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Honey Williams Commission + Interview 10 November 2020


Snakey Friends II (Banned From Britain), 2020.

For our Formations programme, led in partnership with the Postcolonial Studies Centre at Nottingham Trent University, we are delighted to launch a newly commissioned art work by Honey Williams, made in response to the programmatic themes related to Black History Month, Black Lives Matter, and the Decolonisation agenda.

The resultant work Snakey Friends II (Banned From Britain), 2020 (pictured above), will operate as an emblem for the Formations programme and will be displayed outside the entrance of Bonington Gallery for the entirety of the Formations programme, ending in September 2021.

To launch the commission, we asked Honey a few questions…

Hi Honey, it’d be great if you could begin by offering an overview of your practice. What you physically do, but also some of your ideas and influences.

My practice is illustration, painting, songwriting and singing, I am a multi-dimensional artist. When it comes to visual art I like to play with a mash-up of techniques such as collage, inks, graphite, acrylics and also digital wizardry. All of this amalgamates into a cacophony of mind meanderings, collected imagery over time. The nucleus of many of my ideas is conjured up from my diary. I like to vandalise my own work in a way because I am attracted to imperfection as it is a way to signify the truth. Riffing, sampling and including discarded things within a final piece.

Could you please talk to us about the work you have made, and how it progressed from the invitation that Jenni Ramone (Co-Director NTU Postcolonial Studies Centre) made to you. What was it about some of the thinking behind the Formations programme that informed this response?

It has been interesting to observe the reaction of various organisations that are remembering that black lives matter. I am as heartened by the response as I am sceptical, my work is in part a response to all of that. This sense of distrust reverberates throughout this current piece that I have created, I have intertwined this with my interpretation of the temptation of Eve. Eve is usually interpreted as an ethereal very pale pre-raphaelite, long-haired, white woman in a European country garden with a big red apple despite Ethiopia being the first Christian country on earth. This piece acts to flip social hierarchy upside down by decentering whiteness and maleness, redefining beauty and humanity as a highly intersectional black woman with jet black locs, full lips and shea buttered dark skin takes centre stage, commanding the piece as an act of womanism. Her eyes are deep, sceptical, cynical, distrusting of white power structures represented by union jack coloured snakes that dance across the piece. She is wearing a mask with the coat of arms usually found on British Passports that have now become a precious commodity due to the Windrush Scandal, she is literally being silenced by systemic oppression but at the same time experiencing privilege that a British passport gives to you. Interwoven throughout the piece are historical British figures both Black and White, colonial oppressive figures who have been lauded as heroes such as a young Churchill, Lord Nelson who wanted to keep slavery going and Fredrick Lugard who purposely de-industrialised Nigeria.

The Formations programme attracted me because it is a year long, I want to be a part of decolonising British history and making it generally much more reality-based, so Nottingham is as good a place as any to start.


BIG BLACK TRUTH, 2017

You appear to collaborate a lot, and a strong element of your practice seems based on exchange and reaction to situations you find yourself within and invitations you receive. The impact of this can make a practice very alive, urgent and relevant. Can you talk about the role of dialogue and exchange with others in your work?

Collaboration is important to me, it excites me, exchanging ideas and locations, perceptions and ideals only further expands my creative landscape in ways that formal education in its current form cannot. The invitations I receive are often a result of an opportunity for permanent jobs that didn’t work out or temporary opportunities. This can be marginalizing but by being forced to work on the periphery of the creative world I have become a multi-dexterous, flexible artist. I have honed new skills, found alternative solutions in order to try to further progress in an industry that does not want to let big black British women in due to misogynoir and sizeism. My practice is ‘alive, urgent and relevant’ because every creative thing I do is an act of survival. If you threw someone in the middle of an ocean would they sink or swim?

We’re going to be launching the work at the end of October, which traditionally would mark the end of Black History Month. I really like this idea that your work represents the remaining 11 months of the year, and demonstrates that Black History is of 365 importance, which informs the year-long structure of Formations. This approach appears to be matching a growing attitude towards this thinking, somewhat expedited by the Black Lives Matter protests in June – prompted by the death of George Floyd and others. The Formations sub-theme for October is ‘Critical responses to Black History Month’, can you offer some thoughts regarding this change of attitude regarding Black History Month?

Black people were arguably the first people on earth, and an indelible part of Britain since Cheddar Man if not before, so it’s made even more nonsensical and preposterous for western history to have attempted to whitewash itself for so long in order to preserve a false narrative that keeps the system of racism white supremacist capitalist imperialist patriarchy firmly in place. Producing a climate of injustice and an infinite number of murderous human atrocities like the Facebook live murder of George Floyd and other Black people like Breonna Taylor, Sarah Reed, Stephen Lawrence and all of the other injustices Black people face throughout the world. As well as overt racism, age-old #karenism has been highlighted of late and microaggressions aka the slow poison that is death by 1000 paper cuts. If this piece acts to encourage a positive change however incremental that would be a good thing.

In the turbulent climate of 2020, the growing enthusiasm to make a change in terms of #BLACKLIVESMATTER may fade due to apathy but hopefully not for now.


HAIR POLITICS, 2004

Your work confronts a number of social and political issues, who would be your ideal audience for your work, and what effect would you like to have on the viewer?

I don’t have an ideal audience for my art, I hope that it connects with people who are treated like they are the unseen, the underestimated, the un-chosen, the unworthy and the un-catered for. And basically, people who cannot play the game because they have been intentionally shut out. As well as people who are unfamiliar with the topics raised in the piece.

The most prominent message of the image is the call to end structural racism in Britain. Do you see your work and your audience as UK-focused, or global? Do you see the problems your work addresses as UK-based, or global?

I think that the most prominent message taken from the piece would be viewed differently according to who the viewer may be e.g. if the viewer of the work is a dark skinned black woman the misogynoir or colourism or natural hair may be the topics that speak to you most, perception is intersectional too. The issues raised are global as well as local. There’s a really important article by Trudy Law (Black British Writer) called ‘How Anti-Blackness Shapes Heterosexual Black Men’s Dating “Preferences”’. She discusses how many black men internalise racism and often do not have the tools to unpack this. This often results in many black men wanting to imitate white patriarchal hegemony rather than to dismantle it to create gender and racial equality. This often leaves Black women the furthest away from the women who are seen as being of value in western society to face intersectional oppression alone.

After WW1 and WW2, I think that it is little known that the death toll for young white British ex-servicemen from Nottingham was high. Many black ex service men and black male British citizens from Jamaica went to Nottingham after being invited to Britain. This meant that Nottingham had a large black Caribbean male community. After surviving the trauma of British colonisation and enslavement Black Caribbeans brought with them a rich, globally influential culture but at the same time they also exported damaging pathologies. Colourism and sexism are two of said pathologies, which resulted in misogynoir. So this history of misogynoir is particularly pronounced in Nottingham and in part this history is a contributing factor that explains the existence of a high population of interracial couples (black Caribbean male/ white English woman) and mixed race people in Nottingham. This is why I chose to centre Black women in this piece.


Gyal Daughter Murals 1 & 2
, 2019

If you were commissioned to make a piece on a similar theme in a year, or in 5 years, how different do you think it would look? Can you envisage progress? What are your priorities for change and for achieving an end to structural racism?

My priority is radical self-love, empowerment, freedom and confidence in my artistic expression and I want to use what privilege I have to help others. I imagine that others and I will reap the fruits of this in the future.

The people who created and continue to benefit the most from the white privilege that the system of racism white supremacy gives them have the most power to eradicate it. So the real question beyond this is: do the powers that be want to eradicate structural racism and patriarchy? And I would ask white people: what are your priorities for change and for achieving an end to structural racism?


Windrush Scandal, 2018.

thehoneyeffect.wordpress.com
@thehoneyeffect
etsy.com/uk/shop/THEHONEYEFFECT

All images courtesy of the Artist.

 

Formations Programme 1 October 2020

October 2020 – September 2021

The Postcolonial Studies Centre at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Bonington Gallery is pleased to present Formations, a year-long programme of events in response to Black History Month, Black Lives Matter, and the Decolonisation agenda.

NTU’s Postcolonial Studies Centre invites the public to enjoy a year of events which focus on Black History, Literature, Art, and Critical Thinking as central to global creative and intellectual work. The series begins in October 2020 with a month of events led by artists, writers, theorists and students which critically consider the place and impact of Black History Month. The subsequent yearlong programme is accompanied by commissioned work by artist Honey Williams, which will be launched at the end of October with a special event, and displayed in Bonington Gallery. Themed events running throughout the year are prompted by themes or objects and are centrally concerned with making visible the centrality of Black artists and thinkers, and the patterns and materials that connect global creative and intellectual histories.

The series is developed by the Postcolonial Studies Centre at NTU and directed by Dr Jenni Ramone and Dr Nicole Thiara.

Jenni Ramone is Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies at NTU. Her recent book publications include Postcolonial Literatures in the Local Literary Marketplace: Located Reading, The Bloomsbury Introduction to Postcolonial Writing, Postcolonial Theories, and Salman Rushdie and Translation. Jenni Ramone specializes in global and postcolonial literatures and the literary marketplace. She is pursuing new projects on Global Literature and Gender, and on literature and maternity. 

Nicole Thiara is Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded Research Network Series Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature (2014-16) and On Page and on Stage: Celebrating Dalit and Adivasi Literatures and Performing Arts (2020-21). She teaches postcolonial and contemporary literature, and her areas of research are Dalit, Adivasi and diasporic South Asian literature.


 

October 2020
Formation: History
Critical responses to Black History Month

November – December 2020
Formation: Land
‘The soil needs its own dictionary’ – Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, The Grassling.
Events focussing on agriculture, landscape, gardening, and place. Events consider innovative recent writing about the ways in which humans are connected with the living environment and with heritage.

January – February 2021
Formation: Memorials
The place and meanings of memorials, statues, and renowned figures. 

March – April 2021
Formation: DNA
Medical histories, health inequalities, medical controversies around race.

May – June 2021
Formation: Milk
Global practices and representations of breastfeeding in art and literature.

July – August 2021
Formation: Lace
The global history of lace and its use in colonial contexts.

September 2021
Formation: The Book
Re-reading

Visiting us safely 14 September 2020

We are delighted to reopen on Saturday 3 October 2020 with a solo exhibition by Sophie Cundale, and we have put several measures in place to make your visit safe.

These are constantly under reviewsubject to change and may vary slightly depending on each exhibition. Please check back to this page prior to planning your visit. 
  
Planning your visit 

Groups no larger than six should visit the gallery at any one time, providing these groups are complying with government guidance on households and bubbles. Numbers inside the gallery will be limited to 11 at any single time. There is additional seating and waiting areas outside the gallery for anyone arriving when it is at capacity.

Do not visit if you’re feeling unwell, or have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, and follow the NHS coronavirus guidelines.

We will be asking for contact details of all visitors on your arrival. We recommend that you download the NHS COVID-19 app in advance of your visit.

When you arrive 

Entrance to the gallery is still via the main entrance of the Bonington building and floor markers will assist with social distancing. If the gallery is at capacity, you will be required to wait outside where there are benches. The building will be quieter than usual as students’ access to the campus is more restricted than normal.

Upon entering the gallery, you will be asked to provide your contact details to support NHS Test and Trace. We will keep your details for 21 days, and will only share them with NHS Test and Trace if asked in the event of a visitor or member of the team testing positive for coronavirus. The gallery invigilator will be on hand to assist if necessary.

Face masks or coverings must be worn upon entrance to the gallery. If you are exempt from wearing a mask, then please notify the gallery assistant and you will be welcomed accordingly.

2m social distancing is required inside the gallery, as it is throughout the building and campus. Please follow signage and wayfinding measures to adhere to best routes throughout the building and gallery.

Contact areas in the gallery, such as seating, will be subject to cleaning throughout the day. An enhanced cleaning regime is in place across all University buildings.

Clear signage at the gallery entrance will outline the key measures we are adhering too. Please refer to these for guidance. A gallery assistant will also be on hand to help.

Our risk assessment that has been conducted under guidance from the government and Public Health England is available to be read here. The overarching risk assessment for the wider campuses can be read here.

We have been awarded with a certificate for Visit England’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme which can be read here.

LGBTQ+ Films 30 June 2020

Throughout the month of June, we have been sharing films and documentaries to raise awareness of injustices faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer communities. June is Pride Month, commemorating the Stonewall riots in New York city in 1969, a key event that triggered the modern LGBT liberation movement in the United States and beyond.

Please visit this page to learn about key dates towards LGBTQ+ equality.

1. Difficult Love (2010)
Difficult Love presents a lively personal take on the challenges facing Black lesbians in South Africa today. It features the life, photographs, work, friends and associates of visual activist and renowned photographer, Zanele Muholi (who also narrates the film).

2. LGBT Britain (various)
This colourful and challenging collection explores screen representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives over the past century.

3. Pose (2018-present)
A television series about New York City’s African American and Latino LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming ballroom culture scene in the 1980s and, in the second season, early 1990s.

4. Day Dream (2017)
Directed by Stephen Isaac-Wilson, Day Dream features artist and founder of club night Body Party Kareem Reid. Filmed on the first weekend of Spring, the short poetically explores issues of queer loneliness, male vulnerability, and platonic intimacy. Despite an improvement of the LGBT community’s rights and media representation over the years, queer people still disproportionately suffer from loneliness and social isolation.

5. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Victoria Cruz investigates the mysterious 1992 death of black gay rights activist and Stonewall veteran, Marsha P. Johnson. Using archival interviews with Johnson, and new interviews with Johnson’s family, friends and fellow activists.

6. The Attendant (1993)
In this short film, the eponymous ‘attendant’ is a middle-aged black man who finds his homoerotic fantasies taking over the museum he supervises when a painting depicting scenes of slavery becomes a tableau vivant of sadomasochistic desire. With this work, Julien explores spatial temporalities in a museum context, commenting on queer history and racial boundaries.

7. Barbara Hammer – 2000s
Barbara Hammer is a pivotal figure in American experimental film and a pioneer of queer cinema — constructing revelations on gender, sexuality, community, and later illness and mortality. Working primarily with eight-millimetre, super 8 and 16-millimetre film, she produced nearly 70 films, ranging from experimental shorts to essay and full-length documentaries. As part of Company Gallery’s ‘In Company With’ series, a selection of films by Barbara Hammer are available for viewing online.

8. Disclosure (2020)
Disclosure is an eye-opening documentary film looking at transgender representation within film and media, featuring leading trans creatives and thinkers sharing perspectives and analysis about Hollywood’s impact on the trans community. Reframing familiar scenes and iconic characters in a new light, director Sam Feder invites viewers to confront unexamined assumptions, and shows how what once captured the American imagination now elicit new feelings. Disclosure provokes a startling revolution in how we see and understand trans people.

9. Before You Know It (2013)
Before You Know It is a 2013 documentary directed by PJ Raval following the lives of three gay seniors as they navigate the adventures, challenges and surprises of life and love in their golden years.

10. A Fantastic Woman (2017)
Marina’s life is thrown into turmoil following the death of her partner. Mourning the loss of the man she loved, she finds herself under intense scrutiny from those with no regard for her privacy.

Matt Woodham: Sensing Systems - Preview in photos 27 February 2020

Earlier this month, we introduced the next instalment of our 2019/20 season for Bonington Gallery exhibitions, Matt Woodham: Sensing Systems.

A debut solo exhibition by the artist, designer and technologist, Woodham channelled his skills and interests into generating auditory and visual experiences – including music videos, live visuals for club nights, light installations, and experimental websites.

On preview night, the gallery was filled with a composition of connected installations, positioning visitors within a system of light, sound and motion. Visual and kinetic events are sequenced by a central processing unit which distributes signals around the room. Throughout the exhibition, audiences can interact with the system, which alongside random data sources and a sensitivity to initial conditions, will create a unique experience for each viewer.

Thanks again to everyone who joined us for this exciting preview night and exhibition opening!

Photography copyright courtesy of: John Smalley.

Motif: Preview in Photos 11 December 2019

In late November, we opened our doors to introduce the next exciting preview in our 2019/20 season of exhibitions – Motif. An experience bringing together 15 years of research conducted by our very own Tim Rundle, Principal Lecturer in BA (Hons) Fashion Communication and Promotion here at NTU.

After 30 years of aggressive shifts in design, our relationship to retail, consumption, personal and lifestyle narratives are unrecognisable. One of the key markers of these global changes is our adoption of motifs. The exhibition celebrates both badges of belonging and icons of individuality throughout society, charting shifts in consumer behaviour and popular culture over the decades.

Thanks to everyone who joined us on the preview evening, it was a fantastic atmosphere and a great way to celebrate incredible talent of our staff and researchers here at Nottingham Trent University.

Photography copyright courtesy of: John Smalley.

Waking the Witch: Old Ways, New Rites - Preview in Photos 8 October 2019

Thanks again to everyone who attended our preview night of Waking the Witch: Old Ways, New Rites, it was an incredible evening and a great way to open our 2019-2020 season!

Here are a few highlights from the night, including a fantastic opening performance from Ben Jeans Houghton, who expressed aspects of his own magical practice through a harmonic voice and the spoken word, using repurposed effects pedals, loopers, ritual tools, and costume.

Don’t forget to check out the exhibition for yourself, open until Saturday 16 November.

All images courtesy of Luke Brennan, find out more from Luke on Instagram » @lukebrennanphotography_

Celebrating 50 Years of Curating and Creating Contemporary Art 12 August 2019

Bonington Gallery has been a significant part of the cultural landscape of Nottingham for half a century. Its diverse and ambitious artistic programme has consistently presented the forefront of creative practice and through this has gained an national reputation.

The gallery is situated within the Bonington building, first opened on 14 October 1969 by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent. This labyrinth of a modernist building is nestled in the heart of our City Campus and is home to a wide range of creative courses, providing a suitable context for an artistic programme that profiles a wide range of creative practice.

Over the past five decades, we’ve showcased visual and performing arts from across the world, reflected in the ongoing work to establish our archive. We’re committed to making the next 50 years as memorable as the first, starting now.

Image credit: Opening night of John Newling, Lost, 1991. Courtesy John Newling and Bonington Gallery

Image credit: Bonington building painting studio, 1971. Image courtesy The Architects’ Journal

Image credit: Installation view of Margaret Bryan Award, 1992, Philip Sagars, Karl Bretherton, Leslie Logue. Courtesy the artists and Bonington Gallery

Image credit: Installation view of Frank Stella: Recent Paintings, 1999. Courtesy Frank Stella and Bonington Gallery

Image credit: Opening night of John Newling, Lost, 1991. Courtesy John Newling and Bonington Gallery

 

Featured news
An update from Bonington Gallery  5 November 2020

We’re sorry to announce that Bonington Gallery’s exhibitions are temporarily closed to the public as a result of the national lockdown measures now in place.

You can still view Sophie Cundale’s The Near Room via the  Film and Video Umbrella website, until 12 December 2020. Bonington Gallery’s online events will continue to run as planned.

The exhibition at Bonington Gallery will stay open as a resource for staff and students who remain on campus, from Monday to Friday, 10 am – 5 pm. We’ll update our website and social media platforms when we receive further information or guidance.

50 Years of Curating and Creating Contemporary Art 12 August 2019

Bonington Gallery has been a significant part of the cultural landscape of Nottingham for half a century. Its diverse and ambitious artistic programme has consistently presented the forefront of creative practice and through this has gained a national reputation.

The gallery has showcased the very best in visual and performing arts from across the world – so join us, as we plan to make the next 50 years just as memorable.

Read more in our latest blog post.

The Community: Live in Nottingham featured on Notts TV 25 March 2019

Last week, Notts TV’s Charlotte Swindells popped down to the gallery to check out our latest exhibition, catching up with curator Tom Godfrey to find out more about the project.

Watch the video at the link below (segment starts at 27:40):

https://nottstv.com/programme/ey-up-notts-tuesday-19th-march/

Chloé Maratta - ARTnews feature 14 January 2019

This April we’re excited to be presenting a two person exhibition between artist, musician and designer Chloé Maratta and artist & musician Joanne Robertson. The exhibition will also involve artefacts from NTU’s School of Art & Design’s high-street fashion archive, FashionMap. Chloé features in a recent ARTnews article that profiles several of the ‘leading lights’ within LA’s art/fashion/music crossover scene:

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