Remembrance/Vacancy: The Films of Edward Owens

  • Films of Edward Owens


The State Theatre #1 Thu, Mar 23, 2023 7:00 PM




Eastern Michigan University LGBT Resource


Curated by Emily Martin


In Conversation with Dr. Jessica Ruffin

The recent re-emergence of Edward Owens’ flash of experimental filmmaking in the New York avant-garde scene of the late ’60s has the potential to animate new discussions around a largely unknown and obscure(d) history of early Black experimental filmmaking, one that predates the films of the L.A. Rebellion. Despite the artistic merits of the work, Owens’ period as a young filmmaker was short-lived and his artistic career cut short by complicated personal issues related to addiction and mental health, which eventually led him to return to his hometown of Chicago.

By the time of his death in 2009, the very year in which Owens’ work received notice outside of the time of its creation, the artist had only carried out a series of phone interviews shortly before passing away. The timing of Owens’ death renders the task of contextualizing and understanding his artistic output and life in their full richness a considerably difficult and complex one. This program considers the historical/personal space and vacancy of Owens’ work within the void of its contextualization and historical placement in relationship to its aesthetic undercurrents.

Remembrance: A Portrait Study

New York, NY | 1967 | 6 | 16mm

Remembrance: A Portrait Study is a filmic portrait of the artist’s mother, Mildered Owens, and her friends Irene Collins and Nettie Thomas, set to a score of ’50s and ’60s hit songs. Using baroque lighting techniques, Owens captures the three women drinking and lounging one evening.

Private Imaginings and Narrative Facts

New York, NY | 1966 | 6 | 16mm (silent)

“A montage of still and moving images, mixing and alternating Black and white people,

fantasy and reality, a presidential suite and a mother’s kitchen: a sensitive, poetic evocation in the manner of the film-maker's Remembrance. Brilliantly colored and nostalgic, it comprises a magical transformation of painterly collage and still photographic sensibility into filmic time and space.” – Charles Boultenhouse

Tomorrow’s Promise

New York, NY | 1967 | 45 | 16mm (silent)

“Tomorrow’s Promise is a film about vacantness … my film could have been edited with precise tensions and a lucid straight narrative, but it was my aim to ‘recreate’ the protagonist of my personal life.” – Edward Owens

Emily Martin currently works as the Distribution Manager at the Video Data Bank. She received a Dual MA in Contemporary & Modern Art History and Arts Administration & Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her past experience includes various administrative, programming, and research activities at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Chicago History Museum, and The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University amongst others.