Visualising Slavery

BookVisualising Slavery

Visualising Slavery

Art Across the African Diaspora

Liverpool Studies in International Slavery, 9

2016

March 10th, 2016

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The purpose of this book is to excavate and recover a wealth of under-examined artworks and research materials directly to interrogate, debate and analyse the tangled skeins undergirding visual representations of transatlantic slavery across the Black diaspora. Living and working on both sides of the Atlantic, as these scholars, curators and practitioners demonstrate, African diasporic artists adopt radical and revisionist practices by which to confront the difficult aesthetic and political realities surrounding the social and cultural legacies let alone national and mythical memories of Transatlantic Slavery and the international Slave Trade. Adopting a comparative perspective, this book investigates the diverse body of works produced by black artists as these contributors come to grips with the ways in which their neglected and repeatedly unexamined similarities and differences bear witness to the existence of an African diasporic visual arts tradition. As in-depth investigations into the diverse resistance strategies at work within these artists’ vast bodies of work testify, theirs is an ongoing fight for the right to art for art’s sake as they challenge mainstream tendencies towards examining their works solely for their sociological and political dimensions. This book adopts a cross- cultural perspective to draw together artists, curators, academics, and public researchers in order to provide an interdisciplinary examination into the eclectic and experimental oeuvre produced by black artists working within the United States, the United Kingdom and across the African diaspora. The overall aim of this book is to re-examine complex yet under-researched theoretical paradigms vis-à-vis the patterns of influence and cross-cultural exchange across both America and a black diasporic visual arts tradition, a vastly neglected field of study.

Notes on Contributors Celeste-Marie Bernier is Professor of African American Studies (University of Nottingham) and Co-Editor of the Journal of American Studies (Cambridge University Press). In addition to writing articles and co-authored and co-edited volumes, her single-authored books include: African American Visual Art: From Slavery to the Present (Edinburgh University Press; University of North Carolina Press), Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination (University of Virginia Press), and Suffering and Sunset: World War I in the Art and Life of Horace Pippin (Temple University Press). She is currently researching and writing two histories of African Diasporic art - Imaging Resistance: Representing the Body, Memory and History in African American and Black British Art (1960-2010) (University of California Press) and Radical Remembering: A History of Contemporary African American Art (I.B. Tauris) – and a literary biography of Frederick Douglass, Living Parchments: Authority and Artistry in the Life and Works of Frederick Douglass (Yale University Press). David Bindman is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art, University College London, Visiting Professor of the History of Art, Harvard University and McMillan Stewart Fellow of the Du Bois Institute, Hutchins Center Harvard University. He has written extensively on British art and is the editor (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.) of the book series The Image of the Black in Western Art (Harvard University Press). Eddie Chambers teaches African Diaspora art history in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. For the academic year 2013/2014 he was Inaugural Curatorial Fellow at the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, in which capacity he curated Art History: Selections from the Green–Christian Collection, at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin (31 January - 8 March 2014). In addition to his exhibition work, he has written extensively about the work of artists in the United Kingdom and internationally. He is the author of several books, including Things Done Change: The Cultural Politics of Recent Black Artists in Britain (Rodopi, 2012). His latest book is Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s, published in July 2014 by I B Tauris. Hannah Durkin is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Nottingham. Her research focuses on mid-century Black Atlantic visual cultures with a particular emphasis on anthropology, dance and cinema. Her current book project examines early Black and Jewish women ethnographic filmmakers’ pioneering contributions to art and anthropology. She has published articles in the Journal of American Studies, Irish Journal of American Studies, International Journal of Francophone Studies, New Review of Film and Television Studies and Slavery & Abolition and is the author of Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham: Dancing Bodies in Literature and Cinema (forthcoming: University of Illinois Press). Nathan Grant is associate professor of English at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, and editor of the journal African American Review. He is the author of Masculinist Impulses: Toomer, Hurston, Black Writing and Modernity (2004) and has written essays on literature, film, theatre and television, including essays on Countée Cullen, Ed Bullins, August Wilson, Charles Burnett and televisual Black masculinity. Lubaina Himid (MBE) is a Professor of Contemporary Art in the School of Art, Design and Performance at the University of Central Lancashire. Her work investigates historical representations of the people of the African diaspora and highlights the importance of their cultural contribution to the contemporary landscape. Himid was one of the pioneers of the Black Art Movement in the 1980s, which offered a forum for Black artists exploring the social and political issues surrounding Black history and identity. She has participated at an international level in exhibitions, publications and conferences, recently co- curating Thin Black Line(s) at Tate Britain. Though she is known as a painter, recently her work has engaged with museum collections in which she has creatively interrogated the history and representation of the African diaspora and looked at the role of museums in discussions around cultural histories. She celebrates Black creativity and the recognition of Black people’s cultural contribution. During the past thirty years she has exhibited widely, both in Britain and internationally, with solo shows that include Tate St Ives, Transmission Glasgow, Chisenhale London, Peg Alston New York and St Jorgens Museum in Bergen. She represented Britain at the 5th Havana Biennale and has shown work at the Studio Museum in New York, Track 17 in Los Angeles, the Fine Art Academy in Vienna and the Grazer Kunstverein. Himid’s work can be found in public collections including Tate, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Whitworth Art gallery, Arts Council England, Manchester Art Gallery, the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, the Walker Art Gallery, Birmingham City Art Gallery, Bolton Art Gallery, New Hall Cambridge and the Harris Museum and Art Gallery. Roshini Kempadoo is a photographer, media artist, and lecturer. She is a Reader in the School of Arts and Digital Industries at the University of East London. Her research, multimedia, and photographic projects combine factual and fictional re-imaginings of contemporary experiences with history and memory. Having worked as a social documentary photographer for Format Women’s Picture Agency, her recent work as a digital image artist includes photographs and screen-based interactive art installations that fictionalise Caribbean archive material, objects, and spaces. They combine sound, animations, and interactive use of objects to introduce characters that once may have existed, evoking hidden and untold narratives. She is currently working on the publication Creole in the Archive and the screen-based artwork Feedback (both 2015). She is represented by Autograph ABP, London. Keith Piper is an artist and academic currently living and working in London. He has contributed to numerous projects both nationally and internationally, specialising in issues around race, historical narrative, technology and post-colonialism. His work has been featured in Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic at Tate Liverpool in 2010, and Migrations: Journeys into British Art at Tate Britain in 2012. He is a founder member of the ‘Blk Art Group Research Project 2012’, which examines the legacies of the Blk Art Group in relationship to the development of the British ‘Black Art Movement’ of the 1980s. He is currently an Associate Professor in Fine Art and Digital Media at the University of Middlesex. Debra Priestly is a mixed media visual artist exploring themes of memory, ancestry, history and cultural preservation. She holds an MFA from Pratt Institute and a BFA from The Ohio State University. Currently represented by June Kelly Gallery in New York City, her work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions and appears in many collections, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Sandor Family Collection and Petrucci Family Foundation. Priestly lives and works in New York City and Upstate New York and is a Professor in the Art Department at Queens College, City University of New York. Geoff Quilley is Professor of Art History at the University of Sussex. His research focuses on eighteenth-century British art and the maritime imperial nation, on which he has published widely. He was previously Curator of Fine Art at the National Maritime Museum, London, where he curated the exhibitions William Hodges 1744-1797: the Art of Exploration (2004) and Art for the Nation: the Oil Paintings Collections of the National Maritime Museum (2006), and established the research centre for the study of art and travel. His publications include the co-edited volumes An Economy of Colour: Visual Culture and the Atlantic World, 1660-1830 (with Kay Dian Kriz), Conflicting Visions: War and Visual Culture in Britain and France c.1700-1830 (with John Bonehill) and Art and the British Empire (with Tim Barringer and Douglas Fordham). His monograph Empire to Nation: Art, History and the Visualization of Maritime Britain, 1768-1829, was published by Yale University Press in 2011. Alan Rice is Professor in English and American Studies and co-director of the Institute for Black Atlantic Research at the University of Central Lancashire. His publications include Radical Narratives of the Black Atlantic (Continuum, 2003) and Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (Liverpool University Press, 2010). Alan was academic advisor to the Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project in Lancaster and a co-curator of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester’s 2007-8 exhibition Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery. He has given keynote presentations in Britain, Germany, the United State and France and contributed to documentaries for the BBC and other broadcasters. Fionnghuala Sweeney is Senior Lecturer in American Literature at Newcastle University. Her work focuses on African American and Caribbean literature, performance and visual arts in the nineteenth and twentieth century. She is the author of Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World (Liverpool University Press, 2007) and a range of special editions, articles and chapters on African American literature and slavery, and on Afromodernism, including Afromodernisms: Paris, Harlem and the Avant-Garde (Edinburgh University Press, 2013), co-edited with Kate Marsh. Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. His work is featured in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Oakland Museum of California. He has exhibited at the Smithsonian, National Museum of American History and the High Museum of Art, among others. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Goodman Gallery in South Africa. Zoe Trodd is Professor of American Literature in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham. She focuses on African American protest literature and visual culture, particularly of antislavery and antilynching. Her books include American Protest Literature (Harvard University Press, 2006), To Plead Our Own Cause (Cornell University Press, 2008), The Tribunal: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid (Harvard University Press, 2012) and Picturing Frederick Douglass: The Most Photographed American of the Nineteenth Century (2015). Leon Wainwright is Kindler Chair in Global Contemporary Art at Colgate, New York; Reader in Art History at The Open University, UK; and Academic Visitor at the University of Oxford’s Department of History of Art and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. He is the author of Timed Out: Art and the Transnational Caribbean (Manchester University Press, 2011) and co-editor (with Uilleam Blacker and Elizabeth Edwards) of a special issue of the Open Arts Journal (www.openartsjournal.org) on the theme ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ (Issue 3, summer 2014). He has co-edited (with Beccy Kennedy and Alnoor Mitha) Triennial City: Localising Asian Art (Cornerhouse, 2014) and (with Øivind Fuglerud) Objects and Imagination: Perspectives on Materialization and Meaning (Berghahn, 2015). He is a recipient of the Philip Leverhulme Prize for the history of art. Marcus Wood is a painter, performance artist and filmmaker. Since 2003 he has also been Professor of English at the University of Sussex. For the last thirty years, Marcus has been making art and writing books about different ways in which the traumatic memory of slavery and colonisation have been encoded in art and literature. His books include Blind Memory: Slavery and Visual Representation in England and America (Manchester University Press and Routledge New York, 2000); Slavery, Empathy and Pornography (Oxford University Press, 2003); The Horrible Gift of Freedom: Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (University of Georgia Press, 2010) and Black Milk Imagining Slavery in the Visual Cultures of Brazil and America (Oxford University Press, 2013). His current major book project is Exploding Archives: Meditations on Slavery, Brazil, America and the Limits of Cultural Memory.

Edited contributor list: David Bindman is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art, University College London, Visiting Professor of the History of Art, Harvard University and McMillan Stewart Fellow of the Du Bois Institute, Hutchins Center Harvard University. Eddie Chambers teaches African Diaspora art history in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. Nathan Grant is associate professor of English at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. Lubaina Himid (MBE) is a Professor of Contemporary Art in the School of Art, Design and Performance at the University of Central Lancashire. Roshini Kempadoo is a photographer, media artist, and lecturer. She is a Reader in the School of Arts and Digital Industries at the University of East London. Keith Piper is an artist and academic currently living and working in London. Debra Priestly is a mixed media visual artist exploring themes of memory, ancestry, history and cultural preservation. She holds an MFA from Pratt Institute and a BFA from The Ohio State University. Geoff Quilley is Professor of Art History at the University of Sussex. Alan Rice is Professor in English and American Studies and co-director of the Institute for Black Atlantic Research at the University of Central Lancashire. Fionnghuala Sweeney is Senior Lecturer in American Literature at Newcastle University. Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. Zoe Trodd is Professor of American Literature in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham. Leon Wainwright is Kindler Chair in Global Contemporary Art at Colgate, New York; Reader in Art History at The Open University, UK; and Academic Visitor at the University of Oxford’s Department of History of Art and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. Marcus Wood is a painter, performance artist and filmmaker. Since 2003 he has also been Professor of English at the University of Sussex.

This diverse and finely nuanced collection of essays adds significantly to debates about slavery and visual culture in the Anglophone world. By interweaving new work by the major art-historical scholars in the field with essays by artists whose work reflects upon, and draws creative power from, the trauma of slavery, this book presents a lively new conspectus of an important area of study that has come into its own in recent years. This book rightly refuses to consign slavery safely to the past, but rather insists on its ‘nonsynchronous contemporaneity’. Slavery’s presence, mediated by memory and present through its many legacies, is presented here as a key force in contemporary visual culture – and indeed in culture at large. - Professor Tim Barringer, Yale University

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About The Author

Celeste-Marie Bernier is Professor of Black Studies and Personal Chair in English Literature, University of Edinburgh. Hannah Durkin is Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in the Department of American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham.