Rekognize is a three-channel video installation and a meditation on photography, memory, and movement. Artist and Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma, Arrival) finds inspiration in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood, a site of the early 20th-century Great Migration.
During this time, millions of African Americans moved from the rural southern United States to cities in the north and west. The Hill District saw a flourishing of culture during these years and was a site of artistic development for luminaries such as August Wilson, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Errol Garner, and many others. Rekognize takes its visual cues from the Pittsburgh landscape, especially the city’s tunnels, which serve not only as literal entry points into the city, but also as metaphors for this movement of people and culture.
The work features Young’s footage of the Hill District, shots of Pittsburgh’s tunnels, and a translation of several Teenie Harris photographs into matrices of metadata. This digital code is also the basis for the work’s musical score by jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran. For Rekognize, Moran picks up on the patterns and visual rhythms found within the code, creating music that enters into conversation with Young’s imagery. Young and Moran’s interdisciplinary approach to Harris’s images asks us to reflect on the power of photographs from the past to inspire work today. In doing so, they blur the boundaries between still and moving image, analog and digital, and visual and auditory experiences.