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Sweet Sweet Runner, by Rashid Johnson Essay

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Now that we all have this knowledge and have a language to deal with it visually, it’s the time to start dealing with some of the more playful things. We’ve accepted privilege, we’re conscious of all these major issues that the generation before us laid down. — Rashid Johnson

Sweet Sweet Runner, a 2010 short video by Rashid Johnson begins with the image of a middle-aged, bespectacled black man. The viewer is given momentary flashes, accompanied by the sound of sirens, that quickly defines what he is wearing (a fresh red jacket and running pants), the type of environment he is in, as well as his expression as he looks out onto the city streets (fig 1). The video then flashes back in time, showing him emerging from behind the glass of a door of a New York City apartment building. We are voyeurs, watching him from behind a tree, and later, a windowpane across the street. After a brief warm up period where he raises and drops his shoulders, rotates his neck, and swings a few punches into the cold air, he bends down, touches his toes and takes off running. The video alternates between shots of New York architecture, our runner, and various activities taking place in the streets. We hear the wail of an ambulance and then see it race by. A pair walks an excited dog, and another duo zips by on expensive bicycles clad in body-hugging racing gear. It quickly becomes clear that it is a cold morning in an affluent Manhattan neighborhood.
At various points he jogs in the middle of the street (fig 2) as well as on the sidewalk, and the images go from single to layered, showing him in various points of his run at the same time. Sweet Sweet Runner with its title, layered video effects, and borrowed soundtrack, directly references Melvin Van Pe...


... middle of paper ...


...Message to Our Folks. MCA Monographs. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2012.
















Images
fig 1
Rashid Johnson
Sweet Sweet Runner, 2010
16 mm film on DVD with sound, 3:19 min


fig 2

fig 3
(Sweetback gets his name)
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, 1971
Directed by Melvin Van Peebles


fig 4

fig 5
Sweetback, dwarfed and on the fringes of the city


fig 6
Sweetback looks back to check for police

fig 7
Sweet Runner looks back to check the traffic


fig 8
Sweet Runner sees his doppelganger


fig 9
Sweet Sweetback flees from the law in an outlandish outfit


fig 10
(Jeff Gerber wakes up black)
Watermelon Man, 1970
directed by Melvin Van Peebles





fig 11
Jeff Gerber in his office pre-transformation


fig 12
a white Jeff Gerber looks back at the bus he is racing


fig 13
Rashid Johnson
Walking in Magdeburg, 2008
Dust and dirt on black cloth


fig 14



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