Kodwo Eshun delivering the inaugural Mark Fisher Memorial Lecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. 19th January 2018.
In 1983, Black Audio Film Collective emerged in the British art scene with their first slide-tape films, Expeditions 1: Signs of Empire and Expeditions 2: Images of Nationality, which traced the formation of black British subjectivity borne by diasporic journey. Over the next fifteen years, Black Audio Film Collective’s lyrical, essayistic films would bring together archival footage and draw upon the work of postcolonial writers, feminist intellectuals, and queer theorists—Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, Homi Bhabha, Gail Lewis, Femi Otitoju, and George Shire, among others—to reckon with radically shifting social and political conditions in Britain and the US. Their subjects are familiar today: their films confront racism and power, increasing economic disparity, and the relationship between migration and rampant xenophobia. Collective Imaginings: Legacies of the Black Audio Film Collective is a panel discussion with participants Coco Fusco, Tobi Haslett, Kara Keeling, and moderator Ashley Clark. The discussion will explore the importance of returning to Black Audio Film Collective’s work in our current political and cultural moment—not only in terms of their radical approach to documentary film, but also their broader commitment to supporting new voices of color in video production by organizing workshops, roundtable dialogues, and public forums.
This panel is organized on the occasion of “John Akomfrah: Signs of Empire,” the first American survey exhibition of the work of British artist, film director, and writer John Akomfrah (b. 1957, Accra, Ghana). Since the early 1980s, Akomfrah’s moving image works have offered some of the most rigorous and expansive reflections on the culture of the black diaspora, both in the UK and around the world.
38 mins UK 1984 Banner Film and TV Ltd
Broadcast in the Independent Film and Video slot People to People, Coal Not Dole counters the mainstream media’s coverage of the 1984 miners’ strike. The Sheffield based filmmakers cover the picket lines and demonstrations in a South Yorkshire mining community, and invite striking miners and their families to give their views of the strike.
John Akomfrah on his practice with archive film at Artes Mundi 7 Conference at National Museum Cardiff, January 2017.
I think one crucial element of the essayistic mode is how it positions us outside the space of the screen to see how that space operates. In doing so, it redirects our attention back to the material world, to physical spaces, to the forces that govern and shape them, and to our own possibilities to act amidst these forces. We are no longer just eyes glued to a screen; we become minds and bodies reacquainted with our reality.
This rearrangement of our relationship between screens and reality is crucial to realising the potential of the video essay as a mode of activist expression. The rise of video essays proposes a new wave of democratisation of the audiovisual, where everyone can articulate themselves and mobilise others through their self-made media. Key to the realisation of this possibility is developing a collective mindset that can engage this mode in a manner worthy of our best aspirations, both for our screen culture and our social realities.
From Sight and Sound’s first ever documentary poll (September 2014 issue).