William Greaves’s cinematic social experiment, In the Company of Men, encapsulates many of the central themes present in Jessica Vaughn’s exhibition, Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful, specifically how Black bodies have been historically marginalized within the workplace. Commissioned by Newsweek magazine in 1969, the film chronicles the racial tension between labor and management at a southern auto plant. Greaves employed socioodrama, a therapeutic methodology pioneered by psychiatrist J.L. Moreno, as a means to investigate the complexities inherent in this power dynamic.
This program was free and open to the public, and conducted virtually via Zoom.
Live captioning was provided for this program by Caption Access.
Louis Massiah is an independent filmmaker who explores historical and political subjects. His producing and directing credits include: Trash (1985), The Bombing of Osage Avenue (1986), Cecil B. Moore (1987), W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices (1995), and Louise Alone Thompson Patterson: In Her Own Words (2002). He also produced two films for the PBS series, Eyes on the Prize II (1990). In addition to his film work, Massiah founded the Scribe Video Center, a West Philadelphia-based media arts organization that provides training and resources to emerging filmmakers and community members in an effort to use film/video as a means for progressive social change. He is a recipient of numerous accolades, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 1996.
Jonathan Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen Professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he is a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor. Moreno is highly regarded in the field of medical ethics, often sharing his insights and expertises through various mediums. His latest project is a podcast series he co-hosts with Dr. Zeke Emanuel (the architect of the Affordable Care Act) called Making the Call, which grapples with the ethical dilemmas society faces in response to the novel Coronavirus. Moreno’s father, psychiatrist J. L. Moreno, developed the therapeutic approach that was used in Greaves’s film. He chronicles his father’s work in his book, Impromptu Man: J.L. Moreno and the Origins of Psychodrama, Encounter Culture, and the Social Network (2014).
Alex Pittman is a Term Assistant Professor of Critical Interdisciplinary Studies and the Assistant Director for Teaching and Learning Initiatives at the Center for Engaged Pedagogy of Barnard College. His research and teaching connect the analysis of culture in a networked age with the historical study of sexuality and racial formation. Pittman’s book-in-progress, Capital in the Flesh: Constrained Intimacies in Black Art after Deindustrialization, examines the politics of gender in the work of Black theatrical, performing, and visual artists who grapple with transformations of labor and social reproduction in the United States since 1968. His research can be found and is forthcoming in Camera Obscura, Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts, Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, and Social Text’s Periscope.
Support for Jessica Vaughn: Our Primary Focus Is To Be Successful has been provided by the Inchworm Fund. The Inchworm Fund is an endowment created to respond to ICA’s spirit of exploration, supporting artists and curators in their quest to uncover the unknown through multiyear research, exhibition, publication, and conversation. In naming the fund, visionary Philadelphia patron Daniel W. Dietrich, II wished to attract fellow contributors, encouraging ICA to reach and expand toward new possibilities.
This project is supported in part by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Martos Gallery, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Danielle Mandelbaum Anderman, Dorothy & Martin Bandier, Julie & Lawrence Bernstein, Cheri & Steven Friedman, Kirk Kirkpatrick, Josephine Magliocco, Patricia & Howard Silverstein, and Meredith & Bryan Verona.