BLACK AUDIO FILM COLLECTIVE SCREENING AND DISCUSSION SERIES
FALL 2014 SEPTEMBER 26-28, 2014 OCTOBER 3-4, 2014
Coming together in the formative moments of Cultural Studies and in dialogue with Stuart Hall’s ideas of identity as a (never finalized) process of cultural retrieval, the output of the Black Audio Film Collective is characterized by an immersive and yet highly critical relationship to the (often colonial) archive. BAFC responds to the absence of representation of diasporic subjects by reconstructing the work of personal and collective memories. Or, in the case of the iconic Handsworth Song (1986, about the Handsworth riots of 1985) as a critique of riot newsreels, as well as of the larger trauma of diasporic displacement. Exploring issues of history, memory, displacement, projected criminality, and ideas of identity constructed at the junction between the personal and the political the Black Audio Film Collective’s work employs avant-garde techniques to articulate a black diasporic subject that Britain’s official history, record, and public sphere was determined to ignore or suppress.
At times, BAFC’s visionary work anticipates aesthetic solutions that became commonplace in the digital age. As John Akomfrah articulates, in the group’s work, the utopian was often imagined as a digital referent: on the one hand, the iconic figures and moments of the black US radical tradition (Malcolm X, Black Power, the Black Panthers, and so on) had reached the group’s generation as some kind of “digital specters” – powerful, inspirational, necessary and yet removed. On the other hand, the very concept of the digital offered these filmmakers the hope for a different relationship to the archive. Liquid blackness will focus on this “digitopia,” as Akomfrah has described it, is ripe for scholarly reflections on the possible impact of digitality in alternative forms of collective and historical imagination.
Even though the collective dissolved in 1998, some members (Akomfrah, Gopaul and Lawson) founded a production company “Smoking Dogs Films” which has produced several of John Akomfrah’s single-authored films. Among them there is Nine Muses and the celebrated The Unfinished Conversation, a 3-screen installation Akomfrah has currently on sight at the Tate Britain, as well as The Stuart Hall Project, the single-screen film version, which premiered at Sundance in 2013.
For the first weekend of the screenings one of the collective’s members, David Lawson, as well as art historian Eddie Chambers (University of Texas at Austin), who was active at the same time as the collective and is one of the early historians of black arts in Britain, will offer an introduction to the collective’s work as well as a discussion of its location in the context of other contemporary arts.
The second weekend will have an introduction and discussion by Kara Keeling, Associate Professor of Critical Studies, American Studies and Ethnicity at USC. Professor Keeling will offer a commentary on the scholarly and artistic impact of the John Akomfrah’s films The Last Angel of History (1995) and Memory Room 451 (1997) which directly engage with the themes of Afrofuturism.
liquid blackness would like to thank these supporters and collaborators: