CFP: Blk Art Group Research Project 30th Anniversary Conference @ Wolverhampton University

Blk Art Group Research Project

30th Anniversary Conference

Wolverhampton University

Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th October 2012


The conference aims to enable and share scholarship and research into the ‘Black Art Movement’, it’s core debates, precursors and legacies.

By bringing together artists, curators, historians and scholars we hope to add to the pool of knowledge surrounding the ‘black art movement’; to encourage those scholars already active in this field to further develop and share their work and to uncover work that may have gone unpublished or remain obscured.

This is a call for papers that contribute to the debate through the detailed and critical examination of a single work, body of work or group of works.  Whilst the conference aims to focus on the 80s, papers may include works that were produced prior to the 80s or later as long as there is a clear rationale for their consideration in this context.

Finished papers should be suitable for a presentation of approximately 20 minutes. We ask that abstracts of up to 300 words and a brief biography should reach us at by Friday 20th July.

On the 26th October 1982, The Blk Art Group, an association of young British based visual artists, staged the ‘First National Black Art Convention’ at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. This event, and in particular the presentations by Dr Rasheed Araeen and Blk Art Group member Claudette Johnson, have been consistently referenced over many years and in several publications as watershed moments in the evolution of what has come to be described as the ‘Black Art Movement’ in the UK[1]

The Blk Art Group Research Project has been formed to mark the 30th Anniversary of this Convention. It was launched in February 2012 with a symposium in response to the retrospective exhibition entitled ‘Blk Art Group’ at the Graves Gallery Sheffield 27th August 2011 – 24th March 2012.

Following on from the success of that event planning is now underway to return to Wolverhampton for a weekend of debate, discussion and exchange re-membering the ‘black art movement’ and the context in which it emerged and to focus critical (re-) appraisal of the work that was created.

The conference will take place over two days, conveners will moderate three panels per day, and the format allows for significant contributions from delegates. The first two panels will consist of presentations from artists and scholars contextualising the movement and re-engaging with the debates and ideas discussed in ’82. The following four panels will address the work produced.

Contributors confirmed include:


Keynote Speaker

Dr Kobena Mercer   biography

Professor in History of Art and African American Studies Yale University,

Kobena Mercer writes and teaches on the visual arts of the black diaspora, examining African American, Caribbean, and Black British artists in modern and contemporary art. His courses and research address cross-cultural aesthetics in transnational contexts where issues of race, sexuality, and identity converge.


Paul Goodwin  biography

Paul is a theorist, curator and urban researcher. He is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths College and Curator of Cross Cultural Programmes  at Tate Britain. His current research work engages questions of post-colonial migration and forms of cross cultural creativity, globalisation and the production of alternative urban spaces.

Convenor, Panel I                                      

Dr Courtney Martin biography

This panel looks back to the ideas and arguments that emerged at the 1982 conference

Post Doctorial Research Associate & Lecturer, Vanderbilt University, USA, Courtney J. Martin’s research on twentieth century British art is complemented by research and writing on modern and contemporary art and architecture. Prior to her appointment at Vanderbilt, Professor Martin was Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art department at the University of California at Berkeley (2009-2010); a fellow at the Getty Research Institute (2008-2009); and a Henry Moore Institute Research Fellow (2007).

Sonia Boyce                                                             biography

Rip it up and start again – a discussion of  “The Destruction Of The National Front” by Eddie Chambers

Sonia Boyce came to prominence in the early 1980s as a key figure in the burgeoning black British art-scene of that time – becoming one of the youngest artists of her generation to have her work purchased by the Tate Gallery, with paintings that spoke about racial identity and gender in Britain. Since the 1990s Boyce’s practice has taken a more multi-media and improvisational approach by bringing people together to speak or sing about the past and the present.

Keith Piper                                                    biography

Pathways to the Eighties – an illustrated paper presenting an historic and theoretical framing of the 1980s

Visual Artist, Reader in Fine Art and Digital Media and Course leader, M.A. Fine Art, Middlesex University, Keith Piper was a founding member of The Blk Art Group (1979-1984) and with Claudette Johnson and Marlene Smith created the Blk Art Group Research Project. As an artist he adopts a research driven approach to respond to specific issues, historical relationships and geographical sites. Over the past 30 years his work has ranged from painting, through photography and installation to a use of digital media, video and computer based interactivity.

Dr Rina Arya                                                 biography

Auto-portraits in the work of Chila Burman

Reader in Visual Communication, Wolverhampton University, Rina Arya is an art theorist who has a background in theology.  She is interested in a number of different subject areas including art, theology and spirituality, Francis Bacon, Georges Bataille, gender studies, aesthetics, critical theory, visual communication.

[1]‘The Success & Failure of Black Art’ Rasheed Arareen, Third Text 067. Volume 18, Issue 2, March 2004

‘Inside the Invisible: For/Getting Strategy’ Lubaina Himid. Shades of Black: Assembling the 1980’s ed, Bailey, Baucom & Boyce 2005


Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

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