The Place is Here is grounded in the 1980’s, a crucial turning point in British multicultural politics. It brings together a wide range of works in varying mediums in order to question visitors about identity, and what culture is for. The collaborative efforts of thirty artists make up, in a wide and vibrant style, the collection currently on display at the Nottingham Contemporary.
The exhibition follows the crucial conversations that were considered by black artists, writers and thinkers during the 1980’s. What constitutes a ‘black arts movement’ is still heavily contested today, and thus this exhibition draws on anxieties felt by displaced artists and intellectuals of past and present.
The collection presents a montage that allows for narratives, identities and differing pasts to be configured collectively in a new space. The Place is Here assembles a variety of different voices to indicate the shifting portrait of the decade. The varying styles, colour palettes and messages on display give a sense of community, allowing a visitor to see the scale of the issues being considered, and the huge number of lives dedicated to the pursuit of an individual movement.
The exhibition is spread across four rooms, each room holding a slightly varied message and bundle of artistry. Each separate room’s title is drawn from a piece of work on display in the room that acts as a jumping off point for the discussions raised by the rest of the work in the room.
The first room is entitled Signs of Empire and is drawn from the work of the Audio-Film collective and their 1984 piece of the same title. This initial room comments on how artists engaged with colonial legacies in the 1980’s.
The exhibition progresses to the second room, entitled We Will Be, taken from a poem inscribed in Lubaina Himid’s 1986 cut-out which is on display at the centre of the room. This second small collection comments on a number of artists who were asserting their identities, bodies and desires at this time, and as such, challenging conventions of power and form.
Moving on, the third room houses The People’s Account. The pieces in this room comment on the uprisings in Britain that were in response to police violence, and in doing so call for new modes of documenting events so that they can be accurately represented to future generations.
The final room, which is towards the front of the building, allowing the most natural light to flood in, holds Convenience Not Love. This smaller collection is aimed at documenting Thatcher’s Britain and uses satirical pieces to comment on the period. Towards the rear, key policies and publications from the 1980’s are exhibited to underscore the corresponding art with factual explanatory details. This allows the viewer to consider events from the 1980’s whilst acknowledging their effects on people’s personal lives.
Therefore, The Place is Here considers relatively recent history through a montage of voices. It is an expanded version of a presentation Nick Aikens curated in Eindhoven in 2016 called A Montage of Black Art in Britain. The exhibition engages with difficult and current issues and, as such, is an important visit for educational purposes. The collection of voices, presented through various artists, has a distancing effect and, consequently, you leave the exhibition with a sense of different perspectives concerning a contemporary issue.
Image credits: Ginny Moore, with thanks to Nottingham Contemporary.
‘The Place is Here’ will be shown at Nottingham Contemporary until 30th of April 2017, for further information see here.