Session 2: Cauleen Smith with Languid Hands

Watch the films: the films in this programme can be viewed anytime between 25 March and 3 April via the Essay Film Festival online screening room. LINK HERE.

Live event: join us for a live discussion with Cauleen Smith, who will be in conversation with Languid Hands. This event will be chaired by Matthew Barrington. 26 March 2021, 18.00 – 19.30.

JOIN HERE at 18.00:

In this experimental hybrid between science fiction and noir, Cauleen Smith explores Black alienation and outsiderhood via the story of two aliens stationed on Earth searching for kinship and a sense of purpose.

In this session, we present a programme of recent shorts by the artist and filmmaker Cauleen Smith. An interdisciplinary artist, Smith’s work has a strong connection to afro-futurist traditions in jazz music, Third Cinema, and structuralist film. Since her debut feature film, Drylongso (1998), recently restored by the Academy Film Archive, Smith has worked primarily within the spaces of the gallery and experimental film. This programme highlights Smith’s interpretations and re-imaginings of the music of Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, her interests in science fiction interwoven with African-American history, and the ways in which the historical and contemporary can be brought into dialogue through artistic practice.

Film Information:

Three Songs About Liberation, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2017, digital, 10 minutes, English

Shot in Chicago, three women read excerpts from Gerda Lerner’s book Black Women in White America (1972)

Pilgrim, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2016, digital, 11 minutes, English 

A live recording of an Alice Coltrane piano performance guides Cauleen Smith on a pilgrimage across the USA.

Crow Requiem, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2015, digital, minutes, English

Finding echoes in the treatment of African American’s, Cauleen Smith pays homage to the crow. A species that despite being highly intelligent beings, crows have a bad reputation among humans, who consider them a nuisance and systematically ostracise them.

H-E-L-L-O, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2014, digital, 11 minutes, English

A group of New Orleans musicians replay the five-note sequence of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) at personally selected sites across the city.

Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2011, digital, 10 minutes, English

Sun Ra’s anthem ‘Space Is the Place’ performed by The Rich South High School Marching Band in Chinatown Square, Chicago.

The Changing Same, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2001, digital, 10 minutes, English

In this experimental hybrid between science fiction and noir, Cauleen Smith explores Black alienation and outsiderhood via the story of two aliens stationed on Earth searching for kinship and a sense of purpose.

With the support of Arts Council England.


Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, she makes things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants. Her films, objects, and installations have been featured in group exhibitions. She has had solo shows for her films and installations at The Kitchen, MCA Chicago, Threewalls, Chicago. She shows her drawings and 2D work with Corbett vs. Dempsey.  Smith is the recipient of several grants and awards including the Rockefeller Media Arts Award, Chicago 3Arts Grant, and Rauschenberg Residency. Smith was born in Riverside, California and grew up in Sacramento. She earned a BA in Creative Arts from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Theater Film and Television. (

Languid Hands is a London-based artistic and curatorial collaboration between DJ, filmmaker and curator Rabz Lansiquot and writer, facilitator and live art practitioner Imani Robinson. Our work is informed by ongoing explorations in Black and queer studies, Black creative practice, Black liberatory praxis and queer methodologies. We began collaborating in 2015, through our work with the collective sorryyoufeeluncomfortable (SYFU). Our SYFU projects included public programming in a variety of institutions and community spaces in the UK and Europe, co-curating the BBZBLKBK Alternative Graduate Show 2018 aimed at promoting work by artists who identify as queer womxn, trans and non-binary people of Black Ancestry at Copeland Gallery, London; and curating (BUT) WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT WHITE SUPREMACY?, a group exhibition at Many Studios as part of Glasgow International Festival 2018. In 2019 we made our first collaborative film Towards A Black Testimony: Prayer/Protest/Peace, which was commissioned by Jerwood Arts for the group exhibition Jerwood Collaborate!, and exhibited at Stroom Den Haag alongside our curated public programme. We also curated away, completely: denigrate, a group exhibition at narrative projects, Fitzrovia. Languid Hands are currently in residence at Raven Row. (


Art in America: Cauleen Smith on how Art Facilitates Protest and Introspection

Mousse Magazine: Destroying Narratives – Cauleen Smith and Carolyn Lazard in conversation

Elephant: Languid Hands – Curating Under White Supremacy