Friday, 15 October 2010

Reading Group discussion post

Stuart Hall Library Reading Group discussion post

Thursday 14th October

Mercer, Kobena. ‘Diaspora didn’t happen in a day: reflections on aesthetics and time’, in R. Victoria Arana (ed.) Black British aesthetics today. Cambridge Scholars, 2007.

Online participation

We received an overwhelming response to the news that we were starting a Stuart Hall Library reading group, and last night saw our very first meeting. We would like to thank everyone that attended and participated in the discussions, and we hope that many of you return for future meetings.

Each month there will be an opportunity for you to take part in our online discussion posts allowing those unable to attend a chance to participate online. And for those that did attend, this is also a space for you to continue some of the discussions that took place within the meeting. Each month we will post a summary of the key discussion points as well as opening up questions to stimulate debate. Please feel free to join in with your thoughts and ideas as well as links to other online materials, artists, cultural events as part of your response.

Key questions for discussion

During the meeting we asked a series of questions to structure the discussion:

  • Firstly, what did the group think of the text?

  • Over the past decade or two, or since the symposium in 2006, do you feel there have been significant changes in the way we think about contemporary art and also changes in the way we think about cultural diversity?

  • p.69 How do you feel about 'institutionalisation' of the arts? Does it provide a platform?

  • p.76 Has there been a shift in critical analysis from emphasis on the aesthetic to cultural policies?

  • p.78 Is 'institutionalisation' equivalent to 'commodification'?

  • p.78 Kobena Mercer states, 'The art history of the black diaspora is still an 'undiscovered country'. Are there any examples of contemporary research taking place in black British and other 'non-mainstream' visual art?

Summary of discussion

Kobena Mercer's essay is very relevant to the questions that Iniva is asking itself now, such as defining and exploring what cultural diversity means in relation to visual art. What happens when recent art is institutionalised? What is Iniva for?

Below is a summary of points raised during last night's meeting:

  • Interesting vocabulary used in that 'Black Britishness' and British Blackness' follow each other throughout, how do we define this?

  • The notion of 'Post Black' is ultimately as problematic now as it was at the time of writing. 'Post' assumes that the past is a fixed defined concept that can be agreed upon.

  • Assuming that this isn't a level playing field and assuming that the goalposts are moved each time, is it possible to create another playing field or is it more important to address the current state of play?

  • Are issues of cultural identity used to a certain extent to achieve international acclaim? There is an elementt of self exoticisation as cultural identity is merchandised. Can this help others achieve?

  • The western canon of art histories overshadow the invisible art histories. Can those in the spotlight help make those non traditional histories visible? Art education at all levels is responsible for maintaining the Eurocentric canon of art history. What about international histories and art education, how does this differ?

  • As an arts practitioner you can feel silenced by your surroundings, your peers, and by academic hierarchies as issues of cultural identity and difference prevent certain conversations. It's a way of avoiding the topic.

  • Noting the shift away of artists who don't want to focus their work on identity politics or be defined (by others and by themselves) in terms of cultural identity.Is this self censorshsip or an attempt to demand autonomy as a practicing artist?

  • 'Diaspora didn't happen in a day' seems a positive note as the essay concludes, as we tend to always look back and reflect on what has already happened, but this implies it is more of an ongoing process.

Leave your comments

To take part in the discussion please leave your thoughts and response in the comments below. We welcome all opinions and discussions, please feel free to respond to some of the key points and questions listed above, as well as elaborating on your own examples and ideas.

Next meeting

Our next reading group will take place Thursday 11th November 6:00-7:30pm. We will be reading Enwezor, Okwui. ‘Archive fever: photography between history and the monument’, in Okwui Enwezor Archive fever: uses of the document in contemporary art.

To reserve your place please email the library:

As this was our first reading group we are also very interested to hear your ideas on how you would like the reading group to progress. If you have any suggested texts for the reading group then please let us know either by emailing us or suggesting texts in the comments below.

We are also keen to hear your thoughts on possible outcomes of the group. If you have any interest in writing papers, taking part in a library symposium, or have any other ideas regarding possible outcomes then please let us know.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Reading group news

It's a whirlwind of activity in the library at the moment as we jump from our hugely successful zines event last week (thanks to all that came, we will be blogging our report of the event next week) to our new library reading group beginning next week.

We have received an overwhelming level of interest from those wanting to be a part of the reading group and we can't wait to get down to some interesting discussions and debates with you all. Our first meeting will be next Thursday 14th October 6-7:30pm and we will meet on the second Thursday of each month until March 2011.

Our first text is Kobena Mercer's essay 'Diaspora didn't happen in a day: reflections on aesthetics and time' in R. Victoria Arana (ed.) Black British Aesthetics Today. Cambridge Scholars, 2007.

You can find a copy of this text in the Stuart Hall Library for reference use only prior to the first reading group meeting.

If you are unable to attend the first meeting you can still take part in the online discussions which will appear here on the library blog. A summary of discussions will appear here on the blog following the first meeting as well as a series of follow up questions, so please feel free to take part and get involved in any way you can.

If you still haven't booked for the reading group next week please email us to reserve your place.

Monday, 4 October 2010

New library user guidelines

As the new academic year begins we are introducing new library guidelines for all new and existing library users beginning Tuesday 5th October.

Please take the time to familiarise yourself with the new procedures. If you have any questions about visiting the library and registering with us then please contact the library or contact us via the comments below.

Using the Library

New users: please fill out a registration form on arrival at Rivington Place reception and show proof of identification and current address. Hand in the completed form to staff on arrival in the library. You can download a copy of this form (see below)

Visitors: short-stay visitors are welcome to browse the library, but are required to sign in and register to use the facilities and collections.

All users: please sign the visitors' book at the Library enquiry desk.

The Library is open to the public for reference, research and browsing. Items cannot be borrowed.

Please ask Library staff for access to wireless internet and photocopying facilities. Laptops are available for use on request at the enquiry desk. Library users are discouraged from using the laptops for recreational internet use.


Please store bags, coats and jackets in the lockers provided on the ground floor. These items will not be admitted into the Library. Rivington Place reception staff will be happy to advise you.

The Library and Rivington Place accept no responsibility for the loss of or damage to Library users' personal property.

Portable scanners or other copying equipment should not be brought into the Library. Please do not use mobile phones while in the Library.

Caring for the Library space and collections

Stuart Hall Library staff are dedicated to caring for and preserving the collections. It is important that no food or drink (except water) is brought into, or consumed in the Library.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Tweet tweet

Today is International Follow a Library Day on twitter giving us all a chance to shout about our favourite libraries.

Which is perfect timing really as you can now follow The Stuart Hall Library on twitter @StuartHallLib. You can follow our daily updates, ask us questions, and find out more about related libraries and institutions to help you with your research.