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The Place is Here

Group show. 2017
Date: 4 February, 2017 until 30 April, 2017
Curator: Nick Aikens, Sam Thorne, Nicola Guy
Organiser: Nottingham Contemporary

The starting-point for this exhibition is a pivotal decade for British culture and politics: the 1980s. Spanning painting, sculpture, photography, film and archives, The Place Is Here brings together a wide range of works by more than 30 artists and collectives. The questions they ask – about identity, representation and what culture is for – remain vital today.

In 1982, a group of artists and thinkers met in Wolverhampton at the First National Black Art Convention, to discuss the ‘form, future and function of Black Art’. Two years later, the second ‘working convention’ took place here in Nottingham. What constitutes ‘black art’, or the ‘Black Arts Movement’ was, and continues to be, heavily contested.

This exhibition traces some of the urgent conversations that were taking place between black artists, writers and thinkers during the 80s. Against a backdrop of civil unrest and divisive national politics, they were exploring their relationship to Britain’s colonial past as well as to art history. Many artists were looking to the Civil Rights movement in America, Black feminism, Pan-Africanism, the struggle over apartheid, and the emergent fields of postcolonial and cultural studies.

The Place Is Here does not present a chronological survey. Instead, it is conceived as a kind of montage. For many of these artists, montage allowed for identities, histories and narratives to be dismantled and reconfigured according to new terms. The exhibition assembles different positions, voices and media to present a shifting portrait of a decade while refusing to pin it down. The presentation is structured around four overlapping groupings, each of which is titled after a work on display: Signs of Empire; We Will Be; The People’s Account; and Convenience Not Love.

Artists include: Said Adrus, John Akomfrah, Rasheed Araeen, Martina Attille, David A. Bailey, Sutapa Biswas, Zarina Bhimji, Black Audio Film Collective, Sonia Boyce, Vanley Burke, Ceddo, Eddie Chambers, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Joy Gregory, Sunil Gupta, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Gavin Jantjes, Claudette Johnson, Isaac Julien, Chila Kumari Burman, Dave Lewis, Mowbray Odonkor, Pratibha Parmar, Maybelle Peters, Keith Piper, Ingrid Pollard, Donald Rodney, Veronica Ryan, Marlene Smith, Maud Sulter

Archives: Blk Art Group Research Project, African-Caribbean, Asian & African Art in Britain Archive (Chelsea College of Arts Library, University of the Arts), The June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive (including films by Imruh Bakari, Ceddo, Amani Naphtali and Maybelle Peters), Making Histories Visible Archive (Centre of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire), The Stuart Hall Library, Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), London.

The Place Is Here is curated by Nick Aikens and Sam Thorne, with Nicola Guy. The exhibition is an expanded version of a presentation Aikens curated at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, in 2016, titled Thinking Back: A Montage of Black Art in Britain. Archival displays are curated in collaboration with Vanley Burke, June Givanni, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Keith Piper and Marlene Smith.

The exhibition, as well as an extensive public engagement programme, is supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring programme, a collaboration with Modern Art Oxford, Spike Island, Bristol, the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston, and firstsite in Colchester. The engagement programme will examine race, gender and social justice.