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At Home with Vanley Burke

Solo show at Ikon Gallery, Test VENUE paddy 8/7/16. 2015
Date: 22 July, 2015 until 27 September, 2015
Organiser: Ikon Gallery

At Home with Vanley Burke was by far one of the most intriguing exhibitions to take place in recent years. It featured the bulk, if not the entirety, of the contents of Vanley Burke’s Birmingham flat being relocated and reinstalled in the Ikon Gallery. The exhibition’s dates were 22 July - 27 Sepember 2015.

From the catalogue Foreword, by Jonathan Watkins, Director:

Vanley Burke, born in Jamaica in 1951, resident in Birmingham since 1965, is renowned as a photographer concerned especially with black culture in Britain. He has had numerous exhibitions surveying his career as an artist, and these have sometimes included material from his archive, a vast collection including printed material (posters, flyers, publications), clothes, records, ornaments and countless other items that provide invaluable insights into our African and Caribbean communities. The religious and political beliefs of black people at home here, their artistic activities, fashions and leisure pursuits, food, health issues and many other aspects of everyday life are all equally of interest to the artist.

The archival items are like photographs in that they are indexical traces of human presence, countless pieces of evidence of actual experience. The collection of them suggests insurance against certain memories being lost, and that there will be a repository of raw material that can give rise to alternative histories. Each item not only gives its own particular account – why was it made, where and for whom? – but also it is evocative of a zeitgeist, an evolving spirit of a time, lived through by the artist, that embodies hope as much as fear, feelings of alienation as much as celebration, active resistance and demands for equal opportunity as much as the enjoyment of new adventures. The collection as a whole is thus greater than the sum of its parts and extremely poignant.

Burke’s archive is partly in storage at the Library of Birmingham, but most of it is to be found in his flat near Birmingham’s city centre, in filing cabinets or boxes or on display. It is an extraordinary interior, a cabinet of wonderful curiosities. This is an exhibition, more or less, of its entire contents – the archive with artworks and souvenirs, as well as decor and furniture, wardrobe, kitchenware et cetera – so that the artist is revealed as a subject of his own enquiry.

Vanley Burke’s personal story, involving such a vital archival impulse, is integral to the bigger picture he is making for us, on this occasion with the help of many others.”

The exhibition came with a fascinating catalogue, extensively illustrated and with texts by Pete James, Curator of Photographs at the Library of Birmingham, and artist/curator Marlene Smith.

Related items

click to show details of At Home with Vanley Burke

»  At Home with Vanley Burke

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2015

People in this exhibition

»  Vanley Burke

Born, 1951 in Jamaica

Exhibition venues

»  Ikon Gallery

Birmingham, United Kingdom