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Interventions, Ruptures & Affirmations:

Archival Engagements in Art of the African Diaspora

WILMER WILSON IV, Henry Box Brown: FOREVER Day 3: Congress2012, archival pigment print, 16 x 20 inches, ed: 7.
Copyright Wilmer Wilson IV, courtesy CONNERSMITH

In honor of Howard University’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, the 28th Annual James A. Porter Colloquium will turn to examine archival legacies of the African Diaspora. As home to Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and the historic Howard University Art Collection, Howard University’s art community is eager to facilitate a dialog concerning notions of African American or African Diasporic archival aesthetics that connects generations through photographic practice and the life the archival object.

This Colloquium aims to provide a platform for new scholarship and artistic perspectives on African American and African Diasporic archival collections—both object based collections and photographic archives.  One central interest is to investigate how artists use a range of art media  to engage archival material from the Black Atlantic. This colloquium will bring together a range of artists such as photographers as well as mixed media artists that incorporate photography in their aesthetic. “Interventions, Ruptures & Affirmations” aims to assess the myriad of way artists of African descent are using the archives to define, deny or empower. The proceedings will also address issues concerning the state of prominent archives housing African American culture, accessibility to archival material and digital innovations. In addition to artists, the proceedings will feature art historians, curators, and archivists from museums and universities. The lectures and presentations will attempt to address four categories:

  • Assessing archival holdings for African Diasporic archives—What does the photographic archive reveal about black photographers? How has the archive advanced our knowledge of artist’s spaces and exhibition practice? What influence has recent archival discoveries had on African American art historiography?
  • How are artists using public and private archives to make twenty-first century art? What cultural, spiritual, political or social statements are made when artists of African descent integrate or reinterpret archival matter?  
  • How are contemporary photographers of African descent extending, “intervening” or augmenting our understanding of the archival legacies of the Black Atlantic?
  • How are artists that work in art media other than photography incorporating archival material in their artwork? Furthermore, how are these artists creating their own photographic archives?

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