Contemporary responses to nineteenth century art, design and empire

How are contemporary artists of colour engaging with nineteenth-century art, design and empire in their practice? What are the challenges, limits and potential of displaying contemporary artists’ work to challenge racism and colonial violence in historic collections?

This online event will feature presentations by artists Bharti Parmar, Sunil Gupta, Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński and Farwa Moledina, with discussion chaired by Dr Anna Arabindan-Kesson. It will be followed by structured discussion in breakout rooms, surrounding a set of questions:

What are the limitations, ethics and possibilities of using contemporary artists’ work to challenge historic collections?
Why are museums with historic collections interested in the work of contemporary artists? What do institutions have to offer besides objects and spaces that need to be reframed? How do they address the ethics of benefiting from artists’ emotional and physical labour, and how do they approach the inherited trauma of empire?
What are the experiences of projects involving contemporary artists and historic collections (from the point of view of both artists and museum workers): what worked and what didn’t, what were the lessons learned?
How can these projects have a legacy rather than being temporary interventions?

Artists’ presentations:

Bharti Parmar, A Grammar of Sentiment

Sunil Gupta, Queer Migrations: A Practice

Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, H(a)unting

Farwa Moledina, Not Your Fantasy

Comments from Dr Anna Arabindan-Kesson; chaired discussion/Q&A

Bharti Parmar trained in printmaking at the Royal College of Art and has a PhD in fine art (University of Wolverhampton). She will be reflecting on her doctoral research using Owen Jones’ seminal design manual of 1856 Grammar of Ornament as a springboard to explore the themes of taxonomy and materiality in her work.

Sunil Gupta is a Canadian citizen, (b. New Delhi 1953) MA (Royal College of Art) PhD (University of Westminster) who has been involved with independent photography as a critical practice for many years focusing on race, migration and queer issues.

Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński is a writer and artist living in Vienna, Austria. Rooted in Black feminist theory, she has developed a research-based and process-oriented investigative practice that often deals with archives, specifically with their gaps and blanks. Interlacing the documentary with the fictional, her works manifest themselves through a variety of media and dissect the present of an everlasting colonial past. She is currently a guest professor at the Academy for Media Arts Cologne.

Farwa Moledina is a Muslim artist. Through the use of pattern and textile, her work addresses Muslim women and faith.

Anna Arabindan-Kesson is an Assistant Professor of Black Diaspora Art, with a going appointment in African American Studies and Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. Her first book Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World is published by Duke University Press, and she is the director of Art Hx, a digital humanities project examining the intersection of art, colonial medicine and race. Her website is

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