Stuart Hall and John Akomfrah: Creating Monument Symposium
A Symposium Exploring The Work Of John Akomfrah, The Black Audio Collective And Other Visual Artists Inspired By The Work Of Stuart Hall
Key note speakers include: EKOW ESHUN: Writer, cultural commentator and award-winning broadcaster. JOHN AKOMFRAH: Artist, film director, screenwriter and founding member of Black Audio Film Collective. KODWO ESHUN: Co-founding member of the Otolith Group, writer, theorist, film-maker, and curator of the exhibition The Ghosts of Songs: A Retrospective of the Black Audio Film Collective (2007). MARK SEALY: Director of Autograph ABP and commissioner of The Unfinished Conversation. This event was staged in partnership with Nottingham Trent University.
Symposium programme: 9am – 11:30am Registration Session One 11:30am – 11:40am A welcome from Skinder Hundal (Chief Executive of New Art Exchange) and Julie Pinches (Associate Dean at Nottingham Trent University, School of Art & Design). 11:40am – 11:45am Introduction to the event by the Symposium Chair, Ekow Eshun. Session Two 11:45am – 12:30pm Mark Sealy (Director of Autograph ABP)
The Unfinished Conversation is an Autograph ABP commission and Mark Sealy was the executive producer on the piece. In this opening presentation Mark discussed the origin and context of the commission. Since Autograph ABP’s launch at the Photographers Gallery, London in 1988, Stuart Hall has played a seminal role in the conceptual and theoretical development of the organisations visual work. His critical writing and political vision continues to be a source of influence to generations of photographic artists’ who are interested in cultural difference, displacement, questions of race and history. Autograph ABP wanted to mark that influence. This project was first discussed with Stuart and Catherine Hall in 2002 as work that would examine the nature of The Visual in western thought through the prism of Stuart Hall’s academic work on race, identity and photography.
Session Three: Paul Goodwin, John Akomfrah & Marlene Smith The Midlands were key locations in the formation of the historic Blk Art Group, a collective of young art students based at art schools in the region including: Birmingham Polytechnic (now BCU), Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University), North Staffordshire University, Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University), Wolverhampton Polytechnic (now Wolverhampton University). These young artists produced a series of key artworks and seminal exhibitions in the early 1980s that infused a completely new and radical energy in British art by questioning the Eurocentric bias of British art school education and called for the development of a politically engaged black aesthetic in the work of black artists. This session begun with a brief overview by Paul Goodwin of the impact and legacy of the work of black artists at that time, followed by a conversation between Marlene Smith and John Akomfrah chaired by Paul Goodwin. The session discussed the impact of Stuart Hall’s thinking on the development of these radical currents in the art of the 1980s and 1990s. The session also analysed the engagement and impact of John Akomfrah and the Black Audio Film Collective in the evolution of radical new approaches to film and documentary practices as a response to the crisis of British postcolonial racism and the crises of capitalism.
Session Four: Kodwo Eshun, Ekow Eshun & John Akomfrah This final session of the day begun with a presentation by Kodwo Eshun which explored the structures and devises deployed by John Akomfrah in the creation of The Unfinished Conversation. Kodwo analysed the effects of simultaneity and succession in the three screen installation, and the manner in which John Akomfrah used the medium of televisual archives to create a film constructed from scenes and images from other films (or in this case, from television). He also explored the use of Stuart Hall as the narrator of his own biography on television and on radio, and the range of other narrators that have been extracted from various sources to create a vocal presence in the work. Ekow Eshun then led a discussion between John Akomfrah and Kodwo Eshun.
Session Five: The event concluded with the opportunity for delegates to pose questions to the symposium speakers. Closing remarks from the Chair.