- 27 November 2020
- 12:00 – 1:00 pm
- Zoom webinar
In his volume Against the Anthropocene, art historian T. J. Demos states 'environmental matters of concern are inextricable from social, political and economic forces’ describing the ways in which ‘environmental stresses can be both a driver and consequence of injustice and inequality – including poverty, racism, and neocolonial violence'. At a critical moment for global futures, our presentation will explore the interrelation of climate and racial injustices through a visual analysis of Black British artist John Akomfrah’s 2010 cine-essay The Nine Muses and its renewed significance in light of current global crises. Our close reading will be contextualised against Akomfrah’s earlier works produced on the Scottish islands, and with that of his peers, particularly Isaac Julien’s True North and Ingrid Pollard’s seminal series Pastoral Interludes.
Set in the Arctic, at the site of the 1989 Exxon oil disaster, The Nine Muses explores the histories of mass migration of the African diaspora to post-war Britain, creating a visual testament to the experience of migrant labourers across the industrial landscapes of England. Repurposing historical state footage from the BBC archives, Akomfrah creates a filmic montage by splicing it with newly shot film from Alaska. Akomfrah transforms the Arctic, subverting its traditional representation as a literal and symbolic white space, creating ‘an expedition about putting a black presence in all the ‘whiteness’ of the landscape’.
The Arctic undertakes two functions within The Nine Muses; firstly, it is a symbolic space describing whiteness, imbued with associations of sublimity and purity which can be traced to romantic aesthetics produced alongside British imperial exploration. Arctic imagery was a Victorian-era spectacle: panoramas were produced for exhibit while expedition voyages often featured crew members and artists whose depictions captured the British public imagination. Akomfrah employs these motifs to describe the experiences of migrants on arrival to the UK – the coldness, loneliness and hostile environment. Secondly, the Arctic represents a space of dispossession; from flag-waving races to the pole to current neo-colonial collusions for ownership, indigenous peoples and the global south are dispossessed of the territory and its agency for global futures. The Nine Muses reclaims the Arctic and offers a unique opportunity to think about the interrelation of race, landscape, and climate within the context of the slow violence of climate change, the rapid pathogens of Covid-19 and the continuing racial injustice towards black bodies.
Guidelines for users attending Zoom webinars
Before the webinar
● Please download Zoom software in advance.
● Please register to attend the Research Lunch webinar through Eventbrite.
● We will share the link to the Zoom webinar with you in advance by email through Eventbrite.
● If you require closed captioning during this event, please get in touch at least two weeks before the event date.
● If you have not received the Zoom link by 3pm the day before the event please get in touch as soon as possible via email@example.com.
During the event
● Paul Mellon Centre staff hosting the event will employ the appropriate security features to help ensure that events and meetings operate safely.
● There will be a waiting room feature that allows the host to control when all participants join the meeting.
● You will be automatically muted when you join the webinar and can only communicate verbally if the host unmutes you.
● The talk will last for 30–40 minutes and will be followed by a Q&A where the chair will prompt discussion.
● Use the Q&A box to ask/write your questions after the talk.
● You can also use the virtual raise hand button if you have a question/comment to make by audio.
● Use the chat box to make comments.
● If you are experiencing any technical problems, please notify Ella Fleming (events manager) or Danielle Convey (events assistant) directly using the chat box function. Alternatively you can email them via firstname.lastname@example.org.
● The Paul Mellon Centre will not take photographs of this event and participants are requested likewise not to do so.
● This session will not be recorded.
● Any offensive behaviour will not be tolerated and attendees can be removed from the webinar by the host.
The Paul Mellon Centre is aware of its obligations under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and is committed to processing your data securely and transparently.
For more information on Zoom’s compliance with EU GDPR see: https://zoom.us/gdpr
Image: John Akomfra, The Nine Muses. Digital image courtesy of Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
About the speakers
Dr Jessica Carden is part of the curatorial duo Mother Tongue along with Dr Tiffany Boyle, which was formed in 2009. Together, they have collaboratively produced exhibitions, film programmes, discursive events and texts, most recently the 2019/2020 exhibition Transparency: Alberta Whittle and Hardeep Pandhal at Edinburgh Printmakers. Their research-led projects explore representation, migration, post-colonialism and diversity in the arts, having worked with organisations including the National Galleries of Scotland, Stills Gallery, Art Fund, MAP magazine, Glasgow International, GoMA Glasgow, British Council and the Hauser & Wirth Institute NY. Tiffany is based at the Glasgow School of Art and Jessica at King’s College London.
Dr Tiffany Boyle is part of the curatorial duo Mother Tongue along with Dr Jessica Carden, which was formed in 2009. Together, they have collaboratively produced exhibitions, film programmes, discursive events and texts, most recently the 2019/2020 exhibition Transparency: Alberta Whittle and Hardeep Pandhal at Edinburgh Printmakers. Their research-led projects explore representation, migration, post-colonialism and diversity in the arts, having worked with organisations including the National Galleries of Scotland, Stills Gallery, Art Fund, MAP magazine, Glasgow International, GoMA Glasgow, British Council and the Hauser & Wirth Institute NY. Tiffany is based at the Glasgow School of Art and Jessica at King’s College London.