Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Black Diaspora Visual Arts Symposia at The Frank Collymore Hall Bridgetown

Frank Collymore Hall
Central Bank Of Barbados
Spry Street

This conference is part of a series a series of symposia and exhibitions that explore visual art in the Black Diaspora.

It was a major collaboration with the National Art Gallery Committee in Barbados, AICA Southern Caribbean and the Arts Council of England.

The conference took as its starting point Stuart Hall and the question he poses in his essay “Modernity and its Others: Three Moments in the Post – War History of the Black Diaspora Arts”. The essay offers an analysis of three ‘moments’ in the post-war black visual arts in the UK.

The main contrast identified is between the ‘problem space’ of the artists–the last ‘colonials’–who came to London after World War II to join the modern avant-garde and who were anti-colonial, cosmopolitan and modernist in outlook, and that of the second generation–the first ‘post-colonials’–who were born in Britain, pioneered the Black Art Movement and the creative explosion of the 1980s, and who were anti-racist, culturally relativist and identity-driven.

In the work of the former, abstraction predominated; the work of the latter was politically polemical and collage-based, subsequently embracing the figural and the more subjective strategy of ‘putting the self in the frame’.

This generational shift is mapped here in relation to wider socio-political and cultural developments, including the growth of indigenous racism, the new social movements, especially anti-racist, feminist and identity politics, and the theoretical ‘revolutions’ associated with them.

The contemporary moment–less politicized, and artistically neo- conceptual, multi-media and installation-based–is discussed more briefly.

The symposium explored some of these themes in Hall’s paper with particular reference to their applicability to the contemporary Caribbean context and the relationship of the contemporary moment to earlier developments.

Questions include:
❍ Is there a Caribbean canon?
❍ Can we discuss a Caribbean aesthetic in the 21st century?
❍ What are the institutional models?
❍ How do we identify the different ways forward?

The Symposia took place at the Frank Collymore Hall in Bridgetown in conjunction with a number of site-specific artists’ projects.

The National Art Gallery Committee Barbados was established for the benefit of all. With a commitment to free admission, a central and accessible site, and extended opening hours, the gallery has ensured that its collection can be enjoyed by the widest public possible, and not become the exclusive preserve of the privileged. The committee continues to pursue a vigorous and socially inclusive outreach programme and caters for the needs of all groups in society.

Speakers and Artsists included:
Alissandra Cummings (Chairperson National Art Gallery Committee, Director Barbados Museum) Steve Blackett (Minister Of Community Development And Culture, Barbados) David Scott (Columbia University; Editor Small Axe) David A. Bailey (MBE, Senior Curator Autograph) Stuart Hall (Cultural Theorist, Professor Emeritus, Open University, London) George Lamming (Professor Brown University) Lowery Sims (Museum Of Arts and design, New York) Veerle Poupeye (Edna Manley College Of Visual And performing Arts) Krista Thompson (Northwestern University, Illinois) Leon Wainwright (Manchester Metropolitan University) Allison Thompson (National Art Gallery Committee) Kara Walker (Artist) Teka Selman (Branch Gallery, North Carolina) Richard Powell (Duke University, North Carolina) Dominique Brebion (President, AICA Southern Caribbean) Christopher Cozier (Artist) Paul Domela (Programme Director, Liverpool Biennial) Andrea Wells (National Art Gallery Committe, NCF) Alfredo Jaar (Artist) Ewan Atkinson (Artist) Ingrid Persaud (Artist) Arthur Edwards (Artist) Frances Ross (Artist) Indrani Gall (Artist) Joscelyn Gardner (Artist) Caroline Holder (Artist) Trevor Mathison (Artist) Gary Stewart (Artist) Ingrid Pollard (Artist) Sheena Rose (Artist)

photos © Julia Waugh.