Nick Aikens and Elizabeth Robles

May 24, 2023

The Place Is Here

The Work of Black Artists in 1980s Britain

MIT Press 2019

Nick Aikens and Elizabeth Robles discuss The Place Is Here (Sternberg Press, 2019) and the range of perspectives on black art in Thatcherite Britain offered by the collection of artworks, essays, and conversations found in the book.

The Place Is Here begins to write a missing chapter in British art history: work by black artists in the Thatcherite 1980s. Richly illustrated, with more than two hundred color images, it brings together artworks, essays, archives, and conversations that map the varying perspectives and approaches of a group of artists who challenged the dominance of white heterosexual men in the canon of contemporary art. The many artists discussed and displayed here do not make up a “movement” or a school or a chronological progression, but represent the diverse interests and activities of artists across a decade and beyond. They grapple with black nationalism, anti-colonialism and postcolonialism, anti-Thatcherism, black feminism, black queer subjectivity, psychoanalysis, forms of narrative and documentary image-making, in different ways and through different modes of representation across a range of media.

The book, which grows out of a series of exhibitions that began in 2014, offers essays, close readings of selected works, panel discussions, and archival presentations, bringing together different voices and generational perspectives. Contributions come from the artists themselves, established scholars, and younger practitioners, critics, and art historians. They discuss the exhibitions, call for a reappraisal of dominant art historical approaches, and consider the use and role of the archive in artworks; look at works by Mona Hatoum, Martina Atille, Said Adrus, Chila Kumari Burman, and Pratibha Parmar; and present key documents and other material.

Hosted and produced by Sam Kelly; Mixed by Samantha Doyle; Soundtrack by Kristen Gallerneaux

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