This year’s talks programme curated by Ekow Eshun takes the motif of Freefall as a point of departure from which to explore black artistic practice as a strategy of innovation, resistance and liberation.

1-54 Forum, London 2018 © Katrina Sorrentino



Welcome & Opening Remarks by programme curator Ekow Eshun

The scope and practice of ‘liquid blackness’: a reading of Kahlil Joseph’s work

When blackness is recognised as something that is produced and conjured what choices become available to cultural makers? Through Kahlil Joseph’s latest video works, Black Mary, mAAd and Fly Paper, Alessandra Raengo (Associate Professor at Georgia State University) discusses the founding and methods of her research group, liquid blackness, and how ‘liquidity’ can be used as a tool to investigate blackness as an aesthetic mode, rather than solely a marker of identity. The talk will focus on the way Joseph pursues fluidity in the expression of blackness in cinematic image by being attuned to the sounds and textures of a variety of black communities and the rich archive of African American cultural expressions.

For further interest, a short review of Kahlil Joseph’s ‘Fly Paper’ by Alessandra Reagno can be read here:


Artist talk: Athi-Patra Ruga

Ekow Eshun (Writer and 1-54 Forum Curator) in conversation with artist Athi-Patra Ruga on his practice and first major solo exhibition in the UK, Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions, currently on display at Somerset House. Through mythical characters set in dramatic scenes and presented in multiple mediums, Ruga criticises and parodies South Africa’s political status quo, ideas of utopia and the pre-colonial.


The Birth of a Black Surrealism?

In 1945, André Breton came to Haiti and gave a series of lectures which – some say – helped spark a political revolution. Yet it was his visit to the radical art studio, Le Centre d’Art d’Haïti, which would change him and the course of art history forever. This open-forum conversation will include audience members to discuss a critical moment in the development of the mid 20th century African diaspora aesthetic. James Brett (Filmmaker, Founder of The Museum of Everything // The Gallery of Everything), Leah Gordon (Artist, Founder Ghetto Biennale), Axelle Liautaud, John Cussans (Artist, Writer, Researcher) and Wendy Asquith (Researcher at The University of Nottingham).


Black Magic

Through his visually engaging interdisciplinary work, Rashaad Newsome (Artist) explores the complexities of social power structures and questions of agency. Newsome will discuss his use of the diasporic tradition of improvisation as a tool to achieve abstraction. His work speaks to the power of the human spirit to reinvent and transform itself as evidenced in the Black and Queer cultural practices referenced and abstracted throughout the work.


Images of Africa

Works brought together in African photography survey exhibitions such as Rencontres de Bamako (Bamako), New African Photography III (Nataal, New York) and Africa State of Mind (New Art Exchange, Nottingham) explore a wide range of topics, from issues of place and history to questions of gender and identity. But do such geographic group shows risk turning individual artists into regional representatives? And how do curators take on the task of identifying the tendencies and artworks that can sum up the artistic practices of a continent? With Lebohang Kganye (Photographer) and Marie-Ann Yemsi (Art Consultant and Curator), moderated by Helen Jennings (Founder and Editorial Director of Nataal).


Arist talk: Larry Achiampong

Harold Offeh (Artist) leads a conversation with multi-disciplinary artist Larry Achiampong on Achiampong’s immersive installation at Somerset House. The mixed-media installation explored syncretism in religion and domesticity in diasporic communities living in the global West and the dynamics that unfold through the complex amalgamation of beliefs and cultures.


Artist talk: Modupeola Fadugba

As an avid swimmer, Modupeola Fadugba has a profound personal affinity for the pool and its capacity to foster health and confidence. This talk, with curator Katherine Finerty, will discuss Fadugba’s current exhibition Dreams from the Deep End at Gallery 1957, Accra. During the artist’s residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York, she created a series highlighting The Harlem Honeys and Bears – a senior citizen synchronized swimming team – and interrogated the socio-political history of swimming pools and race relations in America. After a short documentary, Finerty and Fadugba will discuss the artist’s evolving research-based process and creative practice to represent this resilient community.


The Fugitive Image

What is driving artists to use vintage video footage as a source material to explore ideas of African diaspora identity and history? Is archive imagery a means to craft works grounded in authentic documentation of events? Or a way to create new fictions and new futures, from the fragments of the past? And what are the freedoms or constraints artists find in working with such elusive, fugitive images? Gaylene Gould (Head of Cinema and Events at British Film Institute) in conversation with artists NT, Appau Jnr Boakye-Yaidom and Onyeka Igwe.


Portraiture as Politics

Against a backdrop of retreating notions of multiculturalism and an increasing populist nationalism in Europe and America, is portraiture emerging as a resonant medium by which to assert black visibility? Does portraiture take on a dual role, both as the artistic practice of individuals and a form of collective endeavor? Led by David A. Bailey MBE (Artist and Curator), artists Kimathi Donkor, Irvin Pascal and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, discuss how they are articulating their presence in portraiture at a time of rising reactionism.


Artist talk: Hurvin Anderson

Sonia Boyce (Artist and Curator) leads a conversation with artist Hurvin Anderson on Anderson’s most recent work. Anderson’s paintings explore spaces occupied by Caribbean immigrants, such as public parks, gardens, barbershops, and domestic interiors, which function as sites for both social gathering and economic enterprise. These settings represent Anderson’s personal and cultural memories of functional spaces and shared experiences of the Caribbean.


Reading group: Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca

A dynamic reading of parts of Fatima El-Tayeb’s book European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Post National Europe as part of ‘Diasporic Self: Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca’ (198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, London and Framer FRAMED, Amsterdam December 2018).‘Diasporic Self: Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca’ is a project convened by Amal Alhaag (Independent Curator and Researcher) and Barby Asante (Artist, Curator and Researcher) exploring the possibilities and impossibilities of a black togetherness in Europe. The project explores everyday vernacular, performativity, improvisation, unconstituted archives and informal memory practices that inform and map contemporary black cultures in Europe. Alhaag and Asante will be joined by longtime collaborators from the Sorryyoufeeluncomfortable collective, Nadeem Din-Gabisi and Imani Robinson, a UK-based collective creating intentional space for radical study, conversation and multi-disciplinary art making.


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