New Media and Black Artists

…Rita Keegan was one such artist, at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery, whose installation employed an interactive video piece accompanied by a white rubber dress with laser printed acetate sheets. Similarly, Alistair Raphael, at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, worked with photo manipulation technology. He managed to enlarge blood cells from the (human) body. Enlarged up several thousand times and somehow managed to print them onto strips of clear rubber. I am not quite sure how he did it, but it was a major t4chnological feat. Raphael hung the strips of clear rubber on the scaffolding frame. Basically creating the notion of the body to be physically entered and exited. The piece was interactive with the audience entering and exiting [through the vertically suspended strips]. Because of the enlargement of the original photograph, the image became quite abstract but still remained a blood cell. The installation also referenced the physicality of a building site. The work also touches on the notions of the body being excavated, physically explored. A body reconstructed or tampered with.

This is an installation by Shaheen Merali, It pays to buy good tea, in which he uses video and photography and its ability to grab images from a monitor. The monitors within the installation helped to deal with very broad and complex issues. The issue of identity politics in Sri Lanka were linked to the fact that Sri Lanka is a major tea-exporting country. All these very complex ideas are brought together within one installation, which also utilises projected images.

So it was interesting observing artists work in Four x 4, observing those artists who wanted to utilise new technology as against those who were uninterested. This did not set up any kind of hierarchy in my mind and hopefully neither in the viewers’ minds because I do not think these artists were any more accomplished in their work than other artists. I just think that the work is different. As a curator I could quite easily fall into the trap of the championing of technology-based work at the expense of the painters and the sculptors. However, it is not something I am prepared to do because I don’t think it is right to create that kind of hierarchy or separation between artists who use new technology and those who do not.

The above extracts are from a text by Eddie Chambers, “New Media and Black Artists”, a transcribed talk included in Art, New Media and Race Postures, edited by Shaheen Merali and Jeremy Mulvey, published by Panchayat, London, March 1996: 19-23.