Black to Techno excavates and explores the unique and total nature of the circumstances that birthed the movement: touching on everything from Detroit’s heritage as the home of Fordist automation and the rhythm of the production line, to the influence of the Motown artists, and the city’s groundbreaking icon, Aretha Franklin. Embedded in black, working and middle class experience, it became an expression of revolutionary hope and optimism.
Without the work of these black artists, and contemporaries like James Stinson, Gerald Donald, Jeff Mills and Mike Banks, musical movements like rave and clubs like Berghain would simply not exist. As for Nkiru’s connection to techno, she says, “I had been thinking about afrofuturism and the overlaps to techno. I describe techno as a resulting sound. It’s a result of its environment, the geopolitical landscape, its legacy, its history, its geography all go into its making. It could not be created anywhere else. I want to look at techno not just as a sonic gesture, but as a geopolitical, anthropological gesture.”
Likened to a VHS tape filled with traces of different recordings, Jenn Nkiru creates a spiky collage of intersecting narratives and conceptual frameworks that offers more than an origin story of techno, but rather a ‘cosmic archaeology’, in the artist’s words.
2018 was a whirlwind year for British-Nigerian filmmaker Jenn Nkiru. She directed music videos for Neneh Cherry and jazz musician Kamasi Washington; in June, the video for Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Apeshit (under their duo, The Carters) was released, which she worked on alongside director Ricky Saiz.
Prior to that, Nkiru debuted the arresting short Rebirth is Necessary – a powerful exploration of the black experience which encompassed archive footage of Sun Ra and the Black Panthers – on NOWNESS. The expressionistic documentary is a forebear to her latest project – Black to Techno, part of Frieze and Gucci’s short film series, Second Summer of Love, following Josh Blaaberg and Jeremy Deller.
“My hope is that all individuals with some level of curiosity can come into these things and see aspects of themselves, or at least be curious about things they don’t know,” Nkiru explains of the film, which collates archival film clips, samples, and interviews with Detroit’s music legends.
Black to Techno is the final film of a four-part project by Frieze and Gucci, Second Summer of Love.