WARP AND WEFT, Firstsite, Colchester, 2017

Himid, Lubaina (2017) WARP AND WEFT, Firstsite, Colchester, 2017. [Show/Exhibition]

[thumbnail of Naming the Money]
Image (JPEG) (Naming the Money) - Cover Image
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Official URL: http://firstsite.uk/whats-on/lubaina-himid-warp-we...


The exhibition’s title, Warp and Weft, refers to the process by which threads are held in tension on a frame or loom to create cloth. Himid chose the title for its reference to Colchester’s important position in the wool trade between the 13th and 16th centuries, and its complex history of race and migration that is reflected in the productive tensions of Himid’s work.
Naming the Money (2004) is the largest installation to make use of Himid’s ‘cut-outs’ that viewers can walk amongst.
At Firstsite, seventy cut-outs represent African slave servants in the royal courts of eighteenth century Europe. The work features a soundtrack which gives voice to the figures, and shifts between their original African names and trades and the new names and professions imposed upon them in Europe.
The monochromatic Cotton.com (2002) is inspired by a little known act of solidarity enacted by Manchester mill workers at the time of the American Civil War (1861-64). As President Lincoln moved to abolish slavery, raw cotton supplies from the plantations to British mills dried up, resulting in mass unemployment – an event known as the Cotton Famine. Despite the high personal cost, the workers’ unions passed a motion in support of Lincoln’s efforts to end slavery. In Cotton.com Himid imagines a conversation carried out between labourers on both sides of the Atlantic, an exchange dependent not upon language but rather pattern. Pattern plays a key part in Himid’s painterly grammar; it operates in the work as a means of non-literal communication. ‘I love the language of pattern, its immense potential for movement, illusion, colour experiments and subliminal political messaging. This…is just part of the exploration of how to imply invisible influences without explanation but without slipping into the abstract. The patterns are narratives.’ The work is completed by a text adapted from one written by a plantation inspector and selected for its perverse romanticisation of a woman’s enforced labour.
The exhibition also includes the series Negative Positives: The Guardian Archive (2007 – 2016). For ten years, Himid has collected every daily edition of The Guardian, her newspaper of choice, building up a comprehensive archive. For Negative Positives the artist selects pages in which photographs of black politicians, athletes and celebrities appear, to highlight what she interprets as a routine association of such images with negative headlines, news stories or
editorials, often entirely unrelated to the person depicted. The artist paints over sections of the newspaper layouts with bright patterns, geometric shapes and imagery that migrates from advertisements on the page. Himid views this painterly intervention as an ‘attempt to reclaim the portrait of the person [and] restore the balance.’
‘The point I am often exploring vis-à-vis the black experience is that of being so very visible and different in the White Western everyday yet so invisible and disregarded in the cultural, historical, political or economic record or history.’

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