Friday, 29 November 2013

Stuart Hall Library Research Network meeting, 12 December 2013, 6.30-8.00

Join us for our last Research Network meeting of the year.

Sayed Sattar Hasan and Karl Ohiri will present

My Grandad's Car

Sayed Sattar Hasan and Karl Ohiri shared a desire, they wanted to touch their grandfathers' cars in their country of birth and park them side-by-side. After much planning the artists made their respective journeys to Pakistan and Nigeria, only for their ambition of returning to the UK with the cars to end in failure. Instead, Ohiri's fragile Beetle shell and Hasan's retired hulk became stuck within dysfunctional legal systems and the uncompromising grip of corrupt officials.

My Grandad’s Car is the story of two friends who set out to explore their heritage and identities through their connections with their cars and each other. Ohiri and Hasan's project considers the legacies of migration and the relationship subsequent generations have with other home spaces. The artists unorthodox use of ritual and cultural motifs alludes to the sense of 'familiarity' and 'naivety' they feel towards everyday life in Pakistan and Nigeria, in particular as young British-born men. Through collaboration they look to develop work which disrupts conventional ethnic labels, by representing themselves as culturally hybrid and complex individuals.

The artists will be showing a selection of photography and video documenting their experiences, revealing the intimate acts and processes involved in their on-going work.

Sayed Sattar Hasan - Biography

Sayed Sattar Hasan values art as a way of contemplating and rethinking the social, political and cultural spheres that affect personal and public lives. He is influenced by his Pakistani and English heritage and plays with his hybrid identity to question norms which organise everyday life.

Themes in his work include the family, religion, the body and public interaction, explored through photography, video and installation.

Since graduating in 2009 in MA Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths, he has received funding from Arts Council England for solo and collaborative projects as well as exhibiting in galleries and art festivals nationally and internationally. Including The New Art Exchange, Heathrow Terminal 5, The primera photography biennale, Lima 2012 and LagosPhoto13.

Karl Ohiri - Biography

The framework of his practice consists of two overlapping points of interest; ‘cultural studies’ and 'the human condition’. This is explored through personal and public encounters primarily using photography, video and performance.

Since completing his Masters at Goldsmiths University in 2008, his artwork has been a mixture of conceptually driven, documentary based works that consist of natural and constructed images and the recontextualisation of pre-existing artefacts.

His work has been exhibited internationally (most recently at LagosPhoto13) and in various galleries throughout the UK including; The New Art Exchange, Heathrow Terminal 5 and Tate Britain.

Spaces in the Library are limited. Book a place here

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Stuart Hall Library Research Network meeting, Thursday 21 November, 6.30-8.00

Join us for November’s Research Network meeting of talks and discussion.

Sarah Stefana Smith will present
"A Poetics of Bafflement and Queer Affect in the Work of Contemporary Black Visual Artists"
‘My presentation focuses on the artistic work of contemporary black diaspora artists who negotiate different conceptions of blackness. Through an engagement of queer affective space, I cultivate what I call a “poetics of bafflement” that works through slippages among aesthetics, blackness and desire (homoerotic and otherwise) to engage the affective and sociocultural dynamics of black belonging. Bafflement acts as a mode in which to negotiate spaces of contradiction, dis-ease and dis-satisfaction. For the purposes of this presentation, I focus on the work of Deana Lawson whose work considers the body’s ability to take up the everyday, the sexual and the abject. Not shying away from articulations between the profane and the sacred Lawson’s photography explore the interior spaces of matters of the heart—family, desire, mothering and sexuality. Yet these interior spaces make public the slipperiness of the erotic. Molding time and space in relation to moments that baffle Lawson's work is useful in grappling with often “un/invisible economies” of relation that coalesce both and through the making, execution, content and context in which the work is received and able to circulate.’

Sarah Stefana Smith is a visual artist and scholar. Currently she is a doctoral student in the Humanities, Social Science and Social Justice in Education Department at OISE, University of Toronto. Her research considers the work of black diaspora artists (1990-present) who negotiate radically different conceptions of blackness. Taking up the work of bafflement as a means to address slippages among belonging, aesthetics and blackness—and engaging affective and sociocultural dimensions of dis-satisfaction—she examines the “door of no return” as queer assemblage space. She is currently a visiting scholar of Black Studies at the University of Bremen, Germany. Sarah holds a MFA from Goddard College in Interdisciplinary Art. As a member of Massmus Collective and La Boi Band International, respectively she received an Ontario Arts Council Grant and IdeasTap Zine submission grant in 2013. Visit her online at:

Our second speaker is art historian Courtney J. Martin. Courtney's presentation is "Mark Bradford: Darkest America in Brightest London". Mark Bradford's work is currently on show at the White Cube, Bermondsey, London.

Courtney J. Martin is an assistant professor in the History of Art and Architecture department at Brown University.  She received a doctorate from Yale University in 2009.  Prior to Brown, she was an assistant professor in the History of Art department at Vanderbilt University (2010-2013); Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art at the University of California at Berkeley (2009-2010); a fellow at the Getty Research Institute (2008-2009); and a Henry Moore Institute Research Fellow (2007). She also worked in the media, arts, and culture unit of the Ford Foundation in New York on an international arts portfolio that funded major arts projects, including the Venice Biennale and Documenta. After leaving Ford, she served as a consultant for the foundation’s Gulf Coast Transformation Initiative and the Integrating the Arts and Education Initiative.  In 2012, she curated a focus display of Frank Bowling’s painting at Tate Britain. This year she is working on a manuscript about British art and politics after 1968, curating an exhibition of post-minimalist art and co-editing a volume of essays on the critic/curator Lawrence Alloway.   

Space is limited in the library, so if you have not already done so please book a place here.

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

Friday, 1 November 2013

Guest Blog post: Srajana Kaikini, Stuart Hall Library Research Network

Reading an opaque language

What does it mean when one speaks in an opaque language?
The construction of ‘experience’ in art has been closely explored through the concepts of ‘rasa’,  ‘sensation’, ‘affect’ etc. in philosophical enquiry across the globe which have given rise to the question that informs my current research - the role of the ‘literal’ object and the objectified ‘letter’ in contemporary art practices.

Outside the Serpentine Gallery, presently sits a newly commissioned work by Fischli and Weiss titled ‘Rock on Top of Another Rock’. The work is essentially that – one boulder balancing precariously on another boulder on the ground. The work at once strikes the nail on its head and is the experience of precariousness itself. At the same time, it also confronts the art ‘reader’ (and here I address all acts of experiencing as acts of ‘reading’ ) with the challenge of trying to see the subtlety and humour of the work without falling prey to an urge to over-interpret.   

Fischli/Weiss- Rock on Top of Another Rock 2013-2014 Image - Srajana Kaikini
The ‘literal’ somehow finds itself at this strange crossroads of explicit and implicit communication.
The Dhvani theory ( dhvani can be loosely translated as ‘resonance’) or the theory of Suggestion, one of the several linguistic theories in Indian aesthetic philosophy, emphasizes on reading and receiving language through multiple levels of interpretation. At the same time it puts emphasis on expressing emotions through material symbolism i.e referring to concrete objects in the world to convey an abstract expression. The landscape poetry in Tamil Sangam Literature is an instance of highly charged symbolism where the landscape becomes the expression of the state of mind.

Water lilies bloom
in the lagoons
where cranes part the water lilies
looking for fish
then fly away to stay
in fragrant seaside groves,
near my lover's village washed by the sea.
His love for me
is greater than the sea.

- Neithal (Ainkurunuru - 184)
(Selby, Martha Ann. Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Aiṅkuṟunūṟu, an Early Third-Century Anthology. Columbia University Press, 2011.)

Meanwhile, a challenge to this notion of objectified experience comes from the proponents of Concrete Poetry beginning with Swiss poet Eugene Gomringer (Constellations, 1953) and the Noigandres group of poets in Brazil – Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari and Augusto de Campos who published the Concrete Poetry manifesto (“I Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta” in the Museu de Arte Moderna of São Paulo, 1956) which begins thus.      

 “Concrete poetry begins by assuming a total responsibility before language: accepting the premise of the historical idiom as the indispensable nucleus of communication, it refuses to absorb words as mere indifferent vehicles, without life, without personality without history - tabu-tombs in which convention insist on burying the idea.”

Here the words turned into materials to make visual/sensorial experiences out of them, and ‘they became beautiful simply because they are what they are’; an inversion of linguistic role-play and a tendency towards a more universal poetry where form and content collapse into each other.
These two contrapuntal impulses frame a contemporary condition where art vocabulary takes recourse to the ‘material’ once again. This could be a symptom of globalization as an inevitable precursor for most cultural processes today and the circulation of geo-global artists in the international sphere. The artist has emerged also as a cultural translator but is the medium she chooses to express her art also implicated in this new role-play?

Some thoughts on the Research Network Meeting @ the Stuart Hall Library
I am thankful for the rich discussion generated at the Research Network meeting in conversation with Sunil Gupta on invitation from Roshini Kempadoo. The evening had several inter-disciplinary points of entry. This included personal insights from anecdotal recollections and reflections of the activist art worker’s role in present times by Sunil Gupta as well as suggestions and ideas from artists, researchers and practitioners in the field of philosophy, global arts and cultural studies present during the evening. I noticed an emphasis in general on the practice of art as a cultural activator of relations and a larger concern around the anomalies and differences that exist in terms of vocabularies in contemporary art language and the difference in the nature of infra-structure and institutional frameworks for the arts in the Indian contexts as compared to the local context in London, something to ponder upon despite the blanket effect of a term like globalization that exists as a discourse predominantly in locations already in its grip.

Srajana Kaikini is a writer, curator and researcher working with the spoken and written word, Indian literary theories – rasa dhvani, architectural urban spaces and aesthetics. She is the third Delfina Foundation Research Fellow, in partnership with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, Iniva and Goldsmiths College (Department of Visual Cultures). 

Srajana was in conversation with Sunil Gupta at the Stuart Hall Library Research Network meeting, 17 October 2013.

For more information about the Stuart Hall Library Research Network, email us.