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Present Tense, 2019, 3 channel video, duration 16:23 min 

The video Present Tense  - commissioned by Envisioning Justice Initiative, Illinois Humanities is collectively made with young members of the Circles & Ciphers community. This music video is inspired by Circles & Ciphers’ hip-hop infused restorative justice practice and their collective creative talent. Personal stories and communal experiences are woven together in this video to express the performers’ individuality whilst being part of a collective. Leenaars made props from cardboard which the performers interacted with. The graffiti text objects represent some of the core values Circles & Ciphers strives for: freedom, justice, community, healing, expression. The performers in the video enact a freestyle cipher and additionally perform individual freestyle raps about their own lived experiences in response to the prompt that they were given: freedom. The video shoot itself was organized as a multi-day community event in which members of Circles & Ciphers partook in the creation of the music video as authors and performers, fostering community and providing the viewer with multiple points of connection, raising awareness about the lived effects of the current justice system and prison-industrial complex.


Direction: Kirsten Leenaars
Camera: Ellie Hall, Orlando Pinder
Sound: Todd Mattei, Mickey Gral
Editor: Ellie Hall
Set Design: Kirsten Leenaars, Alexander Richard Wilson, Laura Davis, Ellie Hall, Carol Jackson


Performers Circles&Ciphers:
Akeem, Alicia, Cassius, Chris “CGG”, Dajuan Bell "Dmoney", Eemanna, George Crawley, Jay
Jonathan StClair “InRise”, Julian “Ju Jules Ju”, JV, Marshawn "Lil 85", Marko Stat$, Miquel MV, Osa North, Shane Calvin, Shay Babiie, Shiyaa “Seku”, Stephen Allen

Present Tense, 3-channel video, installation views, Sullivan Galleries, Chicago, 2019

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