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The Place is Here

17 June 2017 - 8 October 2017

Image credit: Chila Kumari Burman Convenience, Not Love 1986-87 ©  the artist

The Place is Here, shown across Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and the South London Gallery (SLG info here) presents work by over twenty black artists and collectives working in the UK during the 1980s. The exhibition spans painting, film, photography and archival material from this pivotal decade in British culture and politics.

The Place is Here evokes some of the debates taking place between black artists, writers and institutions in the UK in the 1980s. Across two venues the works and archives on display show how a new generation of practitioners were responding to a range of discourses and politics: Civil Rights-era ‘Black art’ from the US; Margaret Thatcher’s anti-immigration policies and the resulting uprisings across the country; apartheid in South Africa; and black feminism. This group of artists were also reworking and subverting a range of art-historical references and aesthetic strategies – from William Morris to Pop Art, documentary practices or the introduction of Third Cinema to the UK. Revisiting these discussions today, at a time when the UK is increasingly divided, is both timely and prescient.

At Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, the work of the featured artists forms a dialogue between the history and legacy of colonialism and the racialised, anti-immigration policies initiated by Margaret Thatcher. Collages by Eddie Chambers and Chila Kumari Burman, for example, make direct references to the spectre of the National Front in the late 1970s and 1980s, or Thatcher’s infamous ‘swamping’ speech of 1978, whilst documentaries by Ceddo Film and Video Workshop and John Akomfrah examine the uprisings and civil unrest sweeping the UK at the time. These are shown in conversation with paintings and cutouts by Lubaina Himid, Sutapa Biswas and Sonia Boyce that explore different colonial legacies and black emancipatory struggles.

The artists featured at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art are Said Adrus, John Akomfrah, Rasheed Araeen, David A. Bailey, Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Chila Kumari Burman, Ceddo Film and Video Workshop, Eddie Chambers, Sunil Gupta, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Gavin Jantjes, Mowbray Odonkor, Maybelle Peters, and Maud Sulter.

The Place is Here is curated by Nick Aikens, curator at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands.The exhibition is a continuation of The Place is Here (Nottingham Contemporary, 2017) and Thinking Back. A Montage of Black Art in Britain (Van Abbemuseum, 2016).


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