Race, Activism and Art in the Midlands: A seminar exploring the interconnec...

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Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Lichfield Street

Wolverhampton

WV1 1DU

United Kingdom

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Race, Activism and Art in the Midlands: A seminar exploring the interconnections between place, communities and Black art



In 1981, Wolverhampton Art gallery hosted the first major exhibition by young Black artists, ‘Black Art an’ Done’. The first National Black Art Convention took place at Wolverhampton Polytechnic a year later. These two events spawned a new wave of Black art that reflected the social and political issues experienced by a generation of Black British people whose parents came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. The city, which is often remembered for Enoch Powell, is not often acknowledged for its role in the birth of the new waves of Black art.

As Wolverhampton Art gallery hosts an important exhibition, 'Keith Piper: Body Politics. Work from 1981 – 2007', join artist Keith Piper and others in this seminar to explore the importance of the Midlands to the BLK art movement, and the interconnections between artists, activism and community politics and their relevance for our present times.

Speakers include

Ian Sergeant

Ian’s career in the arts began in 1994 as a founder member of Black Pyramid Film and Video, Bristol, which provided training in film production, as well as producing films and hosting an annual film festival. He has worked for several arts and cultural institutions, including The Drum Arts Centre (Birmingham), and New Art Exchange (Nottingham). He is currently completing his practice led Phd which examines the emergence of the Blk Art Group (BAG) in the early 80s and the (Re)Constructions of Black British masculinities.

Keith Piper

Born in Malta in 1960 and raised in Birmingham, Keith Piper studied art at Trent Polytechnic and The Royal College of Art. He was a founder member of the BLK Art Group in the 1980s. The group fought to raise the profile of black artists through exhibitions and conferences, a contribution whose significance is only now being recognized in the development of 20th century British art. Piper's initial interests in collage and print media contributed to a pioneering use of early computer technology, not only as a tool for video editing and effects but also for it's potential interactivity, exemplified by his 1997 CDRom and website for inIVA, Relocating the Remains. Piper's multi-screen, multi-media installations, often taking their sources from popular sources such as television, explore representations of race within history and culture.

Over the past 30 years, he has used a variety of media, from painting, photography and installation to digital media, video and computer based interactivity. His work has shown extensively; with solo exhibitions at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, The Camden Arts Centre, London, The Orchard Gallery, Derry and The New Museum, New York. His current exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery brings together key works from across the first three decades of his career focusing on the 1980s and 90s and ending with a video from 2007.

Komlaish Achall

Komlaish is a visual artist who creates work using a variety of formats, including installation, photography, video and collage. The work explores her personal perspective and journey, questioning self, the other, hybrid identities and location'.

Shirin Hirsch

Shirin is a historian based jointly at MMU and the People's History Museum. She leads on developing the partnership between the museum and the university, through student placements, modules, and research. Her work also involves co-production and she is involved in exhibitions, public events and networks with artists, trade unions, museums and schools. Her research explores race, migration and the labour movement in modern British history. I have recently completely a book on Enoch Powell, racism and resistance within Wolverhampton

Suresh Grover

Suresh is a leading anti-racist civil rights campaigner for over four decades based in the UK. Recognised internationally for his advocacy on genocide and environmental justice campaigns, his focus in the UK has been on exposing State misconduct and helping to organise both community defence and family justice campaigns, As the Director of The Monitoring Group, Suresh has coordinated over a hundred campaigns including those around the murders of Blair Peach, Kuldip Singh Sekhon, Stephen Lawrence, Zahid Mubarek, and Victoria Climbie. – in the latter three cases, the British Government was forced to establish Public Judicial Inquiries Both he and The Monitoring Group have been granted core participant status by the current Undercover Police Inquiry set up the previous Home Secretary to examine police spying of campaigning & protest groups. He is one of the founders of the Southall Collective, a locally led coordinating group promoting remembrance of the 40th anniversary of the events in Southall 1979.

Vanley Burke

Vanley was born in Jamaica and arrived in Birmingham in 1965 aged 15. Here he began photographing the lives and experiences of the African Caribbean community. He is often described as the ‘Godfather of Black British Photography’, whereby his iconic images have captured the evolving cultural landscape, social change, and stimulated debate in the United Kingdom over the past four decades. He draws strength from remaining a humble man of the community, whose personable character allows him to capture the intimate and private nature of people’s everyday lives.

His body of work represents possibly the largest photographic record of the Caribbean Diaspora in Britain, and as an avid collector, Vanley continues to connect histories through his substantial archive housed at the Library of Birmingham. From local community organisations to the Victoria & Albert Museum and Whitechapel, Vanley has exhibited widely in the United Kingdom, and as far afield as New York, South Africa and China.

Lisa Harrison is a participatory artist with a background in theatre. She toured extensively across Europe, Canada and the UK. For many years a Visiting Lecturer at the Universities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and De Montfort, she now uses the arts more broadly in educational, medical and community settings, working with people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Lisa initiates creative projects which bring people together who might otherwise not meet, for example working in fragmented diverse communities, and with the lonely and the isolated living with dementia. Most of Lisa’s current work is focused on stories: listening to and gathering stories, creating opportunities for stories to be heard, told by the people and communities they belong to and shared through performance.

This event is held with Wolverhampton Black History month.

Image credit : © IWA archives. The image above depicts the Black People's Alliance established in the Midlands in 1968. It was one of the early collaborations between Black, Asian and other communities to challenge racism in the late 1960s.

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Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Lichfield Street

Wolverhampton

WV1 1DU

United Kingdom

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