Friday, 22 February 2013

From the Artists' Book Collection

At Stuart Hall Library we have a great interest in texts and objects that will tell us more about culture and creativity. So we decided to start collecting artists' books, and have been doing so for the past three years. Some have been donated to us, others have been actively searched for and purchased.

We were impressed and beguiled by the beautiful books on display as part of Iniva's Peter Clarke exhibition Wind Blowing on the Cape Flats, and felt inspired to display some of our own artists' books in the library.

Each book has its own narrative of ideas, influences and processes of production. Much of this remains hidden to the viewer/reader. But we hope that visitors will enjoy the books as objects in their own right, as well as being aware of the power they have to tell a story about a wider artistic practice or project.

Photo by Christa Holka.
Natasha de Betak's Nightshade is a collection of photographs of individuals at rest, in dream-like poses. The book is hard-bound and made from handmade paper, with its own slip case. It arrived in the post from the artist wrapped in pink and purple tissue paper tied with a black ribbon, like a present.

Alongside Nightshade is Faye De Gannes' Inside the Coco, which has been discussed previously on the Stuart Hall Library blog. This book, a tribute to Faye's late mother, is handmade and concertinaed, with lush photography of the countryside in Trinidad.

Photo by Christa Holka.
Faye had visited the library to gain inspiration from the collection before making her own book. Hormazd Nariewalla 's Dead Man's Patterns (above) is one of the books that caught her eye. The book originates from Hormazd's residency at a Savile Row tailor's company.

These books are on open display to enable visitors to handle and explore them, in order to gain a sense of what the artist aimed to achieve.

Smaller books are on display in our cabinets: My Travel Journal by Yukina Narita is a small box of thirty-four individual cards with illustrations of places visited by the artist. Sofa, by Jessica Jane Charleston is a six-page, black and white photocopied booklet demonstrating the simple but effective aesthetics of a zine. Paul Salt's River Thinking: Prague One Year After the Floods of August 2002 reflects his interest in environment and landscape.

Shelagh Atkinson's Lost, Found and Kept series of '6-fold' small books are exploring, in her words, 'the playfulness of the English language', using red print in '12-point Helvetica bold, a typeface that wants to be read, neutral and functional'. Red Diaper 'explores the twin themes of identity and relationship through text and imagery', while Face It documents 'thoughts and ideas testifying to the imperfect beauty of the human'.

Leo Asemota's Testimony is part of a bigger project, The Ens Project, which is 'informed by the Igue ceremony to the Head practiced by the Edo people of Benin City, the Victorian age of invention, exploration and conquest and Walter Benjamin’s seminal treatise on art in the technological age'. The book, A5 and concertinaed in format, has an archival quality, which can be experienced by the beautifully filmed Reading of Leo Asemota's Testimony by Brendan McGinty in which the viewer watches the book being opened, and the pages turned.

Most artists' books at the library are not on the open shelves, but visitors are welcome to see them on request.

From the Artists' Book Collection will be on display until 31 March.

For more information, contact us.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Stuart Hall Library Research Network, second meeting, 28 Februrary 2013

Research Network meeting. Photo by Christa Holka.

Join us for our second Research Network meeting of talks and discussions.

Jessica Carden will present Contemporary Visual Representations of the Non-White Figure in the Arctic Landscape: British Colonial Constructions of the ‘Heart of Whiteness’ and the Black-White Binary as Fetish

'A recent British Film Institute review of John Akomfrah's Mnemosyne written by Sukhdev Sandhu [2010] stated, “Mnemosyne is part of a small but noticeable trend for black artists – among them Isaac Julien in True North (2004) and Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) in Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctic (2009) – to mine the creative potential of spaces seen as literally and symbolically white.” Taking the BFI article as a catalyst for my investigation, I will present three contemporary artist film and video case studies - each from Black-British filmmakers - using the Arctic landscape as a space to discuss issues of race, migration and belonging. These include Isaac Julien's True North [2004], John Akomfrah's Mnemosyne [2010] and Grace Ndiritu's Pole to Pole [2009]. Framed in the context of the British colonial construction of the Arctic territory and its place in the public imagination, I aim to unearth the significance of the artist’s appropriation of arctic space'.

Jessica is a first year PhD student within TrAIN: Transnational Research Centre for Art, Identity and Nation at Chelsea, University of the Arts, London.

Dr Saër Maty Bâ will be a discussant for the evening, responding to Jessica’s presentation and contextualising it via a short discussion. Saër has taught film studies and visual culture at the universities of Bangor, East London, Portsmouth, Exeter, and St Andrews (UK). His research blurs boundaries between diaspora, film, media, race, and cultural studies. His articles and reviews have appeared in journals such as Film International, Studies in Documentary Film, Transnational Cinemas, Cultural Studies Review, Culture Machine, and Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies (forthcoming).
Space is limited in the library, so if you have not already done so please contact us to book a place.

Meetings will take place monthly on Thursdays, in the library, 2nd floor of Rivington Place from 6.30-8pm.


1 Rivington Place


London EC2A 3BA

For more information or to submit a proposal to present at future meetings, email us .

Monday, 11 February 2013

Stuart Hall Library Research Network, 31 January 2013

Research group. Photo by Christa Holka.

Thanks to all those who attended the first Research Network meeting at Stuart Hall Library. We had a great turn out of interested students, curators, academics and other curious visitors who listened to, then engaged enthusiastically with the presentations by Karinna Gulias and Kim Bagley.

Karinna Gulias. Photo by Christa Holka.
Karinna discussed her 'Avoiding an epistemological approach to reading poetry', demonstrating her method by presenting a close reading of Rainer Maria Rilke's A Woman's Fate, translated by Stephen Cohn.  The discussion raised issues relating to the processes of translation and interpretation, as well as the difficulty of placing language and meaning out of 'context'.

Ceramicist Kim Bagley's presentation of her work in progress, 'Africa and the West: a contested conversation in modern contemporary ceramics' focused on the 'extermination tents which sprung from observing a specific local extermination method ...which resonate with draped construction sites, tent cities and refugee camps...' in Durban, South Africa. Group members enjoyed seeing examples of Kim's work, both during the presentation and also by handling small versions of the works, being able to examine the shape and texture. The discussion of Kim's work was far-ranging, including concepts of the local and global as evidenced in the title of her presentation which used 'Africa' rather than the more local 'South Africa'.

Kim Bagley. Photo by Christa Holka.

The Stuart Hall Library Research Network is a meeting place for discussion of practice-based or more conventional forms of research that may include: curatorial practice; visual arts; global art; film and media; cultural studies; cultural activism; postcolonial studies; literary studies, including criticism and theory.

Next meeting: Thursday 28 February 2013, 6.30-8.30

For more information and to submit a proposal to present at a future meeting, email Sonia Hope and Roshini Kempadoo at