Corrupt Still

“Corrupt,” color HD, experimental video, 2016. Forthcoming from Vtape.

Shot on November 25, 2014 in the wake of the police murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner that sparked protests against police violence, “Corrupt” is an experimental video culled from corrupted images taken at a Black Lives Matter protest in Toronto.


When Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the wake of a grand jury’s refusal to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson in fall 2014, I grabbed the only camera I had available at the time, a Canon 50D, to do an impromptu documentation of the Toronto protest against anti-Black police violence.

The Canon 50D is a still photography camera released in 2008 without the video capabilities of later Canon DSLRs. But the open source Magic Lantern software offered new possibilities for the 50D, allowing me to hack the camera and enable it to shoot video of the protest. With the hack, however, came numerous technical issues: no internal image stabilization, bizarre artifacts in the image whenever I moved the camera, and periodic corrupted “pink” frames.

When I looked at the footage after, I immediately felt that the “unusable” parts of the video perhaps offered the most expressive way to capture the affect and trauma that spurred the event. So I decided to make two videos from the footage: the first was a brief, traditional documentary portrait of the protest that removed all of the “unusable” footage; the second is this experimental rendering of the event culled only from digital artifacts and corrupted frames.

As such, “Corrupt” offers a visual and formal metaphor for the systemic abuses that lead to rampant anti-Black state violence: corruption and racism within institutions, failures of the (in)justice system, obfuscation of the realities of racist state violence, distortions of factual accounts and representations of police violence, and the silencing/rendering invisible of the quotidian violence in the lived experiences of Black people in the U.S. and Canada.