Lisson Gallery

An Infinity of Traces: a reader

An Infinity of Traces: a reader artwork

Curatorial statement by Ekow Eshun:

An Infinity of Traces is both a physical exhibition and an online presentation featuring the work of 11 Black artists – click through below to their individual statements, videos, poems, essays and responses to the theme. The show and this companion reader explore notions of race, history, being and belonging. The exhibition at Lisson Gallery in London (13 April – 5 June 2021) and its accompanying digital material and talks programme are set against the backdrop of recent events, such as the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests in countries around the world. But it is also predicated upon the existence of a much longer, more sustained antipathy to the Black presence that, in Britain, has deep, embedded roots in the nation’s imperial past. With this legacy of hostility in mind, the exhibition considers how Black artists are addressing topics such as self-care, kinship and collective solidarity in their work. 

Formed at "the unstable point where personal lives meet the narrative of history"1, Blackness is a mutable state liable to ongoing redefinition and reimagining. It is a zone of possibility that gives birth, in the words of Antonio Gramsci, to, "an infinity of traces"2.

The exhibition seeks to outline some recent tendencies in contemporary practice. In particular, it highlights the centrality of Black feminism, in its various, expansive manifestations as politics, activism, theory and scholarship, ethics, the erotic, and creative discourse, as a key prism through which artists are making work and enquiring into society. 

Stuart Hall’s description of the approach of Black artists in the 1980s feels powerfully applicable to the breadth of perspective and the hybrid, cross-disciplinary methodology with which many artists work today. "Instinctively, they work across cultural boundaries and vocabularies. They work with and on 'difference'. But they do not have a binary, either/or, conception of it. They know that everyone comes from somewhere, speaks from some place, is multiply positioned."3

Together, the artists and works in An Infinity of Traces offer a range of enquiries into the complexity of Black life and identity. Hidden histories are unearthed. The Black body becomes the site of intersecting racial, sexual and cultural interpretations. And the question is asked, what does resistance to the anti-black present day look like? What might a de-colonial or anti-racist future look like? Can an exhibition be a site of liberation? 

1 Stuart Hall, quoted in The Unfinished Conversation, 2012, dir John Akomfrah
2 Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks, 1935
3 Stuart Hall, Different: A Historical Context, 2001

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