HOW OPEN TV (BETA) BEGAN:
An introduction from creator Aymar Jean Christian
Three years ago I moved to Chicago to start an exciting new job as a professor at Northwestern University. I was scared. I didn’t know many people in the city and was not used to going out. While in grad school in Philadelphia, I mostly stayed in, kept sane by TV and frequent visits from my partner, who lived in New York. I got a lot of work done: over 400 articles on my blog Televisual and venues like Indiewire and Tubefilter, mostly essays and reports on web TV; six peer-reviewed scholarly articles on television and video production and politics; one 12-episode comedy web series and several passable documentary shorts; many conference presentations and a few research and curatorial fellowships.
Having little or no life outside of work and TV helped me snag a rare and competitive tenure-track position in academia. When I got to Chicago I realized I was too focused on work and forgot about community, that is to say, being a part of your city and your people. In school most of my friends were graduate students, and I didn’t know Philly too well. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in Chicago, so I started going to where I felt most at home, where people affirmed my identity as a queer black man. I went to performance art events, film screenings, discussions and lectures on culture and politics, and, most important, nightlife events with diverse gay and queer artists and partygoers. I could shake off stress dancing to house, hip hop and calypso. I could discuss important political issues and cultural events. Chicago welcomed me, a social newbie, with open arms.
I learned why everyone loves Chicago, even if you don’t want to leave home half the year. Slip on extra layers, lace up boots, trudge through icy sidewalks and across snowy banks and people appreciate the effort. For every time I slipped on ice running to make a performance, I made twice the connections to talented, creative people.
But the season takes it toll. During the day I started doing yoga at a friend’s apartment, partly to meet new people and partly to keep my body healthy since I was inside all day writing. Yoga was invigorating. I started to do poses at home alone. I could never remember the sequences, but I wasn’t inspired by the tutorials I saw online. Instead I started dancing alone like when I was a kid, using basic poses to stretch after warming up my body. It wasn’t very scientific, and the practice didn't last long.
Yet I was intrigued by the connection between yoga, and my dancing, inspired by my mother’s praise dancing and vogue I saw in Chicago’s queer nightlife.
“Nupita Obama Creates Vogua,” the first episode of Open TV Presents, was born. Below is a tease of Nupita Obama with one of the three gifted leads, Erik Wallace. I met Erik as a host and performer at parties and art events in Chicago. I’m so excited to have the chance to share her talent with the world: