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Glenn Ligon, Malcolm X, Sun, Frederick Douglass, Boy With Bubbles #5 (Version 3), 2001. Collection of the artist. Photograph by Farzad Owrang

Glenn Ligon, Malcolm X, Sun, Frederick Douglass...2001. Collection of the artist. Photograph by Farzad Owrang

Events - Talks

Politics of the Art School

Black Art Movement Then and Now

30 Apr 2015

At this event, key members of the 1980s Black Arts Movement such as Keith Piper and Said Ardus are hosted by London-based group Collective Creativity, who will offer critical reflections on this history and the contemporary circumstances under which students and other people of colour experience contemporary art school curriculum from the perspectives of QTIPOC (Queer, Trans* and Intersex People of Colour) creative practice. Collective Creativity produce spaces that are explicitly inclusive of, and created for and by, people of different sexualities and genders, and people of colour. 

In the histories of black struggle in the United Kingdom, Nottingham features significantly, not least of which for the role that young artists have played in promoting conversations, works and exhibitions related to ‘radical black art’ and the Black Arts Movement. Drawing inspiration from the civil rights and  Pan-African movements, in the 1980s students of Nottingham Trent University, such as Donald Rodney, Said Ardus and Keith Piper worked within the wider Black Arts Movement in the UK under the heading The Pan-Afrikan Connection, drawing together the experiences of young black artists, with those of other generations and Third World and other global social justice struggles. In doing this they created an important space for questioning the role of black artists within arts curriculum and exhibiting institutions in the UK.

6.30pm - 8.30pm

Free, The Space


Said Ardus is a British visual artist. Adrus studied his BA in fine art at Nottingham Trent University in 1983 and went on to complete his postgraduate degree at Goldsmiths, University of London in 1993. His work encompasses media such as digital photography, video and installation. Adrus is also interested in the history of raw materials, such as jute, cotton, hessian and wood. He believes these materials tell a story of their journey from continents such as Asia and Africa to the Western world, using this as a metaphor for issues around emigration and immigration. He translates this history into a Contemporary context through the way he incorporates the materials into installations. This reflects Adrus’ broader concerns, with work dealing with issues around Diaspora communities, identity, perceptions of ‘Britishness’, and allegiance to place and country.

Since about 2006, Adrus has worked on researching and developing an ambitious media installation entitled PAVILION which aimed to explore and uncover the largely forgotten history of the contribution of Indian Muslim Soldiers during the First World War.

 Adrus’ work was most recently featured in the 2nd International Istanbul Triennial in 2013, in which he exhibited the multimedia Installation Qawali Trance, motivated by his own experiences of witnessing these East African/Indian performances as a young child.


Keith Piper is a renowned contemporary British artist, academic and curator. Piper was born in Malta and grew up in Birmingham to a working-class family of Afro-Caribbean heritage. As an art student at Trent Polytechnic in the 1980s, Piper co- founded the groundbreaking Blk Art Group – an association of Black British art students based primarily in the West Midlands. Piper, along with his fellow BLK artists made highly political and conceptual artworks which often critiqued the Institutional racism present within and outside Britain’s art world. As well as making work that deals with certain social and political issues, Piper is also interested in geographical sites having gained an MA in Environmental Media from the Royal College of Art in 1986. Throughout his career, Piper has utilised a variety of visual media in his work from painting and photography to digital media and computer based interactivity. In 2012, Piper reunited with fellow Blk Art Group members Claudette Johnson and Marlene Smith to set up the Blk Art Group Research Project with the aim to re-examine the group’s body of work and historical legacy. Piper is currently an Associate Professor in Fine Art at Middlesex University.


Claudette Johnson is a Manchester born artist who studied fine art at the University of Wolverhampton. It was here where Johnson joined the newly formed Blk art Group in 1981. Based in the West Midlands, the group comprised of Black British art students who produced groundbreaking work with a strong political and social focus that often dealt with the issue of institutional racism present inside and outside of the British art world. Johnson held a talk at the first National Black Arts conference in 1982 which has since been lauded as pioneering a black feminist art movement in the UK and Johnson has since taken part in exhibitions in this discourse such as in Lubaina Himid’s 1985 group exhibition The Thin Black Line at the ICA in which she exhibited alongside ten other Black and Asian female artists, aiming to challenge their collective invisibility from the art world. Her work has been exhibited in art institutions such as Tate Britain (The Thin Black Line(s), 2011-2012), Sheffield Museums (The Blk Research Group Project , 2012) and Manchester Art Gallery. One of Johnson’s most recent projects saw her reunite with fellow Blk Art Group members Keith Piper and Marlene Smith to set up the Blk Art Group Research Project with the aim to re-examine the group’s body of work and historical legacy.



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