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.