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.