden phrased it, “How what is said is said.”

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motion study 3_The Park Manor Arms (0:48)

click image to play animation

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The environment is richly embedded with media elements that are the social, cultural and political context in which the episodes unfold. Newspapers, magazines, radios, televisions, posters, and cinema clips are woven into the scenes, and are responsive to visitor manipulation. The embedded media might impart elements of the stories, or provide a bit of the social/political/cultural context of the time and place. Links to related resources can be found on the Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs companion web site.

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The street scenes, building facades and interiors are richly detailed hybrid forms and surface textures derived from 3D sculpted objects, digital graphics and archival sources.

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motion study 2: Paragon Show Lounge (02:00)

click image to play animation

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The matrix of themes, narrative threads and characters in Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs is derived from the fiction, poetry and oral history recordings of Dorothy Mallory Jones. My artistic collaboration with Ms. Jones, poet, novelist, historian, and my mother, is a work-in-progress spanning over three decades. We have collaborated on several projects including The Trouble I’ve Seen (1976), an impressionistic video/broadcast portrait of black life in rural Georgia; LISSEN HERE! (2005), a large format book of image/text compositions published in limited edition; and In The Sweet Bye & Bye: An Immersive Memoir (2007), transposing the text/image compositions into an immersive experience in the synthetic world of Second Life.

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In our collaboration we have, in Teshome Gabriel’s phrase, shared language and retained secrets. Our individual works inhabit different worlds, yet our visions and understandings intersect and converge.  This is fundamental to my commitment to migrate and transpose the wisdom and insight of our elders into contemporary and future expressive realms.

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mind maps

The mind maps are research, compilation and organizing tools for historical documentation, developing the narrative threads and episodes, and plotting the navigation paths.

  1. September 7, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    cool and the gang; I’ll tell Doc G. peace out, DaFish!

  2. JAH
    May 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Wow, how innovative. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Philip Mallory Jones
      May 4, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Thanks, JAH. Your interest and support will help make this project happen.

  3. Marva Bell
    May 4, 2013 at 9:50 am

    This is amazing!

    • Philip Mallory Jones
      May 4, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Thanks, Marva. Gratifying and confirming to know that the projects resonates.

  4. Paula Roper
    May 12, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    brilliant!

    • Philip Mallory Jones
      May 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks, Paula. This project is a convergence of aesthetic, life-experience and technology. I’m encouraged that at this stage of development it resonates clearly.

  5. Rea Tajiri
    May 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I’m very excited to learn about this project, very inspiring to see a new way to engage time, history, and storytelling through technology.

  6. May 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    VERY interesting project. Exploring each of our cultural roots so enriches us. Congrats on this work – best of luck for great success with it.

    • Philip Mallory Jones
      May 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      Stu – Thanks for your interest and encouragement. Please visit the FaceBook page for Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs , and we’ll keep you informed about the Kickstarter campaign to fund full realization. Salut.

  1. May 3, 2010 at 5:55 pm
  2. March 22, 2011 at 11:02 am
  3. September 1, 2011 at 9:24 am
  4. April 26, 2013 at 10:11 am
  5. April 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm
  6. April 26, 2013 at 2:15 pm
  7. May 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm
  8. May 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm
  9. February 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

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