This year’s talks programme curated by Ekow Eshun takes the motif of Freefall as a point of departure from which to explore black artistic practice as a strategy of innovation, resistance and liberation.

With daily sessions between the 4 – 7 October at Somerset House, 1-54 FORUM will bring together artists, curators and scholars to address key questions and topics.

All talks are free to attend with a 1-54 ticket. Advance seat reservation is highly recommended, book your seat below.

FORUM at 1-54 London 2017 © Katrina Sorrentino


Curated by Ekow Eshun


14:30 – 14:45


EKOW ESHUN (1-54 FORUM Curator)

15:00 – 16:00

The scope and practice of ‘liquid blackness’: a reading of Kahlil Joseph’s work

When blackness is recognised as something that is produced and conjured what choices become available to cultural makers? Through Kahlil Joseph’s latest video works, Black Mary and Fly Paper, ALESSANDRA RAENGO (Associate Professor at Georgia State University) discusses the founding and methods of her research group, liquid blackness, and how ‘liquidity’ can be used as a tool to investigate blackness as an aesthetic mode, rather than solely a marker of identity. The talk will focus on the way Joseph pursues fluidity in the expression of blackness in cinematic image by being attuned to the sounds and textures of a variety of black communities and the rich archive of African American cultural expressions.

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16:30 – 17:30

Artist talk: Athi-Patra Ruga

EKOW ESHUN (Writer and 1-54 FORUM Curator) in conversation with artist ATHI-PATRA RUGA on his practice and first major solo exhibition in the UK, Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions, currently on display at Somerset House. Through mythical characters set in dramatic scenes and presented in multiple mediums, Ruga criticises and parodies South Africa’s political status quo, ideas of utopia and the pre-colonial.

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11:00 – 12:30

The Birth of a Black Surrealism?

In 1945, André Breton came to Haiti and gave a series of lectures which – some say – helped spark a political revolution. Yet it was his visit to the radical art studio, Le Centre d’Art d’Haïti, which would change him and the course of art history forever. This open-forum conversation will include audience members to discuss a critical moment in the development of the mid 20th century African diaspora aesthetic. JAMES BRETT (Filmmaker, Founder of The Museum of Everything // The Gallery of Everything), LEAH GORDON (Artist, Founder Ghetto Biennale), AXELLE LIAUTAUD, JOHN CUSSANS (Artist, Writer, Researcher) and GISCARD BOUCHOTTE (Curator and Critic).

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Alisa and André Breton at the Port-au-Prince airfield in December 1945. Courtesy le Centre d’Art d’Haïti

13:00 – 14:00

Black Magic

Through his visually engaging interdisciplinary work, RASHAAD NEWSOME (Artist) explores the complexities of social power structures and questions of agency. Newsome will discuss his use of the diasporic tradition of improvisation as a tool to achieve abstraction. His work speaks to the power of the human spirit to reinvent and transform itself as evidenced in the Black and Queer cultural practices referenced and abstracted throughout the work.

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14:30 – 16:00

Images of Africa

Works brought together in African photography survey exhibitions such as Rencontres de Bamako (Bamako), New African Photography III (Nataal, New York) and Africa State of Mind (New Art Exchange, Nottingham) explore a wide range of topics, from issues of place and history to questions of gender and identity. But do such geographic group shows risk turning individual artists into regional representatives? And how do curators take on the task of identifying the tendencies and artworks that can sum up the artistic practices of a continent? With RENÉE MUSSAI (Senior Curator and Head of Archive and Research at Autograph ABP), LEBOHANG KGANYE (Photographer), MARIE-ANN YEMSI (Art Consultant and Curator) and RUTH OSSAI (Photographer), moderated by HELEN JENNINGS (Founder and Editorial Director of Nataal).

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16:30 – 17:30

Arist talk: Larry Achiampong

HAROLD OFFEH (Artist) leads a conversation with multi-disciplinary artist LARRY ACHIAMPONG on Achiampong’s immersive installation at Somerset House. The mixed-media installation explores syncretism in religion and domesticity in diasporic communities living in the global West and the dynamics that unfold through the complex amalgamation of beliefs and cultures.

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11:00 – 12:00

Artist talk: Modupeola Fadugba

As an avid swimmer, MODUPEOLA FADUGBA has a profound personal affinity for the pool and its capacity to foster health and confidence. This talk, with curator KATHERINE FINERTY, will discuss Fadugba’s current exhibition Dreams from the Deep End at Gallery 1957, Accra. During the artist’s residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York, she created a series highlighting The Harlem Honeys and Bears – a senior citizen synchronized swimming team – and interrogated the socio-political history of swimming pools and race relations in America. After a short documentary, Finerty and Fadugba will discuss the artist’s evolving research-based process and creative practice to represent this resilient community.

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12:30 – 14:00

The Fugitive Image

What is driving artists to use vintage video footage as a source material to explore ideas of African diaspora identity and history? Is archive imagery a means to craft works grounded in authentic documentation of events? Or a way to create new fictions and new futures, from the fragments of the past? And what are the freedoms or constraints artists find in working with such elusive, fugitive images? GAYLENE GOULD (Head of Cinema and Events at British Film Institute) in conversation with artists NT, APPAU JNR BOAKYE-YIADOM and ONYEKA IGWE.

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Appau Jnr Boakye Yiadom, Excerpt from untitled (language research). Courtesy the artist

14:30 – 15:30

On Fabulousness

At its heart, fabulousness offers a kind of poetry, a poetics of how people throughout the diaspora create and recreate themselves every day in the peculiar state of emergency that is living while black, brown, queer and trans. Instead of being bogged down by the stresses of living while black, fabulousness transforms that duress into unimpeachable aesthetic genius. Building on this year’s theme of black creative expression as intense, urgent and in Freefall, MADISON MOORE (Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s studies at Virginia Commonwealth University) explores how style is a political intervention that uses creativity to imagine a thrilling elsewhere

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16:00 – 17:30

Portraiture as Politics

Against a backdrop of retreating notions of multiculturalism and an increasing populist nationalism in Europe and America, is portraiture emerging as a resonant medium by which to assert black visibility? Does portraiture take on a dual role, both as the artistic practice of individuals and a form of collective endeavor? Led by DAVID A. BAILEY MBE (Artist and Curator), artists KIMATHI DONKOR, IRVIN PASCAL and KUDZANAI-VIOLET HWAMI, discuss how they are articulating their presence in portraiture at a time of rising reactionism.

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18:00 – 18:30

Performance: Harold Offeh, Lounging 2018

HAROLD OFFEH, with several performers, will stage a performative re-enactment of a selection of album covers that depict black men in a repose or lounging position, a popular trope for black male singers like Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and Lionel Ritchie in the 1980s. Lounging is an extension of Offeh’s ongoing project, Covers, a project that explores the representations of black figures as depicted on album sleeves from the 70s and 80s.

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Harold Offeh, Lounging (performance), 2017. Courtesy of the artist



13:30 – 14:30

Artist talk: Hurvin Anderson

SONIA BOYCE (Artist and Curator) leads a conversation with artist HURVIN ANDERSON on Anderson’s most recent work. Anderson’s paintings explore spaces occupied by Caribbean immigrants, such as public parks, gardens, barbershops, and domestic interiors, which function as sites for both social gathering and economic enterprise. These settings represent Anderson’s personal and cultural memories of functional spaces and shared experiences of the Caribbean.

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15:00 – 17:00

Reading group: Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca

This event will be a dynamic reading of parts of Fatima El-Teyeb’s book European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Post National Europe as part of ‘Diasporic Self: Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca’ (198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, London and Framer FRAMED, Amsterdam December 2018).
‘Diasporic Self: Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca’ is a project convened by AMAL ALHAAG (Independent Curator and Researcher) and BARBY ASNATE (Artist, Curator and Researcher) exploring the possibilities and impossibilities of a black togetherness in Europe. The project explores everyday vernacular, performativity, improvisation, unconstituted archives and informal memory practices that inform and map contemporary black cultures in Europe. Alhaag and Asante will be joined by longtime collaborators from the SORRYYOUFEELUNCOMFORTABLE collective, RABZ LANSIQUOT and IMANI ROBINSON, a UK-based collective creating intentional space for radical study, conversation and multi-disciplinary art making.

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Augustinusschool (1982), Robert de Hartogh/nfa, coll. Nederlands fotomuseum. Courtesy of Amal Alhaag, Barby Asante and sorryyoufeeluncomfortable

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