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Black To Techno, A New Documentary On Detroit Techno By Jean Nkiru

Black To Techno, a new film directed by artist Jean Nkiru is now available in full online. Nkiru has directed music videos for Neneh Cherry, jazz musician Kamasi Washington and she worked alongside director Ricky Saiz on the video for Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Apeshit (under their duo, The Carters). She debuted the short film ‘Rebirth Is Necessary‘ in 2017. The expressionistic documentary is a forerunner to her latest project – Black to Techno.

Black To Techno explores the origins of the genre in Detroit, correlating the industrial machine-like production lines of the city’s once-thriving automobile manufacturing legacy and the roots of black music in drum patterns and percussive shifts. Part history lesson, part visual art project, it examines how the music found a parallel spirit in the post-reunification of Berlin in the early ’90s. The film knits together a multi-layered narrative, structured with a nod to public access television. “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. Nkiru has termed her amalgamation of artifacts – of archival film, music, and speech – as “cosmic archaeology,” which she defines as unearthing bits of information she finds and putting them back together. The question she hopes the resulting film will answer is simple: “How can we become more familiar with ideas that are from our past?”

Black To Techno features contributions from pioneering spoken-word and hip-hop group The Last Poets and Detroit DJs Stacey Hotwaxx, DJ Minx and DJ Holographic. It is one of four films commissioned by Frieze in their Second Summer Of Love Series. The films include Jeremy Deller’s acid house documentary Everybody in The Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992. All four films were premiered at The Store X in Berlin for Gallery Weekend 2019.

Watch the full film below.