Sun Ra’s cinematic vehicle of “alter-destiny” and Afro-futurism, Space is the Place is a combination neo-blaxploitation, sci-fi, performance footage, and a signal to his brothers and sisters that Outer Space is indeed the place for salvation. In it, the avant-jazz composer, musician, poet, and prophet plays himself, returning to Earth from a new and distant planet in his music-powered space ship and on “the other side of time.” Shot in 1970s Oakland, California, Ra brings with him a plea to young black folks to return with him to Outer Space, where they can really exist, as “alter-destiny” posits, in “a zone where racism [is] inoperative, where blacks [can] make their own destinies” (Jon Pareles, the New York Times). After a card game with satanic overlord The Overseer, a concert for the world with inspiring footage of his Arkestra band, and an assassination attempt by the FBI, Ra rescues his people just in time. With its low-budget special effects, wild plot, and apocalyptic message, Space is the Place is truly “a film about time, history, and black America. It is the cinematic realization of Ra’s cosmic harmonic consciousness linked to a searing indictment of the political and social realities of the African American urban experience” (David C. Wall, Black Camera).
This film and Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (December 6th) are both showing in conjunction with the Portland Art Museum exhibition series We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments and its final iteration entitled MONUMENTS. The Earth Expedition of Sun Ra with a special film ticket price of $5. Created in partnership with Deep Underground (Bethlehem Daniel, Madenna Ibrahim, Mia O’Connor-Smith, and Janessa Narciso), MONUMENTS is a multimedia presentation of film, music, and art by Afrofuturist, artist, musician, and philosopher Sun Ra (active on Earth 1934-1993). Film tickets include Museum admission; attendees are encouraged to visit the exhibition ahead of the films.