Black Audio Film Collective resource

presented by liquid blackness


“Testimonial memory is the ghost that haunts the interstices of historical discourse.” – Jean Fisher

Taking as its point of departure Lumaina Himid’s visualization of the art ecology of black British artists in the U.K. in the 1980s, this resource has developed as a way to position past events within a suspended temporal state of possibility. By collecting but not sorting testimonial memory, the unofficial history driven by personal experience, the liquid blackness resource looks for forgotten connections and potential reconfigurations of the people, places, and events visible in Himid’s drawing. Just as the videos in the resource document artist’s memories of various events that occurred primarily in the 1980s, the resource takes on a fragmented and incomplete form.

Himid’s hand-drawn map Thin Black Line(s) Moments and Connections (2011) was created for the 2011 exhibition of the same name at Tate Britain. The image charts the relationship between individual artists, collectives, exhibitions, education, publications, and art spaces, and is grounded by the women artists shown in three seminal exhibitions Himid curated from 1983-1985: Five Black Women (1983), Black Women Time Now (1983-84), and Thin Black Line (1985). The drawing reflects a potential lineage, one that is not grounded in linear space and time but instead destabilizes the notion of progression. The lines reflecting these “moments and connections” are not governed by the same chronological succession or geographical proximity.

The liquid blackness resource attempts to emphasize the potential insights into historical discourse that occur by destabilizing the presumed logic of spatial and temporal linearity, and instead leans on the digital platform to allow the artists’ testimonies to touch, contrast, and overlap with each other. Driven by its content, the platform encourages a personal and evolving engagement with the voices that have refused to be contained within the interstices of historical discourse.

curated by Kristin Juarez


Keith Piper, Pathway to the 1980s

Screen Grab from “Pathways to the 1980s”

“An Illustrated Paper for academic use only, this is a personal framing of some of the historical, cultural and political influences which informed the development of the British Black Art Movement of the early 1980s. Specifically, this paper engages in a close examination of the archival memory of ‘The Blk Art Group’, a small association of visual artists active from 1979 to 1984, who existed as part of this wider art historical moment.” –Keith Piper


Keith Piper, “An Artist Commentary on the work ‘Ghosting the Archive’”

Screen Grab from“An Artist Commentary on the work ‘Ghosting the Archive’”

Keith Piper documents his commissioned project focusing on the photographs of Dietch collection housed in the Birmingham City Central Library in 2005. A favorite photographer of the commonwealth immigrants, Piper examines the archives as an archeology, finding his parents in the collection, and broader concerns of the indexical link that the images provide that resemble, in his words, “fossil fragments” of the past.


Keith Piper, “Coming up in the Black Moment. A Personal Reflection on the Blk Art Group.”

Screen Grab from Coming up in the Black Moment. A Personal Reflection on the Blk Art Group.”

“‘Coming up in the Black Moment’, is a personal commentary by the artist Keith Piper on the development of the Blk Art Group, a small association of young black British artists who were active from 1979 to 1984. It was produced as part of a longer commentary entitled ‘Pathways to the 1980s’, which proposed a historic and theoretically framing of the development of Black British cultural and political activities in the run up to the 1980s.” – Keith Piper

In it Piper questions outlines the questions of the declarative prompt “Black art must”


First National Black Art Convention

A link to the online archive of the convention and accompanying exhibition that took place in 1982 at Wolherhampton Polytechnic. The archive also includes audio recordings from the event.


Anjalie Dalal-Clayton. BlackSkin/Bluecoat: Revelations from the Archive

“This paper investigates for the first time the critical exhibition history of Black Skin/Bluecoat, which took place at the Bluecoat (Liverpool) in 1985 and showed work by Sonia Boyce, Eddie Chambers, Tam Joseph and Keith Piper. The exhibition was a significant site for the assertion of positions that had been held by the Blk Art Group and the exploration of some of the (then) emerging debates of the ‘Black Art Movement’, but it has, until now, been overlooked in their historiography.” From the symposium, “Reframing the moment: LEGACIES OF 1982 BLK ART GROUP CONFERENCE”


Dr Amna Malik, “Re-conceptualising Black British Art through the Lens of Exile.”

“The work of Gavin Jantjes, Mona Hatoum and Mitra Tabrizian was part of the interventions concerning race, identity and belonging in the 1980s but also made by artists whose practices could equally be engaged with the condition of exile. This paper considers how Edward Said’s essay ‘Reflections on Exile’ (1990) might be mobilised to analyse their work.” From the symposium, “Reframing the moment: LEGACIES OF 1982 BLK ART GROUP CONFERENCE”


Anslem Franke with introduction by George Clark, “Magiciens de la Terre” audio

Anslem Franke examines the restaging of the complex and seminal exhibition “Magiciens de La Terre” and Centre Pompidou. The exhibition had a film compononent that has been underdiscussed. The audio documents an illustrated talk that examines the intersections of arist practice that blurs ethnography and experimental film. In the spring of 2014, Tate Modern and Afterall Press developed a critical examination of three exhibitions that arguably initiated the “global art” turn: Magiciens de la Terre, the1989 Havana Biennial, and The Other Story at Hayward Gallery.


Screen grab from “John Akomfrah on The Unfinished Conversation”

“The first part of an interview between John Akomfrah and Tether.

In this part, Akomfrah discusses his recent three channel work about the cultural theorist Stuart Hall ‘The Unfinished Conversation’ and how the idea of a collective amnesia drives his practice.

Produced to coincide with John Akomfrah, The Unfinished Conversation at New Art Exchange, 11 May – 14 July” from


Sonia Boyce, “LEAP into uncertainty 19 Nov 2010, Friday Event Lecture at Glasgow School of Art” 

Screen grab from “LEAP into uncertainty 19 Nov 2010, Friday Event Lecture at Glasgow School of Art”

“Talking, singing, gathering folk – and the popular, the recent practice of Sonia Boyce has involved the participation of others in what she likes to call ‘improvised’ collaborations. Improvisation automatically means to be unsure what will come next. Boyce will discuss recent works that foreground this sense of uncertainty whilst looking at the past.
Sonia Boyce came into prominence in the early 1980s as a key figure in the burgeoning black British art scene of that time, with works that spoke about racial identity and gender in Britain. Since the 1990s her practice has shifted to encompass cultural differences and how these differences might be articulated, mediated and enjoyed.” From Glasgow School of Art


Marlene Smith and the Blk Art Group

Screen grab from “Marlene Smith and the Blk Art Group”

“Marlene Smith is an artist and an organiser of artists’ and cultural events. During her A-level summer, in Birmingham in 1982, she joined the fluid line up of students; Eddie Chambers, Claudette Johnson, Wenda Leslie, Keith Piper, Donald Rodney, Janet Vernon, that is today referred to as the Blk Art Group. In the film she shares her personal recollections and reflects on some of the key moments and events of the black arts movement of the 80s and the ideas that were prevalent at the time.

Marlene Smith took part in ‘A Rally of Speeches: Models of Resistance & Moments of Resilience’, moderated by Dr Andrea Phillips, Reader in Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Filmed by Fiona Melville as part of Adhocracy, a Mini Festival of DIY Culture: Past and Present, convened by New Work Network (NWN) in association with Rich Mix, London, 6/7 August 2011.” From New Work Network


John Akomfrah – Mnemosyne

John Akomfrah speaks on using the archives to find navigable routes through history as opposed to making them fit into a predetermined thesis at the Serpentine Gallery.


Ingrid Pollard at the Learning Space

Ingrid Pollard speaks on the use of a personal archive in her work while having the audience weave a rope between them. The rope becomes a a reference both the possibility of navigable routes of the diaspora as well as the photos themselves.



Jean Fisher, “The Other Story and the Past Imperfect”

Jean Fisher’s follow up article to her lecture, “The Other Story and the Past Imperfect” conducts an exhibition history that examines how curator Rasheed Araeen sought to demonstrate the presence of a suppressed history of a diasporic aesthetic among British visual artists of African, Caribbean, and Asian Ancestry.