Portia Cobb, Interdisciplinary Artist
b.1954 Bronx, NY
As an artist, I have typically been a maker of short, single-channel, non-linear documentary video’s since 1989. While a Graduate student at San Francisco State University, in its “experimental film” program-my early work originated in 16 mm film, but my Graduate Thesis, No Justice No Peace! Young Black ImMEDIAte (1991) was completed using small format analog video (hi-8). It was a new medium, was cost effective and offered the freedom of accessibility.
Today, I work in HD media formats (video, sound & photography). I describe my body of work as one that is hybrid: part personal diary, ethnographic field notebook, & documentary essay,
I am deeply interested in themes of memory and forced forgetting, home, rooted identity, flight, flux, reclamation and restoration. My inspiration is fueled by a personal quest to examine the condition of my own dual identity and cultural heritage as an uprooted Gullah Geechee woman.
In 1999, I began returning to the interiors of Low Country South Carolina, to my family’s homestead. Time spent there greatly impacted me as an artist and academic.
This is when I began to build an archive of recorded oral histories, and other site specific media that would include photographic essay and moving image. These documents chronicle a past which is still present.
My method is to collect, contextualize and discover.
The harvested materials from this collection of information-and their “chance” arrangement, often commands radical forms and new genres. Parts are temporal, ephemeral and performative-leading me to claim and embrace a practice that is experiential and cinematically expansive. There are times that I enter the frame as re-enactor, or step beyond it-in the field.
This way of working has pushed me, the artist to become the medium for the story; and has allowed me to activate my own radical black imagination and aesthetic, fluidly-where I hold space for my work to be projected on screens, looped on monitors in the gallery, experienced as temporal mixed-media installation or as collaborative open air-performances.
Current work, is a great example of this: Rooted: The Storied Land, Memory and Belonging, 2017-18, activates a praxis allowing space for interactive and collaborative conjuring-where documentary fragments are bridged with re-imagined, reclaimed and rewritten histories.