Black Sun conversation during London Art Book Fair


On Sunday 28 September I will be in conversation with artist Shezad Dawood, and graphic designers Oliver Knight and Rory McGrath of OK-RM about the processes that have led to the Black Sun book.

We will be discussing how it relates to the eponymous exhibition (touring), and the collaborations between us, among other aspects. More information about the talk and on how to book tickets see here.

For more information on the book see the previous post.

Black Sun was co-published by Ridinghouse, who will have a stand at the London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. The conversation will take place at 1pm.

Piercing Brightness: Shezad Dawood, 2012


Having worked with Shezad several years earlier on the book Feature: Reconstructed (published as part of the Fabrications series at Book Works), he invited me to work on a publication for his Piercing Brightness project (see also Subplots to a City post).

Published on the occasion of his eponymous touring solo exhibition, Piercing Brightness is the first major monograph of British artist Shezad Dawood. Concentrating on his engagement with film, and particularly science fiction, the publication features illustrations of past exhibitions, projects and individual works.

The book contains a diverse series of texts, ranging from biographical fiction, to art historical and musical contextualisation, to film theoretical analysis. With contributions by Shumon Basar, Mark Bartlett, Matthew G. Gregory, Jean Fisher, Abdellah Karroum, Ghalya Saadawi, Elaine Speight & Charles Quick, Michael Stanley and Sam Thorne. Contrary to the classic catalogue raisonné structure of the artist’s monograph, the publication functions as a meta-text, highlighting recurrent ideas and themes in Shezad’s practice. In that sense it could be considered as coming closer to the notion of an artist’s book – even though all written contributions are by others – or rather stand-alone book, instead of it being a standard catalogue. This is a way of approaching publications that Shezad and I have both engaged with. See also the Black Sun entry.

Designed by Åbäke, published by Modern Art Oxford, distributed by Koenig Books, London.


Black Sun with Shezad Dawood

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Black Sun is a term with multiple meanings. It represents the eclipse of the day, but is also a symbol of esoteric or occult significance, used in various belief systems, from Hinduism to western hermetic traditions. It is linked to the metaphor dark night of the soul, which is used to describe a phase in a person’s spiritual life, marked by a sense of loneliness and desolation, and which can be experienced in particular by those who are marginalised by ethnicity, sexuality and displacement. Black Sun therefore relates to eclipse, transfiguration and alchemy.

These multiple notions embedded in that of the black sun are the starting point for both an exhibition and a publication. The exhibition is curated by artist Shezad Dawood, with curator Tom Trevor. Artists whose work is part of the exhibition include Ayisha Abraham, Ashish Avikunthak, Matti Braun, James Lee Byars, Maya Deren, Desire Machine Collective, Zarina Hashmi, Runa Islam, Nasreen Mohamedi, Lisa Oppenheim, The Otolith Group, Tino Sehgal, Tejal Shah, Alexandre Singh and Wolfgang Tillmanns.

Both the exhibition and the publication examine structures that look to deconstruct or displace our everyday modes of seeing. Rather than a traditional catalogue, the publication is a parallel platform to the exhibition and allows for a more in-depth exploration of the concept and issues outlined above. It contains three main texts: ‘Black Sun: Alchemy, Diaspora and Heterotopia’, by artist/curator Shezad Dawood; ‘Blind Spot. On the metaphor of the Sun: light, language and melancholia’, by curator Tom Trevor; ‘The Rothschilds’ Revolution’ by curator/researcher Megha Ralapati; and a conversation between Shezad Dawood and Kodwo Eshun from The Otolith Group. Alongside these essays, short texts on each artist participating in the project, and a range of visual and textual references complete the book. Designers are OK-RM.

Although the range of artists and authors involved with the project was selected early on by Shezad, the actual process of putting the book together took about two years. His, and Megha’s, text involved a slow process of setting out, expanding, revisiting and adding. The conversation between Shezad, Kodwo and myself was slowly distilled from a 100-page transcript. The shorter texts about the individual artists involved in the project required another approach again. It’s exactly this diversity, deftly responded to by the designers, whose work references centuries of book design, that has made it into a very rich and sensuous object, that can be engaged with time and again without a need to see the exhibition at all.

Black Sun opened at the Devi Art Foundation in November 2013.

The book was published by the Devi Art Foundation, the Arnolfini in Bristol, and Ridinghouse, London.

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Subplots to a City

7.-Jeppe-Hein1-e1296412519175In Certain Places in Preston commissioned Shezad Dawood’s film project Piercing Brightness, and the Harris Museum & Art Gallery hosted the first in a series of shows related to the artist’s project and wider practice. Working with Shezad on the publication alongside the exhibitions (see this post), I met the film’s commissioners, Charles Quick and Elaine Speight, who wrote a text for the book. They subsequently invited me to work with them on a publication that would capture ten years of In Certain Places’ activities.

In Certain Places is a programme of temporary public artworks and events that examines how artists can contribute to the development of a city. The scheme, which was initiated in 2003, is a partnership between the Harris Museum & Art Gallery Preston, and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). In Certain Places has worked with regional, national and international artists (the image shows Jeppe Hein’s Appearing Rooms, which emerged in Preston’s city centre in June–July 2006) to develop temporary public artworks for the city, hosted artist residencies, and throughout its ten years of existence has organised public talks about art, place and the city.

My approach to working with Charles and Elaine has been a very slow one (I first visited Preston in summer 2012). On the one hand that’s because we’re all busy people, but on the other hand because the ongoing face-to-face and skype conversations, exchanges of documents and lists and emailed propositions allow for what I think is an important percolation process. Rather than ‘simply’ archiving and documenting things as they happened chronologically and representing projects as they manifested themselves via text and image, it’s become a process of (self-)reflection about both In Certain Places’ practice and modes of operation, and how public art commissioning and its processes in general have changed.

Subplots to a City includes texts by, among others, Paul O’Neill, Jonathan Vickery, Owen Hatherley, Lubaina Himid, Sophie Hope and Charles Quick & Elaine Speight. It will feature case studies of projects and interviews with and statements of people involved, including artists and project participants. The book is designed by Jasmine Raznahan of ARPA.

Planned publication date: November 2014