Liverpool Biennial Raises Standing of Curating Contemporary Art Research

15 November 2012 – Curating Contemporary Art tutor at the Royal College of Art Ros Gray presented research as part of a symposium exploring the work of artist John Akomfrah and British cultural studies founding father Stuart Hall at the Liverpool Biennial last weekend.

The symposium, _Reconstruction Work, _brought together Gray, David Scott, editor and director of Small Axe, a Caribbean platform for criticism, and Mark Sealy, director of photography charity Autograph ABP to explore notions of identity and solidarity.

The symposium took Akomfrah's work as a springboard for discussion about Hall’s contribution to cultural studies and a body of work in post-war Britain on identity, according to Gray.

‘John’s is an incredibly interesting film not just because of its complexity and exploration of three screens, but also for its consideration of Stuart Hall’sinfluence and the relationship of Britain to the Caribbean and other parts of the world,’ said Gray.

‘I’m part of a younger generation that was informed by intellectuals like Stuart Hall, and my work drew on his as a starting point and so much of it affected my ways of thinking about film,’ she added.

Gray’s paper explored notions of the ‘militant image’, ‘relationship geography’ between militants, activists and filmmakers and its impact on the circulation of film aesthetics, taking an example of the rise and fall of cinema in Mozambique.

She said: ‘One of the things exciting for CCA visual cultures work, filmmaking and the broad area of research of the militant image was to connect with John Akomfrah’s work and what Stuart Hall represents.’

Liverpool Biennial programme director Paul Domela has hailed the symposium as important in the UK’s cultural and film studies ‘genealogy’.

‘It was really important to have Ros’ work there as she shifted the debate from being just about Stuart’s work. Her research in what she calls the militant image activates the space of cinema that’s important in relation to John’s installation. Stuart’s work was the foundation of film studies studies today. What’s evident in Ros’ research is that there’s a genealogy. You can see how work gets passed on and finds new applications,’ Domela said.