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Unseen Guests Post-National Digital Pavilion

Talk Locating Absence

06 Jun 2024

In the context of Unseen Guests, and marking the launch of the book ‘John Akomfrah’ (2023) by James Harvey, iniva presents ‘Locating Absence’: a panel discussion reflecting on climate justice, anticolonial struggle and pan-African thinking within archives.

Join us for an evening panel discussion focusing on the artistic practice of John Akomfrah, exploring themes such as climate justice, anticolonial methodologies, Pan-African thinking, and archival research inherent in his practice.

The panel consists of film curator June Givanni, artist Evan Ifekoya, and Ashwani Sharma (Senior Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies), with moderation by James Harvey (Senior Lecturer in Film and Media), who will do an introduction to his latest book ‘John Akomfrah’ (2023).

Each panelist will share reflections on the concept of ‘Unseen Guests’ within their own creative practices, followed by a discussion on how these themes intersect with Akomfrah’s work and beyond.

About the book 

James Harvey’s John Akomfrah is the first comprehensive analytic engagement with these films, offering sustained close engagement with the artist’s core thematic preoccupations and aesthetic tendencies. His analysis negotiates the contextual and theoretical layers of Akomfrah’s rich and complex films, from the intermedial diaspora aesthetics of Handsworth Songs (1986) to the intersectional spatial ecopolitics of Purple (2017).

Positioning Akomfrah in the burgeoning black British arts and cultural scene of the 1980s as a member of Black Audio Film Collective, Harvey traces the evolution of a critical relationship with the postcolonial archive in his early films, through analysis of documentaries made for television in the 1990s and up to more recent film installations in museums and galleries.

Locating Absence is supported by University of Hertfordshire and Sonic Screen Lab (London College of Communications, UAL). 

As part of the British Pavilion’s Public Programme, iniva presents Unseen Guests, a commission of eight artists based in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), working across new media, audiovisual and writing to create new works in dialogue with the work of filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah.

Unseen Guests is supported by the British Council.

About contributors

Dr June Givanni is a pioneering international film curator who has considerable experience in film and broadcasting for over 30 years and she is regarded as a resource for African and African diaspora cinema. The development of the Pan African Cinema Archive is based on her collections from years of working in the field of cinema. Her motivation for the archive is to make this valuable heritage collection as widely accessible as possible.

Dr James Harvey is a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media at the University of Hertfordshire. His research is preoccupied with the politics and aesthetics of film and screen media, with an emphasis on documentary, artists’ moving image and art cinema. He is especially interested in themes of race, coloniality and nation. James is the author of John Akomfrah (BFI Publishing/Bloomsbury, 2023), Jacques Rancière and the Politics of Art Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2018) and the editor of Nationalism in Contemporary Western European Cinema (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

Evan Ifekoya is an interdisciplinary artist working in community organising, installation, performance, sound, text and video, whose practice is an extension of their calling as a spiritual practitioner. They view art as a site where resources can be both redistributed and renegotiated, whilst challenging the implicit rules and hierarchies of public and social space. Through archival and sonic investigations, they speculate on blackness in abundance. Strategies of space holding through architectural interventions, ritual, sonic installations and workshops enable them to make a practice of living in order not to turn to despair. They established the collectively run and QTIBPOC (queer, trans*, intersex, black and people of colour) led Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.) in 2018.

Ashwani Sharma is a Senior Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, UK. His research interests include: race and postcolonial audio-visual culture, black cultural theory, contemporary global art and aesthetics, deconstruction and psychoanalysis, globalisation and media communication, urban culture, South Asian diasporic art and music, racial capitalism and Marxist theory, open access publishing, and experimental pedagogy and the university. He is completing a book on racial capitalism, tragedy, mourning and postcolonial visual culture (Bloomsbury Academic). He is the founding co-editor of the online journal darkmatter. He coedited Disorienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (Zed). He is a poet with a recent joint publication, Suburban Finesse (Sad Press). He has worked as a sound operator in film and television, a DJ, and was an aeronautical engineer.