Critics’ Picks

Still from Conversations wit de Churen II: All My Churen, 2003.

Los Angeles

Kalup Linzy

7000 Santa Monica Blvd.
July 8–August 19

The official website for the ABC television show All My Children boasts a commitment to social issues through dramatically addressing “AIDS, abortion, teenage alcoholism, racial bias, acquaintance rape, spousal abuse, homosexuality, Reyes syndrome, Vietnam MIAs, drug abuse, the risks of motherhood over 40, safe sex and organ donations.” The odd juxtapositions alone are ripe for parody, yet Kalup Linzy’s Conversations wit de Churen II: All My Churen, 2003, maintains an unexpected sincerity while emulating daytime television drama. As the second work in a series of episodic videos, All My Churen follows the family relationships and conflicts of seven main characters, five played by Linzy. Through humorous, self-conscious performances, Linzy orchestrates a matriarchal network—grandmother, mother, sisters, and peripheral male characters—that relates feelings and gossip over cell phones and telephone lines, an action that underscores the work’s adroit dialogue; the characters’ southern dialect and slang verbiage become vehicles for semantic punning, such as the clever play on “dawg” and “dog” that proves central to the narrative. Other audio devices dally with genre, like the emotional R&B background music (composed by Linzy) and the manipulated voice-overs that delightfully muddle gender cues. While All My Churen may approximate racial stereotyping, it more arrantly points to popular entertainment trends that reveal the marketability of class concerns and family drama (like R. Kelly’s operatic saga ”Trapped in the Closet" and actor Tyler Perry’s multiple roles in Diary of a Mad Black Woman). With a perceptible reverence for the formal systems of such (pop) cultural products, Linzy exploits the soap opera with more sentiment than satire.