Los Angeles–based artist and poet Jibade-Khalil Huffman is the subject of the “First Look” column in our October issue. As Sam Korman writes, “Huffman explores how the politics and emotions embedded within particular types of speech and imagery haunt personal identity.” His installation Stanza (2016) is on view at the Studio Museum in Harlem through October 30. Here, Huffman introduces a compilation of videos that inspire him. -Eds.
In my everyday life I spend a lot of time on YouTube, walking around wearing headphones, thinking up plots for music videos. A part of my practice involves sampling elements of films, stock footage and songs. Over the years I have amassed an archive of bookmarks and downloads. This “best of” (in no particular order) includes:
1. My second favorite John Whitney film, Catalog. Whitney (a motion graphics pioneer who used analogue means to create his animations) is, in my estimation, one of the great experimental filmmakers. That he still needs an introduction is a shame, given just how ahead of his time he was and still is.
2. A group of dancers absolutely going in on Shirley Ellis’s song Nitty Gritty. Coupled with the presumable fact of the whitewashed casting of that era, Ellis is allowed to be heard though not seen. The video multiplied the desire to include Beyoncé’s Single Ladies for counter-effect but then I thought the better of it and included a different Beyoncé video instead (see #7).
3. My third favorite Mr. Show skit. The foundation of my sense of humor is indebted to In Living Color on the one hand and Mr. Show on the other. The two programs share a fearlessness in going beneath the surface to find the hilarious truth hidden in powerful institutions and individuals. Mr. Show, however, is especially influential for me in how patient the creators allowed themselves to be in setting up and delivering a particular premise. “The Audition” is perhaps the best example of this.
4. Black Thought’s lines “I’m Aristotle/I can’t fail/I’m OG.” Or, really, all of the lines in this freestyle. Its that’s good. It also never fails to make me want to drop everything and immediately start writing. Or at least think about being a better writer for the duration of those three minutes or so.
5. Boogie Down Productions’s My Philosophy. In high school I once, in the manner of a deadhead at a Grateful Dead show, recorded an entire KRS-One concert. Toward the end of the show, the one-time member of BDP (along with Scott LaRock and D-Nice) grabbed my tape recorder and left a not-completely-unkind message about keeping real hip-hop alive or something like that. This song and video are sort of like a more formal version of that exchange, if that makes sense.
6. Composer Angelo Badalamenti explaining the process of creating the Twin Peaks theme with David Lynch. If it’s not clear already from most of the things on this list, I’m kind of obsessed with music and musicians. If you asked me, “if you weren’t an artist, what would you do?” I would answer musician nine times out of ten. I’m also really into Twin Peaks. So this video is especially inspiring. And generous and revealing, especially to those of us who’ve always wanted to make music but say, couldn’t really deal with a certain piano teacher, and quit. But I regret it now, especially after hearing Badalamenti tell this story.
7. Sorry. Beyoncé and the greatest athlete of all time and the greatest breakup song of all time and all the force that this implies.
8. Stan Douglas’s Television Spots and Monodramas. As a counter to, or better yet, as a complement to the ineffable wonderfulness of certain kinds of music above, Douglas’s short videos are a masterclass in further confounding expectations. They set up a verbal and visual promise (usually missing in music) that is never delivered, but that paradoxically feels all the more satisfying because of this denial. The varied applications of Douglas’s work across different kinds of video and photography are also a huge influence on my practice. Instead of simply channeling ideas through a single process, such as making giant paintings, Douglas makes working out ideas in more appropriate, site-specific forms look easy.
9. Electronic musician Jlin performing Buzilla with a bunch of dancers at the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2015. Jlin absolutely going off during a short clip of a presumably much longer footwork presentation.
All of these relate to and are (in many cases) sampled or reenacted in my work in any number of ways, united by a momentum and defiance in the face of various obstacles.