ps/o7 public citizen | surveying the future | networking migrant struggles
Plymouth Arts Centre
38 Looe Street, Plymouth, UK
In the weeks prior to the exhibition, Ultra-red staged four local performances, titled "Bass Community" (8 - 12 September 2007). For each performance, Ultra-red convened groups of people who have accessed The Monitoring Group as a result of often-brutal experiences of racist violence. Four individuals from each community were invited to introduce a pre-recorded sound signifying a term related to those experiences (included in the exhibition on CD players). Each sound then triggered a cascade of associations for audience members. The responses were attentively written down on flip-chart paper according to a set of protocols borrowed from Jacques Lacan's analysis of discourse. After all the associations had been noted, the person who introduced the pre-recorded sound then read the collected text over a reggae dub-inspired bassline performed by Ultra-red (heard amplified in the Plymouth Art Centre gallery).
The resulting sixteen "works on paper" function like maps -- diagrams of a social process that simultaneously seeks to interrogate the discursive and assemble a collective analysis. Elliptical and unresolved, the pieces continue to activate the interrogation by challenging the viewer's own relationship to the discourse on race, resisting familiar terms like diversity and multi-culturalism. Rather, these works produce a barbed critique of the way such terms, in their foreclosure of reflections on experiences of racism, contribute to the very conditions for racist violence. Refusing an explicit articulation of a liberatory impulse in the name of pragmatism and efficiency, the bureaucratic discourse forecloses the possibility of fundamental social transformation and justice.
In addition to a language-centered current in conceptualism, Ultra-red also draw on the legacy of dub music and poetics, specifically the relationship between anti-racist struggles within creolized cultural forms of black Britain. Occupying the signifiers of that history, the community participants in Ultra-red's "Rural Intavenshan" ask how it is that a Kurdish migrant, a Portuguese worker, and a Turkish taxi-driver came to be "Black Minority Ethnic"? While racialising these subjects in ways that set the stage for racism, the state bureaucratic discourse has the dialectical effect of producing a new convergence of anti-racist struggle.
This exhibition is one modest attempt to formalize the grammar of that struggle within the unique context of Britain's rural southwest.
(Organized by Janna Graham and Elliot Perkins with assistance from Dont Rhine.)
Ultra-red would like to thank all our friends who participated in the Bass Community Tour 2007. Special thanks also to all the staff of The Monitoring Group and Paula Orrell at the Plymouth Art Centre for the incredible support.