Thomas Allen Harris, About Face: The Evolution of a Black Producer, 2017
Commissioned by Visual AIDS for Day With(out) Art 2017, ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS, curated by Erin Christovale and Vivian Crockett
As the AIDS epidemic in New York escalated during the ‘80s, a young, out, black producer was fighting to get information about the crisis on screen. Thomas Allen Harris, raised by activists in the Bronx and East Africa, produced a series of public television programs focused on HIV/AIDS, bringing folks who were previously ignored by mainstream media to the core of public discussion. Despite the program’s success in breaking open the narrative of the crisis, the pushback Harris received from the channel’s executives and constraints of corporate media ultimately led the artist to suspend work in public television. 28 years later, Harris draws from these resurfaced tapes and an essay he’d written at the time: “About Face: The Evolution of a Black Producer".
Thomas Allen Harris is an award-winning director and President of Chimpanzee Productions, Inc. a company dedicated to producing unique audio-visual experiences that illuminate the human condition and the search for identity, family and spirituality, including feature length films, performances and live multimedia productions. Harris is a prolific gay artist who has shown at the Whitney Biennial and won Guggenheim and Sundance fellowships. Harris has recently shown in the AfroPoP series produced by the National Black Programming Consortium at PBS. His personal and innovative films- Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014), Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2005), E Minha Cara/That’s My Face (2001), VINTAGE-Families of Value (1995) have received critical acclaim at International film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, FESPACO, Outfest, Flaherty, Cape Town and Melbourne Arts Festival. Harris lives and works in New York City, NY.
December 1, 2017 marked the 28th anniversary of Day With(out) Art, a day of mourning and action in response to the AIDS crisis. A presentation of short film and video works held concurrently at over one hundred art institutions and universities, Day With(out) Art is organized annually by Visual AIDS, the only contemporary arts organization fully committed to raising AIDS awareness and creating dialogue around HIV issues today. This year's program, ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS, prioritizes Black narratives within the ongoing AIDS epidemic and features seven new and innovative short videos from artists Mykki Blanco, Cheryl Dunye & Ellen Spiro, Reina Gossett, Thomas Allen Harris, Kia LaBeija, Tiona Nekkia McClodden and Brontez Purnell, curated by Erin Christovale and Vivian Crockett for Visual AIDS. In 2017 ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS screened at 116 venues worldwide, premiering at the Whitney Museum of American Art on December 1, with additional marquee screenings at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.