Friday, 1 July 2016

Black Arts Magazines in the Critical Decade

As part of DIY Cultures festival (produced and curated by Hamja Ahsan & Helena Wee of Other Asias, and Sofia Niazi of OOMK magazine) the library recently organised a workshop and discussion about the history of black arts magazines in the UK. Recordings are available at the bottom of the page.



Drawing on the unique holdings at the Stuart Hall Library, artist Joy Gregory and writer, curator and artist David A. Bailey were in conversation with librarian Nick Brown to discuss the importance and contemporary relevance of these magazines. 
The period from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s saw the emergence of arts magazines such as Black PhoenixArtrageBlack Arts in LondonBazaar,EchoPolareyesTen.8, and Third Text which dealt specifically with the work of British Black and Asian artists or engaged in a broader cultural and political struggle over the politics of representation.


Some of these magazines were self-published while others came about through Arts Council funding but all engaged in grassroots organisation and can be understood as part of a wider struggle for social justice. They gave expression to a generation of artists whose work represented a new politicisation around issues of cultural identity, particularly the intersections of race, gender, class and difference. As David A. Bailey and Stuart Hall wrote in Ten.8;
"It maps out the terrain of black cultural politics during a period of rapid and turbulent change which encompassed several major paradigm shifts in both theory and practice, and was marked by a powerful synergy between race, politics and representation." (p. 4, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1992.)

The workshop consisted of Joy Gregory (artist) and David A. Bailey (artist, writer and curator) in conversation with Nick Brown (Librarian at the Stuart Hall Library, Iniva). David worked on and wrote for magazines including Ten.8 and Third Textand has long been a participant in and organiser of the exhibitions and issue that form the context of these publications. Joy is a key member of the group of artists that emerged during this period and her work was often featured in the magazines. The conversation introduced some key publications and attempted to critically situate them, as well as give an opportunity for participants to browse the magazines. Produced during a time of cuts in public services and welfare, increasing social division and a dominant narrative in the popular press of racism and xenophobia the current importance of these magazines might be as a tool to help inform an emergent generation of cultural activists now facing an intensification of these same issues.


David A Bailey MBE is a photographer, writer, curator, lecturer and cultural facilitator who lives and works in London. David A Bailey's practice is focused on the issues that relate to the question of representation in the areas of photography, performance and artists' film. These interests have informed his appointment as an adviser, and subsequent curator with Autograph (ABP) and the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) in 1994. One of his main concerns is the notion of diaspora in art. He co-curated the ground-breaking exhibitions Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance with Richard J Powell at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1997, and Back to Black: Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary with Petrine Archer-Straw and Richard J Powell at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 2005. David A Bailey has written extensively about visual art and performance. From 1996 to 2002, he was Co-Director of the African and Asian Visual Artists Archive (AAVAA) at the University of East London. From 2005 to 2009, he was Senior Curator of Autograph (ABP), and from 2005 to 2011 he was a Curator at Platform for the Remember Saro-Wiwa Living Memorial. Since 2006, he has been the founder and Director of the International Curators Forum, and between 2009 and 2010, he was the Acting Director of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas in Nassau.  David A Bailey was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2007, for services to art.
Joy Gregory is a graduate of Manchester Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art. She has developed a practice which is concerned with social and political issues with particular reference to history and cultural differences in contemporary society. In 2002, Gregory received the NESTA Fellowship, which enabled her the time and the freedom to research for a major piece around language endangerment. The first of this series was the video piece Gomera, which premiered at the Sydney Biennale in May 2010. She is the recipient of numerous awards and has exhibited all over the world showing in many festivals and biennales. Her work included in many collections including the UK Arts Council Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, and Yale British Art Collection. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Susan Stockwell & Dr Christine Shaw-Checinska in converstation



The artist Susan Stockwell engaged the library audience with a revealing insight into her art practice at our Clothes Cloth and Culture Group event last week. Susan's work is concerned with ecology, geo-politics, mapping, trade and history. She talked with Dr Christine Shaw-Checinska about the notion of 'the creative spirit'; how 'Eureka' moments of inspiration are sparked by the process of making. In a practice informed by research into the materials she chooses, such as rubber and tea, Susan's work makes connections to their historical, economic and social meanings.

If you missed the event, you can read more on our webpage and listen to an audio recording of the conversation- streamed below.



Friday, 29 April 2016

Library Exhibition: Migration Dreams and Nightmares - visit or watch the video

Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta's exhibition in the Stuart Hall Library responds to themes of migrant experience in John Berger and Jean Mohr’s novel A Seventh Man. Watch a video (below) about Alia Syed's site-specific film installation On a Wing and a Prayer, currently on show until 31 May 2016.



John Berger and Jean Mohr's book, A Seventh Man, first published in 1975, is an intense exploration of the individual and collective experience of migration from departure to work and return but which also has timely resonances with the hopes and fears that are driving the movements of current migrants and refugees
The exhibition features Syed's new film On a Wing and a Prayer, created especially for the library, and will continue to evolve over its duration. The film imaginatively recreates the journey undertaken by Abdul Rahman Haroun who in August 2015 walked the entire 31 mile length of the Channel Tunnel in a bid to find asylum in the UK. He was arrested by the police and charged under the 1861 Malicious Damage Act. His trial is ongoing. For this installation the film is inserted into a book (a register of ships, evoking other migrations) and accompanied by maps of London and England overlaid with graphs visualising patterns of migration drawn from Berger's book.
The exhibition also features Traits and Lines #1, an artist's book created by Nadia Perrotta telling stories collected through interviews of migrants from her native southern Italy to the UK as well as with migrants from West Africa to Italy. The book is presented as parallel English and Italian texts and overlaid drawings. In the text she draws on her own experience of migration and with helping Anglophone communities from West Africa settle in Italy. The interviews provide the source material for a video work, I Hope for Something Good (2015), which builds to a cacophony of overlaid voices in multiple languages. Perrotta has also crystallised objects washed up on the Thanet shoreline that are evocative of the journeys undertaken.
The exhibition is part of a larger project, Migration Dreams and Nightmares, led by sociologists Nirmal Puwar and Mariam Motamedi Fraser from the Methods Lab at Goldsmiths and includes a concurrent exhibition at Goldsmiths, University of London, as well as three seminars focusing on ‘the ways in which dreams, hopes, promises and aspirations are enfolded into the experiences of migration; specifically the connection between migrants' dreams and the nightmarish qualities of migration.'
A recording of the opening panel discussion with the artists and Nirmal Puwar (Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths) and Ashwani Sharma (Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, UEL) is available below.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Establishing National Pavilions: Roma and Seychelles

Timea Junghaus, Daniel Baker and Delaine Le Bas (artwork Dusan Ristic)

The Stuart Hall Library Research Network's first event of 2016 was a discussion of the issues and experiences behind setting up pavilions for two previously unrepresented nations at the Venice Biennial. The first Roma Pavilion was established in 2007 and the first Seychelles Pavilion in 2015.

For those of you who missed it, audio recordings of the event are available at the bottom of this blog post.

The audience heard accounts of the experiences of artists and curators who instigated and participated in both pavilions. The Roma Pavilion curator Timea Junghaus talked to us from Budapest via Skype and Roma artists Daniel Baker and Delaine Le Bas were here in person.
Artist and researcher Nitin Shroff; commissionaire for the Seychelles Pavilion appeared in person and talked to artist Léon Radegonde in the Seychelles via telephone.

Nitin Shroff

The artists and curators shared their views on the implications of participation in and recognition by an international art exhibition for national and cultural identity.

Read more about the stories of the pavilions and about the speakers on our webpage



Friday, 4 December 2015

Migration Dreams and Nightmares

Stuart Hall Library Research Network Event 19 November 2015
To listen to audio recordings of the event, please scroll down.



A panel discussion to mark the opening of Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta’s exhibition in the library which responds to themes of migrant experience in John Berger’s novel 'A Seventh Man' (1973).

The panellists were Nirmal Purwar (Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths) Ashwani Sharma (Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, UEL), Nadia Perrotta (artist) Alia Syed (artist nominee for the 2015 Jarman Award).

Alia Syed, On a Wing and a Prayer (film still) 2015
Alia Syed showed her hypnotic film 'On a Wing and a Prayer' recording her walk through the alien environment of the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Alia was invited to respond to Berger's 'The Seventh Man' as part of  the Goldsmiths Methods Lab Project  Migration Dreams and Nightmares. Alia had been affected by a news story about the asylum seeker, Abdul Rahman Haroun, who had walked the 31 miles through the Channel Tunnel. Her film recreates the claustrophobia and fear that Haroun experienced during his nightmarish journey. 

Alia Syed and Nadia Perrotta

Nadia Perrotta interviewed six migrants during a journey to and from her native Italy and the UK. Her artists' book, 'Traits and Lines #1' contains transcripts of the interviews in English and Italian and overlapping drawings of the migrants. Nadia stressed the unique identities of the migrants by capturing the inaccuracies and idioms of language used by each individual. Her 'Crystalised Objects Archive' is also on display in the library which contains alum-coated flotsam collected from the Thanet shoreline, with echoes of dangerous migratory sea-crossings .

Ash Sharma and Nirmal Puwar
The artists' presentations were followed by reposes to the works from Ash and Nirmal, a lively discussion by the panel and questions from the audience.

The library exhibition is part of a larger project, Migration Dreams and Nightmares, led by Nirmal Puwar and Mariam Motamedi Fraser from the Methods Lab at Goldsmiths University of London. A concurrent exhibition and seminars at Goldsmiths "Migrating Dreams + Nightmares: Materials and Movement" Nov 2015-April 2016.



Thursday, 5 November 2015

Sound, Space and Identity

Sound artists Ain Bailey, Chris Weaver and John Wynne talked about their practice and research at the 29 October 2015 Stuart Hall Library Research Network event. It was an informative and interesting evening, and, we believe, the first event in the library dealing with audio art practice and research. 


Ain Bradley
Each of the artists engages in different ways with identity, space, field recordings, representation and the problem of the ethnographic gaze.

Chris Weaver
The audience learned about the concept of identity expressed in the form of a sonic autobiography and how ambient sound can be seen as an indicator of prosperity. We listened to audio-collage compositions, field recordings in Pakistan and speakers of almost extinct languages from Northern Canada and South Africa. 


John Wynne
Many other original ideas and research centering on the acoustic world were revealed in the course of the presentations. You can read more about the presenters on our webpage, and listen to the audio recordings of the event (see below)



Thursday, 29 October 2015

No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990

Keith Piper, Errol Lloyd, Makeda Coaston and Dr. Michael McMillan at Stuart Hall Library, October 2015
The Stuart Hall Library Research Network returned last week with an event about the Guildhall Art Gallery's exhibition ‘No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990’ (10 July 2015 - 24 January 2016)

If you missed the event, the audio recordings of the talks and discussion are available at the bottom of this post.


Curators Makeda Coaston and Dr. Michael McMillan and artist Errol Lloyd talked about their archival research for the exhibition, the curatorial challenges and recalled personal experiences from the blossoming of Black British Art during the period.







No Colour Bar features art work from twenty Black British artists from the 1960s to the 1990s. The speakers explained why the focus of the exhibition is Eric and Jessica Huntley; radical activists and founders of a London publishing house and bookshop. The Huntleys played a vital role in promoting black culture and visual arts in the 60s and 70s and the impressive recreation of their Walter Rodney Bookshop is the centrepiece of the exhibition.

Monday, 12 October 2015

LETTER FROM ABROAD: Encountering Jozi Style

Dr Christine Checinska
Associate Researcher, VIAD, University of Johannesburg

Founder and Convener of the Clothes, Cloth & Culture Group, Iniva, London

Exhibition Installation View, Hypersampling Identities, Jozi Style, FADA Gallery (Ground Floor), University of Johannesburg. Photograph by Thys Dullaart, Image Courtesy of VIAD Research Centre


Groundbreaking, energetic, innovative, vibrant, robust, boisterous, vital…

All words that could be used to describe the University of Johannesburg, Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre’s, (VIAD), recent series of ‘Encounters’ designed to examine the refashioning of masculinities within contemporary black cultural movements in Johannesburg.

Under the title (Re)-Fashioning Masculinities: Identity, Difference, Resistance, the ‘Encounters’ took as their departure point the concurrent exhibition ‘Hypersampling Identities: Jozi Style.’[1] The exhibition showcased the work of young homegrown male designers and design collectives as well as that of photographers, sartorial groups and ‘trend setters’. The Isikothane were amongst the featured groups, whilst the Sartists and the Khumbula were amongst the prominent design collectives on show. The cultural practitioners included Jamal Nxedlana. Many of the contributors referenced the Pantsulas and the Swenkas; more established black cultural movements. I was invited to deliver key lectures and a performative response. Since the work that I have been engaged in over the past fifteen years, including the setting up of the Clothes, Cloth and Culture Group here in the Stuart Hall Library, has been concerned with the relationship between fashion, textiles, culture and race, I was only to happy to do this.


Exhibition Installation View, Hypersampling Identities, Jozi Style, FADA Gallery (Ground Floor), University of Johannesburg. Photograph by Thys Dullaart, Image Courtesy of VIAD Research Centre


Our three-day debate wrestled with the concept of ‘hypersampling’ itself, the performance of masculine identities through the intermeshing of music, dance, gesture and dress, the ever-present hierarchies of power and value based primarily on race and culture, self-representation by referencing the past and by referencing an imagined future, the consumption of (global) African styles, critical ‘whiteness’/critical ‘blackness’, i.e. positionality and mindful analysis, and the notion of the Black Dandy. As expected, and indeed as I had hoped, we raised far more questions than we were able to answer.

The astute facilitation of the VIAD team – Leora Farber, Claire Jorgensen, Maria Fidel Rigueros – ensured that the tensions between voices, that at times clearly sat on the opposite sides of a given argument, were held and used to creative effect, generating un-familiarly rich intellectual discussions. Particularly refreshing was the insistence on the foregrounding of the work produced by the practitioners. This calls to mind the artist Sonia Boyce’s recent critique of the confounding brushing aside of certain artists’ work in order to solely focus on issues connected to race. The two must be addressed; the work itself and the political debates emanating from the work.

Ó Christine Checinska, October 4th 2015


[1] ‘Hypersampling Identities: Jozi Style’ was produced by VIAD in association with VIAD post-doctoral fellow Daniela Goeller and Lifestyle and Pop Culture Trend Analyst, Nicola Cooper. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

New displays: Fanon and Black Phoenix

To mark the 20th anniversary of Iniva’s exhibition ‘Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire’ held at The Institute of Contemporary Art in May 1995 and the current Autograph ABP exhibition ‘Frantz Fanon’ by Bruno Boudjelal at Rivington Place (2 October – 5 December 2015) we've created a new display of selected works by or about Frantz Fanon available in the library.


An upcoming symposium at the ICA on the 31st of October will reflect on the relevance of these ideas today and asks 'Where are we now in relation to structural violence, de-colonising culture and relations, and the power of aesthetics and its explorations of complex formations of racial identities?'




You can also currently see a display in the library of the three existent issues of Black Phoenix, Rasheed Araeen's pioneering journal dedicated to post-colonial visual arts. The first issue contained his 'Preliminary notes for a Black Manifesto'. The journal later became Third Text, which is still going strong today.



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

At Home with Vanley Burke at IKON Gallery, Birmingham

22 July – 27 September 2015  

A reflection by Dr Christine Checinska, VIAD, University of Johannesburg

At Home with Vanley Burke, Ikon Gallery 2015
Photo: Stuart Whipps 
Referred to as the ‘Godfather of Black British photography’, Burke (born Jamaica, 1951) is also a dedicated archivist and collector of objects relating to black culture in Britain. Ikon presents At Home with Vanley Burke, an exhibition of the entire contents of Burke’s flat in Nechells, north-east Birmingham.[1]

Indeed the entire first floor of the gallery is given over to almost the entire contents of Mr Burke’s flat; everything save his bed, his computer (a MAC) and his desk I believe.

What follows is a reflection on what is a totally enthralling show - one that gives the viewer not only a unique insight into the artist’s world but also a glimpse into the everyday worlds of Britain’s African and Caribbean communities.

Entering the space, via a white-walled corridor in which paintings, photographs, posters and ‘African’ busts have been hung, the viewer immediately becomes part of what is essentially a living archive. This living archive shifts and changes in emphasis and energy, depending on who inhabits it. A large mirror at the entrance ensures that we are all included in the show as accidental exhibits,[2] just as Burke himself becomes the subject of his own enquiry. As one moves through the space, the overriding feeling is one of being 'wrapped in domesticity'; a particular kind of domesticity that is African Caribbean at it’s root but is connected to the basic human need for a sense of home, for a sense of belonging. But it is not only the distinctive décor that places this space within our community; the near constant soul, ska and reggae soundtrack emanating from the stereo in Burke’s living room provides an unmistakably Caribbean diaspora pulse.


At Home with Vanley Burke, Ikon Gallery 2015
Photo: Stuart Whipps 
Walking from Burke’s reconstructed office, to the front room, to the kitchen and back, I was reminded of Walter Benjamin’s meditation on the packing and unpacking of his library. In his essay Benjamin considers the relationship that a book collector has to his books. He suggests that the act of collecting is of equal importance to the collector as the collection itself; the act of acquiring possessions linked as it is, according to Benjamin, to memory. The ‘poles of order and disorder’ that the collector attempts to straddle by creating order out of the chaos of books, in Benjamin’s case, parallel our attempts as Caribbean migrants to hold the tension between attempting to settle in a new homeland and the longing to return to the old one, whilst all the while navigating a ‘Mother Country’ that did not always welcome us as a good mother should. The fastidious tidiness of the piles of VHS videos, the towers of newspapers, the books, souvenirs, trinkets, golliwogs, shackles and other ironmongery relating to enslavement, not to mention the many photographs, carvings, collages and paintings, seem to create a precarious order out of such disorderly emotions.

At Home with Vanley Burke, Ikon Gallery 2015
Photo: Stuart Whipps 
Just as Benjamin’s relationship to his numerous volumes is not based on an emphasis on function and ‘utilitarian value’, the unused objects in Burke’s front room, for example, metamorphose into symbols, able to unlock memories – the artist’s and our own. Benjamin observes that the personal memories of the archivist stem from the intimate relationship between collector and object. It is as though the objects bare a trace of the owner: ‘not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.’ The things inside Burke’s home, through their initial acquisition and handling, bare traces of their life journeys, at once personal history and, in my opinion, an underrepresented aspect of British social history. The reconstructed bedroom is home to a 1950s prom-dress belonging to Burke’s mother, for example, and the dressing table is the resting place for a tablecloth hand-stitched by her mapping different points in her life by capturing the signatures, and therefore memories of certain people that she has met. There are also the now familiar gaudy porcelain figurines nestling inside brightly colored, starched crochet doilies - once highly fashionable, but now highly kitsch. In a sense, over time these unused objects increase in perceived value and become ‘sacrelized’, to cite Igor Kopytoff. This is especially the case for the objects destined to be re-housed in the Library of Birmingham archives. This is precisely the sort of transformation that intrigues Burke. He states: ‘I collect these things but they are not mine.’ And ‘there is a sense in which the collection has gone beyond me.’
At Home with Vanley Burke, Ikon Gallery 2015
Photo: Stuart Whipps 
Perhaps the most surprising discovery about Burke is the way in which he has brought his creativity to bare across so many genres beyond photography. There are barbed wire sculptures, costumes including a man’s suit jacket fashioned out of the pages from the book of Genesis, collages such as the painstakingly constructed Council of Voices (a nine year project), large-scale naïve paintings and carvings. He freely admits that his home is not about preciousness. It is about the expression of a remarkable creative energy – the artworks are nailed to the walls. One is left with the impression that Burke’s creative practices and collecting are unbounded and unceasing.

As curator Watkins concludes; Vanley Burke’s home truly is a ‘cabinet of wonderful curiosities’!

Christine Checinska, 26th August 2015 All rights reserved. Images courtesy IKON Gallery
 More details on the Ikon Gallery website 

[1] Text from IKON exhibition guide

[2] Furthermore, on the day of my visit I was served tea in the ‘kitchen’ and challenged to a game of dominoes by the artist.