Symposium

Expanding the Conversation

This one-day symposium invites audiences to further explore propositions, artistic and political, invoked by the exhibition The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding, and to dialogue with several of its featured artists, as well as the curators and guest scholars. The paradigm-shifting thought of Stuart Hall haunts the exhibition, and is motored by his notion that the visual is continuously at work in the construction of plural identities. To this end, participants will discuss how these works recalibrate memory, temporality and the archive, cultivating renewed vision into our past, present and future.

INTRODUCTION

Gaëtane Verna and Mark Sealy, MBE
The curators of The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding contextualize the works in the exhibition, and speak to its genesis.

PANEL 1: INSTALLATION OF THE REAL: ARCHIVE AND AFFECT

Participants: John Akomfrah, Zineb Sedira and Dr. Tina Campt
Moderator: Kass Banning

John Akomfrah’s The Unfinished Conversation (2012), Steve McQueen’s End Credits (2012), and Zineb Sedira’s Gardiennes d’images (Image Keepers) (2010) retool past moving images, documents or photographs to renewed effect. Reanimating archival sound and image, all three installations uniquely conjure a renowned figure, loved and revered by and beyond specific communities of interest, while exceeding simple memorialization. Emphasizing the archive’s Janus-faced potential, the panel will offer insights into how the temporal affordances and affective punch of the moving image installation flesh out these historical personages. This conversation asks: how might sensory encounters within the gallery context re-charge the real and incite us to perceive these figures otherwise?

PANEL 2: UNCANNY HISTORY: ENCODING/DECODING THE CULTURAL PRESENT

Participants: Sven Augustijnen, Shelagh Keeley and Dr. Christian Campbell
Moderator: Dr. Warren Crichlow

Sven Augustijnen’s film Spectres (2011), Terry Adkins’s video Flumen Orationis (From the Principalities) (2012), and Shelagh Keeley’s site-specific wall drawings (2015) reanimate geo-political events that resonate, unresolved, in the present. Collectively, these assemblages of documentary image, sound and performance contemporize historical memory. Here the archive’s uncanny afterlife provokes interpretive possibilities and associations within a new conjuncture of cultural conditions, most immediately the space of the gallery. Beyond information, idealization, desires or even spectacle—the very means of encoding and decoding culture—this conversation explores how remnant images become designs for aesthetic reconstruction.

PARTICIPANT BIOS

John Akomfrah
John Akomfrah, OBE, is a seminal figure in Black British cinema and a pioneer of digital cinematography. A director, writer and theorist who creates documentaries, feature films and exhibitions that have garnered international critical acclaim, Akomfrah has a body of work considered one of the most distinctive and innovative in contemporary Britain. Born in Ghana to politically active parents, he moved to London at an early age. He was a founding figure in the influential cine cultural group, Black Audio Film Collective, which explored questions of Black British identity, race and class through film and media. In 1999, Akomfrah set up Smoking Dogs Films—which simultaneously cohabits the worlds of broadcast, cinema and the arts—with his long-term producing partners, David Lawson and Lina Gopaul. Akomfrah has served on numerous boards as a governor, including the British Film Institute and Film London, and has taught at a number of institutions around the world including MIT, Yale and the University of Westminster.

Sven Augustijnen
Sven Augustijnen lives and works in Brussels. His films, publications and installations on political, historical and social themes constantly challenge the genre of the documentary, reflecting a wider interest in historiography and a predilection for the nature of storytelling. According to Augustijnen, “historiography is by no means a natural phenomenon. The way we use stories, images and fiction to construct reality and history fascinates me.” He has had solo exhibitions at the Center for Curatorial Studies Bard, Annandale-on-Hudson (2014), Vox Centre pour l'Image Contemporaine, Montréal (2013), Malmö Konsthall (2013), de Appel Centre for Contemporary Art, Amsterdam (2012), Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels (2011), and Kunsthalle Bern (2011). Augustijnen is represented by Jan Mot, Brussels/Mexico City, and is a founding member of Auguste Orts, Brussels.

Kass Banning
Kass Banning teaches in the Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto. Banning’s research focuses on various forms of screen alterity, ranging from diasporic to indigenous to queer, and includes minor cinemas and new media. She has a long-standing interest in cross-cultural aesthetics, transnationalism and theories of mobility and affect. Banning has published extensively in the areas of Black British and Canadian cinemas, and documentary media. She is a co-editor of an anthology on Canadian women’s cinema with University of Toronto Press and a co-founder of the journals CineAction and Borderlines. Past special issues include Canadas: Cinema and Criticism, Documentary, Race to Representation, and Mau-Mauing Multiculturalism.

Dr. Christian Campbell
Dr. Christian Campbell is a Trinidadian-Bahamian poet, scholar and cultural critic. His widely acclaimed first book, Running the Dusk (Peepal Tree Press, 2010), won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was a finalist for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa calls Running the Dusk, “the gutsy work of a long-distance runner who possesses the wit and endurance, the staying power of authentic genius.” Campbell’s poetry and essays have been published widely in journals and newspapers, including Callaloo, The Financial Times, The Guardian and Wasafiri. He studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and teaches at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Tina Campt
Dr. Tina Campt is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Africana and Women’s Gender and Studies at Barnard College and Co-Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women. An interdisciplinary scholar of African Diaspora Studies, her published work theorizes gender, racial and diasporic formation among black communities in Germany, and Europe. Campt is the author of two books. Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (2004) is an oral history that explores the experiences of Black Germans during the Third Reich. Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (2012) explores the sensate registers of vernacular photography using early-twentieth-century family photography of Black Germans and Black Britons.

Dr. Warren Crichlow
Dr. Warren Crichlow teaches cultural studies and education in the Faculty of Education, York University, where he also serves on the Advisory Board of Art Gallery York University (AGYU). His most recent publication is ‘‘It’s All About Finding The Right Excuse’’ in Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act Of Killing, Film Quarterly, 67:2 (Winter 2013). His current research investigates the narratology of transitional justice in emergent independent filmmaking in Rwanda.

Shelagh Keeley

Shelagh Keeley lives and works in Toronto. She has an extensive international exhibition history, having most recently created a commissioned wall drawing installation at Stadtisches Museum Abteiberg, Monchengladbach, Germany, for the exhibition In Order to Join (2013), which travelled to the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, India (2014). Keeley has also had recent exhibitions at Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon, India (2013), Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto (2013), Nuit Blanche, Paris, France (2012), Vancouver Art Gallery (2010), Caoyang Village Public Art Project, Shanghai (2009), and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2008). Her work is represented in the collections of major international public institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, The Getty Museum, Santa Monica, and Harvard Art Museum, Boston.

Mark Sealy, MBE
Mark Sealy, MBE, has a special interest in photography and film and their relationship to social change, identity politics and human rights. As director of Autograph ABP since 1991, he has initiated the production of many publications, exhibitions and residency projects, and commissioned photographers and filmmakers worldwide. His building project, Rivington Place, opened in London in 2007. Sealy has written for several international photography publications, including Foam Magazine, Aperture and Next Level. His book project, Different, published by Phaidon Press in 2002, focuses on photography and identity and was produced in partnership with Stuart Hall. Sealy’s most recent curated projects include commissioning The Unfinished Conversation, a film-work by John Akomfrah on the political life of Stuart Hall, first staged as part of the Liverpool Biennial (2012). Roma-Sinti-Kale-Manush, a group show that examined the representation of Roma Communities across Europe, was on display at Rivington Place, London, in 2012. Sealy also curated Human Rights Human Wrongs for Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto, in 2013.

Zineb Sedira
Zineb Sedira lives and works in London. She has exhibited extensively across the globe, including exhibitions at Galerie La Jetée, Marseille (2013), Centre Pompidou-Metz, France (2013), Singapore Art Museum (2013), Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston (2013), Tate Britain, London (2012), Palazzo Zenobio, Venice Biennale (2011), Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2010), Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille (2010), Kunsthallen Nikolaj, Copenhagen (2010), Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto (2010), and Musée National Pablo Picasso, France (2010).

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