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Black Audio Film Collective

Founded 1981, London, UK

Active 1983-98 in London, England.
Members: John Akomfrah, Reece Auguiste, Eddie George, Lina Gopaul, Avril Johnson, Trevor Mathison, and David Lawson.

The Black Audio Film Collective’s work was included in the From Two Worlds exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery, 30 July - 7 September 1986. A still from Black Audio Film Collective’s Seven Songs for Malcolm X, 1993 was reproduced in Keith Piper’s Relocating the Remains catalogue, the main text of which was written by Kobena Mercer. The chapter in which the film still appears is Anatomies of the Body Politic, Its Central Nervous System: 1991 - 1996. Arguably the Collective’s most important and celebrated work, Handsworth Songs was referenced in It’s a Bit Much, the brochure text written by Eddie Chambers, for Barbara Walker’s 2006 exhibition at Unit 2 Gallery, London Metropolitan University, Louder Than Words.

From the archived Documenta 11 website : www.documenta12.de//archiv/d11/data/english/index.html

Black Audio Film Collective was one of the film and video workshop collectives set up in the 1980s in the aftermath of inner city protests against British Institutional racism. As part of a movement for greater cultural and political representation for and by black people in Britain, it can be seen as part of the ongoing process of Britain’s post-colonial history. Handsworth Songs, (1986, directed by John Akomfrah), was their most controversial work. Shot in the aftermath of the riots against discrimination and unemployment in Handsworth, Birmingham, the film reworks the documentary form to consider the history of contemporary black experience in Britain. Video images of the riots are intercut with interviews with Handsworth residents, interior monologue, evocative music and then counter pointed with archival footage of earlier immigration into Britain and ironically used mainstream-media coverage of the riots. Black Audio Film Collective’s fragmented and self-reflexive aesthetic strategies opened up a politics of representation which has been immensely influential both in independent and Diaspora film-making and foundational for the emerging discipline of cultural studies itself.”

The Black Audio Film Collective’s work was discussed and illustrated in Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers, one of four books in a series titled Annotating Art’s Histories, jointly published by The MIT Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts and iniva the Institute of International Visual Arts, London, published in 2008 and edited by Kobena Mercer. The chapter relating to the Black Audio Film Collective was Diaspora, Trauma and the Poetics of Remembrance, by Jean Fisher.

Handsworth Songs was included in the major Migrations: Journeys into British Art exhibition at Tate Britain, in 2012. The catalogue included more than three pages of edited text of an interview with Akomfrah by Lizzie Carey-Thomas and Paul Goodwin, two of the curators of the exhibition. Within the text, Akomfrah discussed the history and development of his practice and that of the Black Audio Film Collective. The text had fascinating insights into the development of Black visual art practice in Britain, from the early 1980s onwards. The Akomfrah text was followed by several pages of an interview with Kodwo Eshun, in which he discusses, amongst other things, the significance of Handsworth Songs and the Black Audio Film Collective. (It was Eshun, as part of the Otolith Group, who was co-curator of the Black Audio Film Collective retrospective, The Ghosts of Songs).

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