The cover of Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, “Good kid, M.A.A.D city” features a maroon van framed to the side by homes, held from below by an ocean of asphalt and from above by a pungently blue sky. The car, we might say, moves not just as the photo’s center but as the ambulatory bridge between the ground and stratosphere. A roaming pendulum or, in the context of always already surveilled black movement, deeply fleeting harbor.
This past weekend, director Kahlil Joseph, shared the video of “Good kid, M.A.A.D city” at a liquid blackness symposium dedicated to his work. A mini-biopic, the video features home movie footage of Lamar with family and friends interspersed with images of black men in movement from open living rooms to open cars. Joseph’s camera is often on the threshold, at once illustrating, following Saidiya Hartman, the always already non-private character of black domestic life, where open living rooms and cars bespeak the historical terror of anti-blackness. Even still, Joseph’s cinematic gaze indicts while suggesting another modality of openness possible even if the camera is there. That is, the time of the filmed car ride contends with the time devoted to the blue sky and dancing birds glimpsed by a camera in the back seat. The blue sky and dancing birds are the shot away from the shot, the movement from subjects to atmosphere is perhaps one that sustains a private open.
the plenitude that harbors the muted conversations held by those whose conversations must always contend with someone else trying to keep record.
Seemingly, Joseph’s recording is in the interest of a refuge from other figurations of record- followed cars and walks, disrupted domestic life—the camera’s threshholdedness maybe a modality of love for other space/times that, as with the home movie itself, safeguard uninterrupted togetherness.
Saidiya V. Hartman. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth Century America. New York: Oxford, 1997.