The Place is Always Here: Why this exhibition will create economic regeneration in Nottingham: a big heart, a shared heart

Featured image:  David Stickman Higgins  The Place is Here Guided walkaround

How and why Work is made, what is work, what is art, how we share and support each other, how we become excellent and understand how art becomes one of many exchanges we see in life were all part of the most excellent The Place is Here Exhibition that closed a couple of weeks ago.

All great British literature, culture and history is here, referenced, fore-grounded, intertextually: Dreaming Rivers (1988 and NOW takes you back to Heathcliffe, to the space Jean Rhyss carved, to the Silent era, like a trickster, playing with genres, sub genres, absence and presence…watch it, you can order, rent, buy it from Women Make Movies

Above still from Martina Atille’s silent film Dreaming Rivers other images art and books from the exhibition

Where is the literature?  Supporting literature is  still in Nottingham Contemporary bookshop and advice from Nottingham Black Archive and Museumand (Nottingham’s museum without walls and boundaries) on where to find books, films, Lisa Robinson’s Bright Ideas, Norma Gregory’s Nottingham News Centre and ACNA and Black Achievers, as well as getting a Nottingham Beans List search engine for all things created by the diaspora, then and now….

The exhibition was mad: crowds of artists, connections here, Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, London Wales, Scotland, South Africa, America, Mexico Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad, Africa etc etc.

The push pull to squeeze, the push me pull you into a space it was never meant for, disneyfies the real, makes us all think we are there, somewhere and we need to make that clearer.

The films, images and journalism become real, the expectations of the people who came to the events, the conference, the talks to look into and for the past became dot to dot, sketches of the possible, skewed.

We could see something, we could hear an audience from slavery?, some of whom were slaves still and we were all in a space looking for subjects beyond race, age, class, gender.

And there was a conference which looked to go back and forth in time, intertextually, taking all the roles of who they were, who they wanted to be what they’d achieved and sitting at the table was enough, David Stickman Higgins welcoming everyone in, thanking us all for connecting, coming, to sit, listen, talk and think.

Sitting at the table Marlene Smith, Claudette Johnson, and Said Adrus, chaired by Charles Washington and, always, the figure of who was the audience, who was the object, who was the subject was here.

Here, where the finger of the film maker asked a question of one member, one audient, here, I think is where the dialectic would be. All the solid things melted here.

When an institution opens up its possibilities, we can see it, we can feel it, we belong and contribute.  We’re used to imagining what might be and apologising for being bigger than the space we’ve got. I felt happy that this place is here because, like you, I know that the place is always here.

Truth makes the real imaginary and the imaginary has no boundary: the wonderful rich films, images that tear through label of blackness or working classness or social housingness or disabilityness sits inside history, spreadsheets and algorhithms.

So Sophisticated though: real world studies as proof of civilisation, being civilised. And even I can understand that, going to a comprehensive in 1969 where the delight in learning for its own sake, wanting to reach out to the world and connect was limited by the golden ticket view of social mobility and learning, our race and class system which was filtered through a grammar school instrumentality in the curriculum.

World Studies was for the disadvantaged….I remember running to World Studies: delighted to be stupid enough to be able to access the multidisciplinarity of Geography, History, RE in a remedial class with the children who got to have high level conversations about inequalities and life and how to stop things like Kwashiorkor (starvation you are born with) that we’d written about in English….And that same feeling of banishing and yet always acknowledging the social as a mote, as a splinter as a giant fallen tree in our eyes while we watched a new possible world….was here, in among the artists, the friendships, the working relationships, the histories, the now of then and yesterday.

I remember being spirited out of the remedial class and moved up to the top class, winning a verse speaking competition and choosing a book The World Of Tomorrow where there was a picture of DNA and I painted it in oils….


Some of the artists:

Mowbray Odonkor Eddie Chambers,   Sutapa Biswas Donald Rodney, Said Adrus, John Akomfrah, Rasheed Araeen, Martina Attille, David A. Bailey, Zarina Bhimji, Sonia Boyce, Vanley Burke, Ceddo, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Joy Gregory, Sunil Gupta, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Gavin Jantjes, Claudette Johnson, Isaac Julien, Chila Kumari Burman, Dave Lewis, Pratibha Parmar, Maybelle Peters, Keith Piper, Ingrid Pollard, Donald Rodney, Veronica Ryan, Marlene Smith, Maud Sulter, Black Audio Film CollectiveLina Gopau, Avril Johnson

Great questioners, all up for renewal by you, me, us. How do you want to live, work, socialise, can you change or shape that? Are you interested that your past, present, future is everywhere around us?

The artists in this exhibition have a big heart, a shared heart and you could see the gifts passed about the work, Lubaina to Claudette and back to Sonia, to Eddie, to Sutapa, to Vanley, to Martina, to Isaac to John, to Donald to Ingrid, to Maud to George, to Patcee, to Leasa to Milton, to June, To Ahmed, to Marlene……..

Names the names, like streets, like street signs. Every one matters, the detail of the streets, the cities, the countryside across the world, here, now in Nottingham it came together and it was more than the sum of the people who were stockpiling data.

It was like time travel, going back thirty years but also trying, attempting and always failing to bring the presence of the present skill, knowledge and energy in to the problem of how we live, how we talk about life, how we represent ourselves better

There was something magical, fluid and transformative though about the re juxtaposing, re supposing of what happened before and how to reposition what we do now and where are we when we mingle and talk, join the time travel back to the 1980s…

Black artists, writers, thinkers, philosophers, musicians, academics are always here and have already, always, made the connections that the establishment of art, museums provide the golden ticket into.

For example, think of how 19th century writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman used the idea of wallpaper as a landscape of a woman’s oppression, well Sonia Boyce (RA) knows that too and creates a landscape of colonialism on a background that could have come out of the Art and Crafts movement.

Above: left interpretation of The Yellow Wallpaper book cover and right Sonia Boyce Lay Back, Keep Quiet and Think of What Made Britain So Great, 1986 by Sonia Boyce. Photograph: © Sonia Boyce. All Rights Reserved. DACS 2015 Communities, permission from the artists sought.

Representativeness, demands…who are we, anyway? We love (Nottingham and) the world, it wasn’t always like this, rubbing our noses in self knowledge never felt this good. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Time has no dominion here, we are all, always here, in space and out of space.

But the things that matter: whether individuals and groups are divided and pressed against imaginary windows of desire while resources  work together and interdependently, whether there is enough for everyone to be represented or whether in this moment all our expectations are raised.

Some documentaries:

The Hard Stop (2015) dir. George Amponsah. 12A

The police killing of Mark Duggan in London, 2011, ignited the worst civil unrest in recent British history and made headlines around the globe. The Hard Stop is an intimate documentary revealing the story, away from all press coverage, of Mark Duggan’s friends and family following his death.

The People’s Account (1986) dir. Milton Bryan/Ceddo.

A documentary about the Broadwater Farm Estate, Tottenham following the death of Cythia Jarrett during a police search. Told from the point of view of the black community which lives there, this is the scene of serious rioting between police and the residents in 1984.

Mama Lou (1994) dir. Maybelle Peters

Emergence (1986) and A Place of Rage (1991) dir. Pratibha Parmar

Candy Pop & Juicy Lucy dir. Chila Burman
White Men are Cracking Up (1994) dir. Ngozi Onwurah

Rahm (Mercy) (2016) dir. Ahmed Jamal


One thought on “The Place is Always Here: Why this exhibition will create economic regeneration in Nottingham: a big heart, a shared heart

  1. This was a great article to write the amazing spirit of regeneration that’s in Nottingham through this walk in take away has been phenomenal. Thanks to everyone who made it greater than the sum of its parts!


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