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Screening / Lecture
© Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

© Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Sunday, February 11, 4:30 – 7:30 pm

Location: J.A. de Sève Cinema, 1400 boul. De Maisonneuve O.

Video screening
John Akomfrah, The Stuart Hall Project, 2013
Deanna Bowen, sum of the parts: what can be named, 2010

With a presentation by Dr. Daniel McNeil (Professor of History, Migration and Diaspora Studies, Carleton University)

The Gallery presents a screening of Toronto-based Deanna Bowen’s sum of the parts: what can be named alongside British artist John Akomfrah’s portrait of the late sociologist and theorist Stuart Hall, The Stuart Hall Project. This program examines how the biographic, autobiographic, and documentary forms as well as research on the long term must navigate the entanglements of memory, lacuna, event and experience.

Bridging these two works, Daniel McNeil discusses how Bowen and Akomfrah invite us to play more carefully with history, memory and cultural politics. In doing so, he frames their politically infused acts of pleasure as critical resources in a living archive of diaspora and dissidence – provocative, suggestive and explorative works that not only provide tools to address how racism and resistance articulate with each other in translocal contexts, but also offer content and a cutting edge to ongoing fights against the violence of nation-states and corporations that have been selling ‘multicultural snake oil’ to the world for years.

A video of Daniel McNeil’s presentation is available in the Audio | Video section.

John Akomfrah, The Stuart Hall Project, 2013
95 min., DCP, colour, sound, English

The Stuart Hall Project is the intimate and engaging portrait of Stuart Hall, the Jamaican-born public intellectual and co-founder of the New Left Review, whose work in cultural studies profoundly influenced the political and academic landscape. A life lived through the twentieth century’s defining political moments.

Weaving between the musical archaeology of Miles Davis and the political narratives of the twentieth century, director John Akomfrah, carefully constructs archival sequences of rare, forgotten and long since seen historical material.

A ground-breaking film that pioneers a new archival and sonic approach to forgotten histories, forgotten ideas and the untold stories of the politics of change.
– Smoking Dog Films

Deanna Bowen, sum of the parts: what can be named, 2010
18 min., HD video, colour, sound, English

sum of the parts: what can be named, is a twenty minute performed oral history that recounts the disremembered journey of the Bowen family from its earliest documented history in Clinton, Jones County, Georgia in 1815, as told by Bowen herself. Influenced by Eli Wiesel’s 1989 New York Times article regarding art, the Holocaust, and the trivialization of memory, the work chronicles the lives of family members who could not speak on their own behalf by delving into the unknown, retracing what is hidden, and reclaiming histories of the lost.
– Lisa Steele, Vtape

John Akomfrah (born 1957, Accra, Ghana) is a hugely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explore the experience of the African diaspora in Europe and the USA. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today. Their first film, Handsworth Songs (1986) explored the events surrounding the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a charged combination of archive footage, still photos and newsreel. The film won several international prizes and established a multi-layered visual style that has become a recognisable motif of Akomfrah’s practice. Recent works include the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a moving portrait of the cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s life and work; Peripeteia (2012), an imagined drama visualising the lives of individuals included in two 16th century portraits by Albrecht Dürer and Mnemosyne (2010) which exposes the experience of migrants in the UK, questioning the notion of Britain as a promised land by revealing the realities of economic hardship and casual racism. In 2015, Akomfrah premiered his three-screen film installation Vertigo Sea (2015), that explores what Ralph Waldo Emerson calls ‘the sublime seas’. Fusing archival material, readings from classical sources and newly shot footage, Akomfrah’s piece focuses on the disorder and cruelty of the whaling industry and juxtaposes it with scenes of many generations of migrants making epic crossings of the ocean for a better life.

Deanna Bowen is a Toronto based interdisciplinary artist whose practice examines race, migration, historical writing, and authorship. Bowen makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures in order to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time. In recent years, Deanna’s work has involved rigorous examination of her family lineage and their connections to the Black Prairie pioneers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Creek Negroes and All-Black towns of Oklahoma, the extended Kentucky/Kansas Exoduster migrations, and the Ku Klux Klan. Her broader artistic/educational practice examines history, historical writing and the ways in which artistic and technological advancements impact individual and collective authorship. She has received several awards in support of her artistic practice including 2017 Canada Council New Chapter and Ontario Arts Council Media Arts production grants, a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize.

Daniel McNeil joined Carleton in 2014 as a strategic hire to enhance the university’s research, program development and teaching in Migration and Diaspora Studies. Before joining Carleton, he served as the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Professor of African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul University in Chicago and taught Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Hull and Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.

McNeil’s award-winning research contributes to the multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary and antidisciplinary analysis of the African and Black Diaspora. His book Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs, is the first volume in Routledge’s series on the African and Black Diaspora and draws on a broad range of archival and theoretical material to provide a critical reading of representations that frame “mixed-race” subjects as pathological objects or “new” national icons for the twenty-first century.

His current research projects examine the suggestive, provocative and explorative work of diasporic and dissident subjects who are in, but not always of, the global North. His forthcoming book project, A Tale of Two Critics: A Living Archive of Diaspora and Dissidence, will contribute to academic and extra-academic debates by examining the journeys of intellectual discovery taken by two critics who have resisted the Scylla of narrow scholasticism and the Charybdis of superficial journalism.  To be more specific, it will produce the first sustained, historical analysis of Armond White – a public intellectual who is invariably described as an American contrarian and the most notorious film critic in the digital age – and Paul Gilroy – one of the most cited scholars in the humanities and social sciences and, arguably, the most influential intellectual writing in the United Kingdom.

McNeil’s teaching complements his research profile and program development by examining the Black Atlantic as an outernational network of power, communication and conflict, and placing the struggles for Black liberation in translocal contexts. His teaching seeks to cultivate learning environments in which students have the tools and confidence to synthesise material with care and rigour; debate provocative, suggestive and explorative work with grace and style; and thoughtfully respond to issues that are contentious and sites of desire.

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