Edgar Arceneaux presents Until, Until, Until…(2015), an examination of Broadway legend Ben Vereen’s controversial blackface performance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inaugural celebration. In this short feature film, Arceneaux examines Vereen’s musical number, an homage to trailblazing black vaudeville performer Bert Williams, delivered a provocative critique to the Republican audience. Shown on television a day later in a truncated version that omitted the last five minutes and subverted his critical intentions, the broadcast triggered a heated backlash and derailed Vereen’s career for decades. Arceneaux’s film, which originated as a theatrical play, restages the entire performance and restores Vereen’s original ending, reflecting on the power of media (mis)representation as well as on what can happen when an artist is completely misunderstood.
Followed by discussion with Edgar Arceneaux and Jacqueline Stewart (University of Chicago, Black Cinema House curator).
Los Angeles-based artist Edgar Arceneaux makes drawings, installations, and films as complex arrangements of association that examine relationships between disparate histories. Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Kitchen, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Studio Museum in Harlem; and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel, Switzerland. His work was recently included in Marking Time at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia; Mutatis, Mutandis, at the Vienna Secession, Vienna, Austria; the 2008 Whitney Biennial, New York; La Biennale de Montreal 2014; and the 2015 Shanghai Biennale.