Racial Solidarity at the Kyiv Film Factory: Black Skin, 1931—A talk by Christina Kiaer

Racial Solidarity at the Kyiv Film Factory: Black Skin, 1931—A talk by Christina Kiaer

Racial Solidarity at the Kyiv Film Factory: Black Skin, 1931—A talk by Christina Kiaer

Free admission

November 17, 2022, 7pm
172 Classon Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Join us at e-flux on Thursday, November 17 at 7pm for “Racial Solidarity at the Kyiv Film Factory: Black Skin, 1931,” a talk by Christina Kiaer.

The silent film Black Skin, produced at the Kyiv Film Factory in 1931, is based on the true story of the young black American Robert Robinson, an industrial toolmaker who was recruited from the Ford factory in Depression-era America to work in the USSR. The only black worker out of 380 American guest workers at the Stalingrad Tractor Factory, he was assaulted, shortly after his arrival, by two white American workers. They were soon tried and convicted of “national chauvinism” amidst a wave of Soviet outrage at American racial prejudice, turning Robinson into an unwilling celebrity. 

The film’s blunt title stems from journalistic accounts emphasizing that Robinson was attacked only because of the color of his skin, but the inherent sensuousness of the reference to skin, reinforced by the film’s many lingering close-ups of African actor Kador Ben-Salim’s skin, uncovers the ecstatic libidinal energies of Soviet racial solidarity and offers a possible counter-narrative to the assumption that such solidarity was always merely opportunistic or outright phony. Retrieving the liberatory possibilities of this early aesthetic of anti-racism can be part of a decolonizing practice, even if these possibilities most often turned out badly. The fact that this anti-racist film was produced by Ukrainian-Jewish artists in Ukraine, which Russia is now attempting to re-colonize in the name of Great Russian culture, only adds to the urgency of retrieving the shared material practices of a socialist solidarity and collectivity that has gone lost.

For those who can’t attend in person, the event will be livestreamed on this same page.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

–Two flights of stairs lead up to the building’s front entrance at 172 Classon Avenue.         
–For elevator access, please RSVP to program@e-flux.com. The building has a freight elevator which leads into the e-flux office space. Entrance to the elevator is nearest to 180 Classon Ave (a garage door). We have a ramp for the steps within the space.        
–e-flux has an ADA-compliant bathroom. There are no steps between the event space and this bathroom.


Race & Ethnicity, Labor & Work, Film
Black Studies, Ukraine, Soviet Union, Solidarity

Christina Kiaer is the author of Collective Body: Aleksandr Deineka at the Limit of Socialist Realism (forthcoming from University of Chicago Press) and Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism (MIT Press). She co-curated the exhibition Revolution Every Day at the Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, and co-authored the accompanying book Revolution Every Day: A Calendar (Mousse). She is currently writing a book on “Aesthetics of Anti-racism: Black Americans in Soviet Visual Culture” and recently organized the symposium “The Collective Body Dismembered: Histories of Art, Identities and the War in Ukraine” (thecollectivebody.net). She teaches art history at Northwestern University.

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