Gasworks presents the first UK commission by Brooklyn-based filmmakers Adam Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer in collaboration with Oba. The exhibition launches their ongoing film Nosferasta, a nightmarish chronicle of colonial encounters dating back to 1492.
Nosferasta is the first iteration of a Rastafarian vampire film starring and co-written by Oba, a Trinidadian artist and musician based in Brooklyn. Spanning 500 years of colonial destruction, human trafficking and blood sucking, the film reimagines Oba’s origin story. In the late 15th century, Oba is shipped as cargo from West Africa to the Caribbean, where he is bitten and converted by the vampire Christopher Columbus, ensuring his undying allegiance to the colonial project.
Oba claims he has three birthdays: the day he was born, the day he was bitten, and the day he killed his master.
There is a dark irony in the fact that Columbus is both a despotic father figure to Oba and his partner in crime. Engaged in unholy union, this unlikely duo spread vampirism across the Western Hemisphere, pulling the strings of ‘New World’ geopolitics until Oba’s encounter with Rastafarianism, an anticolonial religion, enables him to break Columbus’s spell.
In the film, period scenes are in tense dialogue with unscripted vignettes of Oba’s post-vampiric existence in present-day Brooklyn. These portray Oba’s real-life struggles with the colonial bureaucracy he once helped to build, including his quest for U.S. citizenship and literacy. Combining film forms and jumping across multiple timelines, locations and perspectives, Nosferasta tells the story of an ageing Rastafarian vampire at the decline of colonial empires. It examines the guilt of being complicit in imperial conquest, while acknowledging the extreme difficulty of unlearning centuries of vampiric conditioning.
Ultimately, the film tackles an uncomfortable question: How can you decolonise yourself, if it’s in your blood?
Leading to the film projection, an old roller shutter has been installed to recreate the entrance of Adam Khalil’s apartment building in Brooklyn, which was painted without permission by Oba in 2015. Made to “beautify Adam’s place, as it didn’t look good enough”, Oba’s mural featured the title ‘Nosferasta’ against a Rastafari lion symbolising Haile Selassie. It also marked the beginning of Adam and Oba’s friendship. In 2018, Oba starred in Adam Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer’s feature film Empty Metal, a sci-fi thriller set against a backdrop of racialised police brutality and mass surveillance. During its production, Oba insisted that Empty Metal was just a first step towards Nosferasta, a film telling his own story.
Welcoming the public into the gallery, Oba’s votive sculpture Nosferasta the Demon Dread Vampire (2015–2021) combines a variety of objects including various forms of currency, from cowry shells to U.S. dollars, and telephones from different eras, alluding to the world-wide expansion of communication technologies as a result of global imperialism. Oba’s demon incorporates in a single object of worship the entire universe of Nosferasta, providing a historical journey through colonial and vampiric entanglements since Columbus’s time.
Within the sculpture, Khalil and Sweitzer have installed a sound work that whispers a timeline of major events in vampire history which have shaped colonial modernity to the present day.
To accompany the exhibition, Gasworks has also published a 176-page book that explores the ever-expanding vampiric universe of Nosferasta. Printed copies will be available at the gallery from mid-November. Also available to download as an e-book here.
The film is approximately 32 minutes long and plays on a continuous loop.
An audio recording of the exhibition information is available.
Adam Khalil is a filmmaker and artist based in Brooklyn. He was raised as a member of the Ojibway tribe in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He is a core contributor to New Red Order (NRO), and a co-founder of COUSIN, a collective that supports Indigenous artists expanding the form of film. His work has featured at the Whitney Biennial, Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, and e-flux, New York; Tate Modern, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Toronto Biennial. Grants and awards include an Alpert Award in the Arts, Creative Capital, Sundance Art of Nonfiction Fellowship, Jerome Fellowship, and Gates Millennium Scholarship.
Bayley Sweitzer is a filmmaker based in Brooklyn. His work has featured at Film at Lincoln Center and Anthology Film Archives, New York; LACMA, Los Angeles; Other Cinema, San Francisco; Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate Modern, London; Bozar, Brussels; Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival; and the Berlinale. He is recipient of a Creative Capital Award. Sweitzer also works professionally as a focus puller and is a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600. He acts as a settler accomplice of the collective New Red Order (NRO).
Oba ‘the Artist and Musician’. Born Wendell Scotts in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Oba is an artist, chef and actor based in Brooklyn. His paintings, sculptures and t-shirts have featured at Motel Gallery and Rumpelstiltskin, Brooklyn. From 2016 to 2018, Oba was lead singer of the avant-noise supergroup Dead Companionship alongside Austin Sley Julian, Adam and Zack Khalil. He starred as King Alpha in Adam Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer’s 2018 film Empty Metal. Oba’s world-class corn soup has been slurped at the legendary Club Temptation in Flatbush, as well as fine establishments across the world.
Nosferasta is commissioned and produced by Gasworks, London and Spike Island, Bristol, as part of the European Cooperation project 4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture, co-funded by Creative Europe and the Royal College of Art. The film is also supported by Creative Capital and Cinereach.
Gasworks commissions are supported by Catherine Petitgas and Gasworks Exhibitions Supporters.