Preview: Friday 27 Sep 2019, 6-9pm
Exhibition: 28 September – 26 October 2019, Thurs – Sat, 12-6 pm
Symposium: 12 October 2019 | 10.30am – 1pm
Exhibition essay by Rabz Lansiquot: please click here
Restraint Restrained, the first solo exhibition by Bristol artist Kat Anderson, was commissioned by Block 336 in partnership with Black Cultural Archives (BCA). The artist conducted a residency at BCA where she accessed specific materials, developing her ongoing research project: Episodes of Horror which explores the horror of trauma experienced by and projected upon Black bodies in literature and lens-based media. The works draw on the experiences and narratives of the many mentally ill Black people who have met their deaths in police custody or mental health facilities, through excessive restraint holds and other violent and negligent behaviours. Restraint Restrained references the central premise of Frantz Fanon’s essay ‘Concerning Violence’, in which he claims that in order for the decolonisation of indigenous land to happen, a total and violent purging of the colonisers by the indigenous people must occur. Anderson repurposes this idea to consider how the contemporary Black mind and body, as a ‘colonised space’, is processed through public health and police institutions; understanding such authorities as embodiments and enforcers of structural white supremacy.
The exhibition comprises four newly commissioned works that question our perceptions of ‘violence’, and the sacrifices necessary to envision a liberation of the Black body and mind. The works reflect on the affective violence of institutional racism and the revolutionary strategies that Black activists, artists and community organisers have proposed to tackle these oppressive racialized forces. To explore this, Anderson has displayed these works in darkness with glimpses of light to both subvert the whiteness of the institutional gallery space and to simultaneously conceal and subtly reveal how black bodies are positioned and imagined in white space.
In the sound work …Hold 2 3 4…, Anderson juxtaposes the performance of tactical breathing employed in modern day warfare with Fanon’s notion of ‘combat breathing,’ in which a colonised ‘individual’s breathing is an observed breathing,’ exposing the effect of occupation on the Black body and mind. Six large prints in varied shades of black are presented with excerpts from poems published in black liberation papers such as Race Today and Black Voice. These words are revealed as fragments visible only when flashes of light reveal them to the viewer. The central piece of the exhibition is a two-channel video installation John, which tells the story of a young male patient of a psychiatric hospital, who witnesses the death of another Black male patient at the hands of white staff. Blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, this work draws from real life cases of Black mentally ill men who have died as a result of excessive force. The last work presents a round-table discussion with the family members of Black men who have died in police custody or psychiatric units; mental health and legal professionals; activists and artists who reflect on violence as it relates to institutional racism and what needs to be done to free the Black mind.
Kat Anderson is an artist and curator, working in installation and moving image, with an interest in Black Diaspora identities, Black trauma and mental health. Her recent work includes two commissions from KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin) which explored the subjects of horror and trauma, as experienced by or projected upon Black bodies in lens-based media and literature. Anderson did a residency at Metal (Liverpool) in 2018, where she examined seminal moments of civic and personal change, looking at the historic and contemporary intersection of race, poverty and mental illness in the lives of Black Liverpudlians.
Block 336 thanks the Arts Council England, BCA, The Elephant Trust, Lambeth Mind, Spike Island, LUX, POST, Brixton Brewery and We Are 336 for their kind support of this project.