Scott "Trent" Mallory '04 was one of the lucky ones. He had the chance to walk the halls and peruse the exhibits before September's grand opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC), the only national museum dedicated to African American life. Mallory was fortunate enough to get one of the most sought-after tickets in town because his work is featured in the museum's inaugural exhibition.
Mallory distorted and combined audio samples from President Barack Obama, NASA, African American music, and some of his own original electronic compositions to create a custom 40-minute soundscape to accompany Mothership (Capsule) — an eight-foot-tall, 571-pound replica of the Mercury space capsule used in the first manned mission to outer space. Afrofuturist artist Jefferson Pinder crafted the replica using tin from gutted structures in Baltimore and salvaged wood from President Obama's first inauguration platform. Mallory's score plays from a gigantic bass speaker embedded in the capsule (pictured below).
"There's a lot of cross-referencing there between African-American history and culture and the history of space exploration — what it means to accomplish something like that and what was going on at the time in African-American history while those types of accomplishments were happening," Mallory said of the piece. "Those plateaus such as space exploration were totally out of reach for African Americans. It's not meant to be didactic; it's just alluding to those references in an abstract way."
Mallory says he began to comprehend the true power of art — and his passion for it — under the guidance of his Landon art teacher Ellie Johnson (or Ms. J, as he calls her) and English teachers Matt Dougherty, Hans Farnstrom and Fred Mora.
"Ms. J showed us how to become more introspective and intuitive in how we looked at art, and that helped me to look at the world in a different way," Mallory said. "My English teachers taught me to look for recurring themes and motifs in literature — it all started to tie together with music and art for me because there are recurring motifs in music composition and painting as well. Those intuitive connections prompted me to go in the direction of the arts and keep pursuing it."
In the years since Landon, Mallory has received his bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Maryland, studied film at the London Film Academy in England and the Prague Film School in the Czech Republic, studied 3-D animation and visual effects for film at the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts in Canada, and worked in visual effects for SideFX Software in Toronto. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in visual/media arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, where he founded a TEDx chapter that has a team of 60 members and will put on an event in March 2017.
Ultimately, Mallory envisions a future where he is primarily a filmmaker because the medium combines his passions for music, visual effects, art and storytelling. "I want to bring alternate ways of thinking, alternate perspectives and alternate realities to an accessible surface through film," he said. "And I want to bring that about in an experiential way in the niche of fine arts, but on a more mainstream platform. I want it to be aesthetically pleasing without losing the integrity of the content."