Study group on Black Aesthetics with Denise Ferreira da Silva

Recently participated in this event with Denise Ferreira Da Silva at the ICA London.



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Supreme Fiction

Remembering Mum – She would have been 84 on 28 Aug. Supreme Fiction, a poem I wrote at the time of her passing.

‘For each time, and each time singularly, each time irreplaceably, each time infinitely, death is nothing less than an end of the world.’ Derrida.

dadi 31
(Narinder Sharma 1934-2013)

Mum liked stories, long ones, short ones, funny ones,
sad ones, the old ones were the best.

Halcyon days in the crisp Rawalpindi air, carefree
under the shadow of colonial rule. Partition trains soaked in bloody violence
never to forget.

Partying in the messes and verandahs of Delhi and Nasik, dressed to the nines,
smart officers ignored, proudly accompanying her daddy:
Major Lachman Singh Indian hockey player
1952 Olympic football team manger, buyer of boots in Helsinki.

Meeting the West Indian cricketers Walcott, Weekes, Worrell
sparkle in her eyes, histories unfolding
the past needs to be told, again and again, the past is the future
1962 monsoon wedding, welcome to Heathrow. 1963 snow, me.

Once upon a time…

Mum liked repeating tales ‘Mum not that one again, we’ve heard it
before, boring.’ Mum just carried on, with even more verve.

Diaries redundant, mum’s instant recall, birthdays, anniversaries,
oceans apart, histories together,
cards written, presents shipped.

Mum could talk, she talked to anyone, everyone, no one
to the end she spoke as if life depended upon words.

Recalling cold dark winter evenings, coal fires burning
heart-warming immigrant life, letters home.

Cosmopolitan living, monkey gods, Durga ma, fish and chips on Fridays, hi ram, It’s a knockout, laughing loud, Benny Hill and Norman Wisdom on the box, bhajans and Lulu. Carry on up the Khyber, It ain’t half hot mum. Nation time, ordinary lives.

Mum and dad hosts of Handsworth, alu paratha and tandoori chicken
little money, lots of joy, good times
time catches up, the past a lost image, photographs as frozen life.

Trauma repeated
dad lying down at the bus stop, mum’s despair.
time standing still. Nightmare
your nightmare, our nightmare

Gasping for life, fireworks burning bright, you left as dawn broke
the last breath ended our world,
your words live for eternity
now you are free to fly,
as little birds outside your window, till the end of time.

Mum so many stories still to be told. Tell us another one.

Shanti Shanti Shanti

(This poem was read at Narinder Sharma’s funeral on 16 Nov 2013)

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After (Post)colonial Tragedy – The Aesthetics of Eco-Planetary Futurity

Below is the abstract of a paper I will be giving at the ‘Crossroads in Cultural Studies 2018’ conference in Shanghai next week.

I’ve been interested in ecological and environmental issues for a long time. In the 1980s I thought the green movement was the future. Especially in the radical politics of the German Greens in the 1980s, embodied in the figure of Petra Kelly and others. (The Friends of the Earth in Camden didn’t cut it for me!). The focus was on linking the struggles of anti-racism and Third Worldism to the global/local ecological struggles.

This paper is an initial attempt to address again race and decoloniality by examining recent experimental film projects and how they rethink temporality in the wake of the failures of the postcolonial struggles of the 20th century. The focus on the ecological requires a rethinking of the histories of modernity, colonialism, capitalism and racism. The contention is that futures of the (decolonial) planet is only possible as a subaltern ecological struggle in where indigenous, women and the poor are central to social and economic justice. Radical aesthetics offer ways of thinking and re-imagining the times and places of cultural resistance.

After (Post)colonial Tragedy – The Aesthetics of Eco-Planetary Futurity

The mid 20thcentury optimism of Bandung and the project of Afro-Asian independence from (neo)colonialism has arguably been replaced by what David Scott has called ‘postcolonial tragedy’. For Scott ‘…tragic sensibility or tragic vision appears pre-eminently in moments of collision of in-commensurable historical forces—when, as Hamlet put it in his anguished cry, “the time is out of joint”…Thus, far from being a period of seamless succession or transition, decolonization might well be thought of as a disorienting, inconclusive moment of rupture especially conducive to tragic consciousness.’

This paper focuses on examining the ‘out of joint’ of the contemporary by considering a significant strand of global art and screen media, which is engaging with archives, memory and history to re-imagine the temporality of western modernity, capitalism and historicism. In particular by positing the relationship between (post)colonialism and modernity as an ‘ecological tragedy’, enables disjunctive, alternative, longer histories of environmental destruction, climate change, modern capitalism and racism to be envisaged.

By especially analyzing the essay film, as a dominant experimental global aesthetic, projects such as those of John Akomfrah’s, The Vertigo Sea(2015), and Purple(2017), Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s Serpent Rain(2017), and The Otolith Group’s The Radiant (2012) are in which the relationship between slavery, colonialism, capitalism, racism, the environment and time are deconstructed. In these cultural works loss, pessimism, failures, deaths, disaster and mourning of tragic pasts are the constituting conditions for spatio-temporal ‘ruptures’ for a planetary futurity of hope and utopia.

Against the prevalent notions of Eurocentric conceptualization of the ‘Anthropocene’, this paper works towards re-thinking the reconfiguration of the spatio-temporal relationship between humans, non-humans, technology, and the earth through the prisms of the entangled planetary Global South and fugitive sites of subaltern political, ecological, economic and cultural resistance.

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Living the Dream

In memory of Ved Parkash Sharma (1927 – 1996)
The Ganga rushing through the land
Sheets of rain cutting the oppressive humidity,
Orange men scavenging for souls.
Tears flowing
Ashes in hand.
Dad was an Albion man,
Home in the black country
Never to return.
Remember those summer days –
Dudley Zoo and Blackpool Pier.
The odd pint of Guinness with his spars.
No dreams of gold in the mother country
Only small brown envelopes on Fridays.
ICI, Dunlop, GKN don’t remember.
Empires crumbling, workers welcomed.
Invisible men to the end.
Dirty jobs to do, lives to be lived
Love to be found, friends to be made.
‘Smelly coolie’, ‘fucking Paki’.
They are just jealous.
Be wise. Dad knew much, said little.
Look them in the whites of their eyes
This is home.
Stand and deliver. Laugh out loud.
Tears flowing, memories flooding.
‘Is this all he’s worth?’
Holy men with calculators
Standing guard on the river’s edge, soiled with foreign currencies.
Ashes escaping in the torrent
Holding back the rage and sorrow.
England’s dreaming again.
Time to go, forget the gods
No sacred cows, only polluted rivers
And temples to the rich.
Back in Handsworth Park,
Haridwar, another time, another place
Another life.
A poem I wrote in Aug 2013 remembering dad who tragically passed away on 3 May 1996. He would have been 91 years on 27 July 2018 this year.
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Dis-Orienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music

PDF of the whole book.


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Beholder Halfway #12 – Black Study Group: Notes on Music and Money

Continue reading

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Creating Interference

I’m involved in organising this event co-ordinated by Roshini Kempadoo at the University of Westminster.

See for a full programme.

Creating Interference: making art, developing methods, re-imagining histories/memories
Monday 18th June, Tuesday 19th June, Regent Street Cinema and Regent Street Campus, University of Westminster, London

Creating Interference is an international screening programme, symposium and network of researchers, artists and critics who creatively respond to and critically engage with memories and historical narratives.

Our aim is to develop, explore and identify creative strategies to disrupt knowledge conventions and dominant discourses of the past. The screenings and symposium presents a range of international contemporary artists, critics and scholars, whose works focus on:

– contemporary visual and particularly screen-based artworks as catalysts to archive practice

– decolonial methodologies as critical engagements to existing historical material/spaces and as visual strategies for creating cultural interventions

Film Screenings and launch of Creating Interference network

Monday 18th June 2018 from 5:00pm – 10:00pm, Regent Street Cinema and Regent Street Campus, University of Westminster, London.

Creating Interference launches an evening of screenings and performance by contemporary artists of international standing, whose work explores these critical strategies in original and thought provoking ways.

Artists in the programme include:

Zineb Sedira, Wangechi Mutu, Keith Piper, Naeem Mohaiemen, Onyeka Igwe, Anuka Ramischwili-Schäfer, Uriel Orlow, Erika Tan, Mohau Modisakeng, Nguyen Trinh Thi, Ana Vaz, Larry Achiampong, Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva. 

Creating Interference symposium

Tuesday 19th June from 9:30am – 6:30pm, Regent Street Campus, University of Westminster, London.

Among the exciting contributions are keynote speakers Christopher Cozier, artist, curator and co-director of Alice Yard art project space, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Karen Salt as an interdisciplinary scholar in transnational American Studies and Afrodiasporic studies, University of Nottingham.

We invite you to the symposium, screenings and network as a way to debate, develop methodologies, publish and explore a range of artistic and scholarly works that challenges, asks questions and informs.

The price for the event (both days including reception and lunch) is £10 for full-time waged and £5 for concessions. The event is free to staff and students of the University of Westminster. 

Creating Interference is in association with Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) and the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM).

Please register early to avoid disappointment.

Creating Interference planning team:

Roshini Kempadoo, Reader and CREAM researcher, author of Creole in the Archive: Imagery, Presence and the Location of the Caribbean Figure (2017) and principle researcher for Creating Interference; Ashwani Sharma, principal lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, University of East London and co-editor of the online journal darkmatter; A’Ishah Waheed, co-founder of Patchwork Archivists and contributor to Skin Deep Magazine; Barby Asante, Artist, curator, educator and CREAM PhD researcher; Melanie Keen, Director of Iniva; Lucy Reynolds, CREAM researcher, curator and co-editor of The Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ); and Bisan Abu Eisheh, Artist and CREAM PhD researcher.


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Alien Time


Speaking at this symposium. My talk entitled ‘sonic black holes/fugitive spacetime/(im)possible mourning.

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Reclaiming the University

A short note i wrote on fb:

This is an interesting initiative challenging the neoliberal university from within the Univ of Aberdeen. For those of us interested in a future for UEL perhaps we need to put together our own manifesto down similar lines. Otherwise the future, if we have one, looks bleak. We need to challenge, resist, disrupt and refuse the agendas been offered to us, and imagine and present progressive alternatives.

As Harney and Moten say in the Undercommons ‘the only possible relationship to the university today is a criminal one.’ Either we fight or accept the decline of what was once a radical, innovative and challenging place for students and staff.



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Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Conference 2017

I am attending the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Conference 2017 in Seoul, South Korea.


The abstract of the paper i’m presenting at the conference:

In the ruins of an Asian futurity: Contemporary transnational Indian art, temporality, and (post)colonial history after globalization

The ‘temporal turn’ in contemporary Asian art is symptomatic of a moment of geo-political and economic crisis, and a period of transition in postimperial histories. The focus on archives, memory and traumas of colonialism and nationalism are reconstituting the present in relation to the failures of postcolonial freedoms, and uncertain, unimaginable futures.

By principally considering the work of multi-media Indian artists such as Nalini Malani, Amar Kanwar, Navjot Altaf, and The Raqs Media Collective, the paper examines how the contradictions between testimony, truth, memory, and history are interrogated in and across local and transnational art and social spaces. In these innovative screenworks, archival documents, images, sounds and texts are sutured to deconstruct and fictionally reimagine the times of violence, trauma, resistance and hope.

Against the hegemonic neoliberal globalization of digital circuits of ahistorical info-capitalism, and imagined synchronous national histories, this Asian contemporary art explores the ‘disjunctive contemporaneity’ of global time. By drawing upon myths, local everyday narratives, and oral history, the rearticulated pluralistic, subaltern traditions of India interrupt the temporality of globalization. Themes of capitalistic exploitation, class and communal hatred, rape, social violence, and death are the conditions to speculate on futures of hope beyond the historical present. The translocal forms of the artworks attempt to create other ‘world imaginaries’ – subjective and collective – beyond national and capitalist futures.

The paper reflects on the political aesthetics of deconstructive Asian global art, that is at once situated in repressed local histories, myths and memories, and the speculative collective subjectivities of a transcontinental ‘worlding’ of (im)possible Asian decolonial futures-yet-to-come.

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