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Formations: Re-viewing 9 September 2021

The inaugural year of our Formations programme, led by the Postcolonial Studies Centre (directed by Jenni Ramone and Nicole Thiara) in collaboration with Bonington Gallery, will close at the end of September 2021 with the segment Formation: Re-viewing. This final segment will be an opportunity to look back over the programme of 30 events including 15 videos now archived on our YouTube channel.

Thank you to everyone who has attended and supported our events, and a huge thanks to all of the participants and contributors to the programme. Having not done an online events programme before, we were excited to take advantage of the opportunity that online programming brings with hosting such a wide range of practitioners, knowledge and experience, and continue global conversations that were established and furthered in 2020 as a result of George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Decolonisation agenda and COVID-19.

This blog post by no means covers all aspects of the programme, but will offer a flavour and starting point for the range of topics that were explored.

Honey Williams, Snakey Friends II (Banned From Britain), 2020.

Our programme began in October 2020 with the launch of Honey Williams‘ specially commissioned work Snakey Friends II (Banned from Britain), 2020. This work, with its anti-structural racism message, acted as an emblem for the Formations programme, and was on display outside the gallery for the whole year. We are really pleased that our host institution Nottingham Trent University acquired this work as part of its Art Collection, securing the long-term care and display of this work. Honey’s piece will stay on show outside the gallery for another year at least, before it is sited elsewhere, so please take a look when you next visit the gallery. Honey’s commission was adjoined by a Q&A, where she expands upon what constitutes and informs her practice and thinking.

Our very first Formations event, as part of Formation: History was the book launch of Distinguished Professor Sharon Monteith’s book SNCC’s Stories: The African American Freedom Movement in the Civil Rights South (University of Georgia Press, October 2020). This included a Q+A with Poet, Director of Nottingham Black Archive and NTU doctoral researcher Panya Banjoko. It was great to work with Panya again after her Bonington Vitrines presentation in November 2019.

November & December’s segment was entitled Formation: Landwhich considered dispossession, migration, and ways the human and land interact. This segment saw the first of several writing workshops led by the PSC’s writer in residence Eve Makis. This workshop encouraged participants to learn how to evoke a landscape using your senses, taking inspiration from the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Elif Shafak. The workshops with Eve remained very popular throughout the year.

In December we were extremely pleased to have supported the student led conference Longing to Belong, which raised questions surrounding our relationship with the term ‘belonging’. It focused on writers from the diaspora, asserting that their relationship with belonging is a unique and under-represented experience. The guest speakers included Eve Makis, Panya Banjoko and Helen Cousins.

The new year began with Formation: Memorials, extending many of the conversations and dialogues around public history and memorialisation prompted by such recent moments as the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.
We were pleased to have hosted a discussion between Dr Jessica Moody and Professor Stephen Small, chaired by NTU’s Dr Jenny Woodley, with Purnachandra Naik. This lively event explored how the UK and USA’s histories are inextricably bound up with enslavement and yet, both countries have failed to fully recognise or interrogate these pasts.

Prompted by the shared circumstance of the pandemic, but its disproportionate impact upon people of colour, the next segment Formation: DNA explored related topics such as identity, care, inequality, disease and vaccination.
In April we hosted a conversation between KARVAN and Kwanzaa Collective UK, who have been working closely with five Black frontline workers to ask the question “How do you do a job that involves caring for others, when you are working within a system that doesn’t care about you?“.
With the ONS reporting that over 60% of COVID-related deaths on the frontline have come from ethnic minority backgrounds, yet ethnic minorities only make up about 17% of the NHS – with Black people being only 6.1% of that, this disproportion generates a lot of questions that desperately need answers.

Our May/June segment was Formation: Milk, looking at global practices and representations of breastfeeding in art and literature. In acknowledgment of Bonington Gallery’s own position, one of the events we hosted explored representations of breastfeeding in art history. This event featured Rebecca Randle, Learning and Engagement Coordinator, and Helen Cobby, Assistant Curator, both from The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham who spoke to PSC’s Jenni Ramone about text and interpretation used within gallery and museum contexts, and the opportunity to utilise labels, panels and leaflets to better connect with audiences and elicit emotion.

In June we hosted the PSC’s online conference Patterns of Struggle and Solidarity, exploring the practice and study of cultural activism from disciplines across postcolonial studies. Across a collection of presentations, conversations, workshops, screenings and performances, questions were posed such as How do academics fit into the field of cultural activism? How do academics and activists conceptualise patterns of struggle and solidarity? What role does postcolonial research play in supporting and amplifying the voices and work of cultural activists, in particular in the fields of literature, art, film, craft and performance art? and How do cultural activists and performers engage with postcolonial studies? A performance highlight from the conference was by Dalit rapper Sumit Samos.

A material and subject very close to Nottingham was explored in the sixth segment of Formations, Formation: Lace – The global history of lace and its use in colonial contexts. This segment featured important research and knowledge that is related to the history of Lace, as well as working with practitioners local to Nottingham who continue a tradition of hand embroidery and craft as a form of community exercise.
We were delighted to work with Nottingham based artist Rita Kappia, furthering her series of Empowerment Doll workshops and projects. Firstly we hosted a Zoom workshop for 20 participants who were situated across the globe. The group followed Rita’s instructions to make themselves an Empowerment Doll. The workshop proved emotional at times, and showed the therapeutic potential of making a doll in the company of others, and exploring personal themes of identity and self-care.
Our second engagement with Rita was a specially filmed YouTube instructional video (shot by Reece Straw) that was accompanied by 80 free kits that allowed people around the world to make a doll following Rita on the screen. The free kits went very quickly, and pictures of dolls have been sent to us over the past few weeks.

As reflected by this post, the final segment Formation: Re-viewing will be an opportunity to look back over all of the topics and content gathered this year, so please explore yourselves. The main Formations page can be found here, with all of the segments sign-posted from that page. If you’d like to jump straight to our Formations YouTube playlist then you can find that here.

We are really pleased to be continuing Formations for a second year, so please check back to our website and follow our social channels for updates over the coming weeks.

Andrew Logan: The Joy of Sculpture  12 August 2021

Andrew Logan as Host and Hostess for Alternative Miss World 1973, photo by Mick Rock.

We are very excited about launching our 2021/22 season with a solo exhibition spanning 50 years of work by Andrew Logan, one of Britain’s most iconic artists.

We’ll be opening our doors for a preview of this incredible exhibition on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 September 2021, 12 – 6 pm daily. Everyone is welcome – just reserve your free place online and drop in:

Reserve your free place for The Joy of Sculpture preview on Saturday 25 September
Reserve your free place for The Joy of Sculpture preview on Sunday 26 September

Catch up with our live events on the Bonington Gallery YouTube Channel 25 November 2020

A screengrab of a YouTube video of Bonington Gallery

Lockdown may be upon us once more, but our online events programme is still in full swing, including fascinating talks and events as part of our year-long Formations programme.

Formations is a series of events in response to Black History Month, Black Lives Matter, and the Decolonisation agenda, in partnership with Postcolonial Studies Centre at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). The series so far has included talks under the thematic banners of Formation: History – critical responses to Black History Month, and the current instalment, Formation: Land which focuses on the ways in which humans are connected with the living environment and heritage.

Catch them again online on our new YouTube channel.

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.

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@thehoneyeffect
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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.

June 2021
Conference: Patterns of Struggle and Solidarity
The conference aims to explore the practice and study of cultural activism from any discipline across postcolonial studies.

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

September 2021
Formation: Re-viewing
Looking back at our 2020-21 Formations programme.

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_

Featured news
Visiting us safely 12 August 2021

We are delighted to be launching our 2021/22 season with a solo exhibition spanning 50 years of work by Andrew Logan, one of Britain’s most iconic artists.

We have put several measures in place to make your visit safe. They are constantly under review, subject to change and may vary slightly depending on Government guidance. Please check back to this page prior to planning your visit.

– Please do not visit the gallery if you have COVID-19 symptoms, are self-isolating, or have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus. Follow the NHS coronavirus guidelines.

– We recommend that you download the NHS COVID-19 app in advance of your visit and check in via the QR code when you arrive.

– Entry to the gallery is via the main entrance of the Bonington Building and floor markers will assist with social distancing. Please ‘check-in’ to the main building on arrival via the NHS app, and sanitise your hands.

– We recommend that face masks or coverings are worn upon entrance to the building and gallery. There are some free masks available within the building if you forget.

– 2m social distancing is advised 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 doors and handrails, 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.

We have been awarded a certificate for Visit England’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme.

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