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Jones, Philip Mallory

Jones, Philip Mallory

1947


Philip Mallory Jones is a media artist whose work explores the significance of the black diaspora experience. His videos make reference to African sensibilities such as the constant flow of life energy, the ageless wisdom of elders, and the permanence of meanings found in artistic forms of expression. These components are used to tell stories centered on space and time. The notion of ancestral memory and the salience of the spiritual world are other themes commonly found in his work. They are also paramount to his central figures, who struggle with the sexual and racial tensions that problematize everyday interactions with others and self.

Jones earned his B.A. from Beloit College and acquired an M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell University. He has achieved such accolades as the 2002 Batza Chair in Art and Art History at Colgate University. From 1991 to 2000 he was artist-in-residence at the Institute for Studies in the Arts at Arizona State University. In addition, he has taught at several academies, including Howard University. As the former cofounder and director of Ithaca Video Project (19711984), his contributions to the field of media arts have been twofold: He is an artist and an advocate. Jones's artistic expression incorporates writing, photography, video, filmmaking, and digitized media. Some of his works include: The Trouble I've Seen (1976), Black/White and Married (1979), Soldiers of a Recent and Forgotten War (1981), Ghosts and Demons (1987), Footprints (1988), Jembe (1989), Paradigm Shift (1992), Crossroads (1993), and three collaborative performance pieces: Drummin' (1997), Mirrors and Smoke (2000), and the Vo-Du Macbeth Opera (2001).

Described as an impressionistic documentary that dismantles prescribed cultural boundaries, one of Jones's most prominent works, a 1994 video titled First World Order, shows, "the connections between group creativity and individual emotions and desires" (Powell, p. 181). In an excerpt from this film, an aged Belizean woman states, "I laugh to myself," as she ponders over her relationship with an estranged son. The fractured bond between this mother and child mirrors the disconnect that exists between non-Western cultures of the African diaspora and the rest of the world. Jones uses this metaphor to challenge the commonly held trope that Western society is the "first world order." His work inverts the structure of this global power dynamic by decoding various cultural expressions whose meanings originated outside of Western society. The dispersion of these cultural expressions is visually articulated through the use of freeze frames that slowly move images in and out of spaces to show how they changed over time. This sequencing achieves two things. It reveals how non-Western artistic expressions of the African diaspora were appropriated, and it presents these "third world" cultures as the original "first world order."

As the curator for the annual Ithaca Film Festival, which toured nationally from 1975 to 1984, Jones provided a venue for fellow artists to display their work and find the artistic, moral, and financial support needed to persevere in the independent filmmaking industry. To this end, his campaigning for venues extends beyond the plight for more black visibility and representation. It echoes the necessity for convergence between the display demands of digital arts and a revamping of traditional structures of exhibition space. His vision to improve spatial barriers, cross-culturally and (inter)nationally, also challenges the propensity for the media to perpetuate historical misrepresentations of black people.

Jones resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where he serves as a consultant to the Center for African American Archival Preservation. He is the artistic director of Alchemy Media and Marketing, Inc., and is working on a book, Lissen Here!

See also Art in the United States, Contemporary; Film in the United States, Contemporary

Bibliography

Bambara, Toni Cade. "Reading the Signs, Empowering the Eye: Daughters of the Dust and the Black Independent Cinema Movement." In Black American Cinema, edited by Manthia Diawara, pp. 118144. New York and London: Routledge, 1993.

Electronic Art Intermix. "Philip Mallory Jones." Available from <www.eai.org/eai/>.

Jones, Philip Mallory. First World Order. 28 min., color, sound. New York: Electronic Arts Intermix, 1994.

Muhammad, Erika Dayla. "Race in Digital Space: Conceptualizing the Media Project." Art Journal 60, no. 3 (fall 2001): 9295.

Powell, Richard J. Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Zimmerman, Patricia R. "States of Emergency." In Key Frames: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies, edited by Matthew Tinkcom and Amy Villarejo, pp. 377394. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.

saadia nicoe lawton (2005)

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