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Kettle’s Yard is pleased to present UNTITLED: Art on the conditions of our time. This exhibition brings together work by 10 British African diaspora artists with a focus on how their innovative practices ask important questions about some of the most important cultural and political issues of our turbulent times. The exhibition will feature new commissions by Barby Asante, Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom and NT, as well as new and recent work by Larry Achiampong & David Blandy, Phoebe Boswell, Kimathi Donkor, Evan Ifekoya, Cedar Lewisohn, Harold Offeh and Ima-Abasi Okon. Painting, drawing and printmaking sits alongside performance, video and sound installation.
The exhibition title refers to the longstanding art historical convention of leaving artworks ‘untitled’ in order to encourage attention onto the works themselves, and eliminate reliance upon contextual information. Untitled asks viewers to examine the conditions of our time through the prism of Black British artists working today, without reducing the encounter solely to an exploration of Black British identity. By avoiding such over-contextualisation, the exhibition seeks to foreground these artists’ practices and show how they create platforms for audiences to explore the connections between art, culture and society.
Curator Paul Goodwin has said:
“This exhibition takes a bold curatorial approach to the often paradoxical question of curating ‘black survey shows’. Instead of focusing on blackness ahead of the works themselves, Untitled flips this order and focuses on the works first and foremost. Questions of blackness, race and identity are then shown to be entangled in the multitude of concerns – aesthetic, material and political – that viewers can encounter without the curatorial voice obscuring the works.”
This exhibition is a new iteration of UNTITLED: Art on the conditions of our time, originally produced by New Art Exchange, Nottingham in 2017, and curated by Paul Goodwin and Loren Hansi Gordon. At Kettle’s Yard it is curated by Paul Goodwin with Guy Haywood. The exhibition is financially supported by Arts Council, England.
FREE, booking recommended
15 September: Online In Conversation: Harold Offeh and Karen Alexander
Finding Fanon takes inspiration from the lost plays of the radical writer, psychologist and philosopher Frantz Fanon (1925–1961), whose work examined the psychological effects of colonisation and the social and cultural consequences of decolonisation. Unfolding across three parts this work explores Fanon’s ideas, placing them in relation to the societal issues that affect the artists’ relationship as friends and collaborators. Presented here within a field of discarded technology and detritus, this work navigates between past, present and future. Achiampong and Blandy also interrogate the promise of globalisation, recognising its impact on their own heritage.
Where the first and third parts of Finding Fanon use live action film, the second part draws on footage developed using the Grand Theft Auto 5 video game. By hacking and repurposing this platform, the artists access an alternative, seemingly free and expansive world. Yet that world is revealed to be underpinned by a capitalist structure and subject to the same systemic racism that is present in reality.
This film is part of a body of work that explores race and identity in relation to video games, digital avatars and DNA ancestry testing. These contemporary technologies open up complex histories of classification and segregation and two opposing scientific theories of race and ethnicity. The first, rooted in the eugenics movement, treats racial and ethnic categories
as biological classifications that produce essential characteristics. The other, stemming from the social sciences, regards race and ethnicity as cultural and historical constructs with little biological significance. The argument between these positions continues, even after the human genome was decoded in 2003, which scientists believe proved there was no biological basis for race.
Referencing the history of the theory of evolution, the film also explores the under-recognised relationship between Charles Darwin and John Edmonstone. Edmonstone was a freed slave who taught Darwin the skill of taxidermy, it is now understood that Edmonstone equipped the scientist with the skills to preserve the specimens that he discovered on his voyage to the Galapagos Islands, which was pivotal in the development of his theory of natural selection.
In these two works from the series Covers, Harold Offeh recreates images from iconic record covers by mainly black funk, soul and dance performers from the 1970s and 1980s. Covers began with his photographic response to Grace Jones’ album cover Island Life, 1985. Drawn to Jones’ distinctive androgynous style and arabesque pose, the artist documents his attempts to adopt the stance with his own body in order to recreate the image.
Offeh questions the authenticity of the photo- graphic image and its power to fix and shape identity in popular culture in this series. Performance offers an embodied experience, in which the artist tries, and sometimes struggles, to re-enact well- known images. Here, Offeh playfully exposes how images are created, presented and distributed, calling attention to the positioning of gendered, racialised and queer bodies within commodified popular culture.
Down at the Twilight Zone was a twelve-hour performance that looked at the rich histories of LGBTQ2S peoples’ experiences of Toronto’s nightlife. It was developed for Dream Time: We All Have Stories which was curated by Karen Alexander for Nuit Blanche Toronto 2018. This new film documents the performance, and is shown amongst posters that were pasted onto the walls of the venue.
Featuring performance, music, dance, videos, readings and interviews, and taking its cue from one of Toronto’s many nightclubs, Offeh’s project was a collaboration between artist, audience and ArQuives, Canada’s LGBTQ2+ archives, and was a celebration of Toronto’s Queer nightlife. Part archive of Queer histories, part performance, the project aimed to encompass and go beyond club culture to celebrate and explore Toronto’s broader Queer nightlife from the 1950s to the present day.
Artists and performers included: Ill NANA: DiversCity Dance Company, Keith McCrady, Akia Munga, Carol Thames, Nik Red, Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, Carolina Brown, Love Saves the Day: Jamie Sin & Kevin Ritchie, Dino & Terry, The Assoon Brothers, Sisters of JOY, Queers in Your Ears: Jeffrey Canton & Rico Rodrigues, Olivia Nuamah and Queerstory.
Production still for NT’s Greta. Photo: Thierry Bal.
Barby Asante, As Always a Painful Declaration of Independence – For Ama. For Aba. For Charlotte and Adjoh: Intimacy and Distance, 2017, Diaspora Pavilion, Venice, Image: Jess Harrington.
Harold Offeh, Covers Playlist, Video Installation, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, 2017, Image: Bartosz Kali
The galleries on the ground floor are fully accessible. They can be accessed easily from the entrance area by steps or a ramp.