Now & Then, Here & There: Black Artists & Modernism London Conference

When: 06/10/2016 – 08/10/2016

Time: 09:00 – 17:30

Where: Tate Britain and Chelsea College of Arts, UAL

Who: Black Artists & Modernism London Conference

Cost: Full paying delegates £60 // Student rate £35 – Booking needed.

Event page


How do artists of African and Asian descent in Britain feature in the story of twentieth century art?

The Now & Then… Here & There conference will address the understated connections between Black-British artists’ practice and the work of art’s relationship to Modernism.

The implied oversight has been highlighted in Kobena Mercer’s Iconography after Identity(2005), where he suggests that an art historical amnesia prevails in relation to Black-British art; of forgetting the artistic object in favour of discussions about ethnicity and identity politics. The result of this focus, Mercer argues, inevitably deflects attention away from the work of art.

An urge to reassess the legacies of Black-British artist’ practice in the twentieth century and beyond has led to the posing of several questions. Not least amongst them, questions that turn our attention to the varied forms of production throughout that period: ‘How do we come to know the work of art?’ Conversely, ‘How do we come to forget the work of art?’ In its primary formulation, this forms the basis of an epistemological inquiry, situated within the disciplinary framework of art history.

Associated discourses, such as museology, curatorial studies and documentary studies will also be marshalled to develop trans-disciplinary tools to pursue this central inquiry.

As an organising principle, the conference will look at the temporal (across generations of practice) and the spatial (narratives of the transnational), as crucial frames to the story of twentieth century art.

This two-day conference will address the understated connections and points of contention between Black-British artists’ practice and the work of art’s relationship to Modernism.

The Keynote Address will be given by Professor Kobena Mercer, Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. Mercer’s recent work, Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices Since the 1980s (Duke University Press, 2016), provides the ground for conference discussion. In that work, Mercer argues that there has been an over-emphasis on ethnicity and identity politics in the work of Black artists. This has meant that attention has been shifted away from the actual artwork that they have produced. The conference will provide an opportunity to explore more fully the claims that an art historical amnesia prevails in relation to Black-British art. Does such amnesia amount to a forgetting of artistic objects? Has a re-statement of social issues been a distraction away from aesthetic concerns?

Conference debate will touch on: art practice, curatorial studies, critical writing, documentary studies, art history and museology.

Conference activity will include exhibition visits to: ‘Now! Now!’ in more than one place'(curated by Sonia Boyce at the Cookhouse Gallery). Events will take place across Tate Britain and Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, within London’s Millbank cultural quarter.

Speakers will include:

The conference will open with an afternoon private view of the ‘Now! Now!….in more than one place’ exhibition from 4pm on Thursday 6 October 2016 followed by an evening keynote lecture by Professor Kobena Mercer at 6.30pm. Both events will be held at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, 16 John Islip Street, London SW1P 4JU.

Private View: Now! Now!…. in more than one place exhibition
Thursday 6 October 2016 – from 4pm
The Triangle Gallery and Cookhouse at Chelsea College of Arts

Keynote Lecture: Professor Kobena Mercer
Thursday 6 October 2016 – 6.30pm
Chelsea College of Arts Lecture Theatre 
University of the Arts London
16 Islip Street
London SW1P 4JU

The following two days of the conference will be held at Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

Friday 7 October 2016 – 9am for 9.30am | close 5:30pm
Tate Britain 
Clore Auditorium
Millbank
London SW1P 4RG

Saturday 8 October 2016 – 9.45am for 10am | close 5:30pm
Tate Britain 
Clore Auditorium
Millbank
London SW1P 4RG

Conference programme

Conference Booking: please click on the grey box ‘book event’ below where you will be taken through to the booking and payment system on E-Store.

Full paying delegates £60
Student rate £35
Refreshments and sandwich lunches will be provided on Friday and Saturday.

With thanks to our hosts Tate Britain  Travel to Tate
The conference and its related events have been produced in association with Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts).
#BAMLDN2016