Derica Shields

A Heavy Nonpresence: Part One (2017)

“What is this kind of existential kind of horror that one can feel about being kind of invisible or kind of [laughter], like the heavy presence, a heavy nonpresence or something.”
—Kara Walker in Dreams Are Colder Than Death (2014), dir. Arthur Jafa

I'd rather live outside.
                — Frank Ocean, Seigfried

In the spirit of all imperfect practitioners of petit marronage, A Heavy Nonpresence is interested in Black failure — failures of assimilation, inclusion, separatism and of Black belonging in Britain. In place of political action that wants to expand the parameters of civil society to include Black people, or to bring us under the protection, surveillance, and control of the state, this series asks what is being done amid and despite exclusionary and assimilationist moves. What can we do among ourselves, maybe in secret?

First edition:
Institute of Contemporary Art, London
August 4 - 20, 2017

Part I: Artist talk by Ingrid Pollard followed by a screening of selected film and video by Ja’Tovia Gary, Black Audio Film Collective and from the British Pathé Archive. Both events were was followed by discussion: the first about racialised constructions of the English countryside foregrounded by Ingrid Pollard’s land/place-oriented photographic practice, and the second around welfare, anti-Black violence and displacement raised by the screening program.

Part II: An afternoon of workshops, presentations, and discussions about navigating austerity, particularly housing-related benefits cuts that have pushed Black people outside of the city. Foregrounding the shame that austerity ideology and antiblackness construct around Black access to welfare, we unpicked the fallacy of independence/self-sufficiency while pooling ideas for surviving housing insecurity.