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Talks & Seminars

Being Othered In A Region That Has Been Historically Othered - Elsa James online talk

Online talk with Elsa James: Thurs­day 5 August 2021, 6pm‑7.30pm on Zoom. Free for CAMP mem­bers / £3 non-members

Opening Times
18:00 – 19:30
Being black in a county that is frequently the butt of ‘white’ jokes far beyond its borders has been my lived experience for the last 22 years. I was embarrassed to tell anyone that I lived in what I remember growing up in the 80’s as the ‘National Front’ county until one day in 2018.

Essex has been continually mocked – “the dustbin of London” (James Wentworth Day, 1979), “the armpit of Britain” (Helen Mirren, 2007), “a boil on the bum of the nation” (Spitting Image song, 1986). Yet, it is rarely acknowledged that the county marks the symbolic moment the UK became multicultural. Instead, it is said to be the place where white people move to escape parts of London that are no longer white enough for them, making it the county that has the potential to dilute your black identity. Since that day in 2018, my practice and research have been built on an ambition to demarcate ‘Black Space’ within the collective mindset and narratives held about Essex and its people.

As Ken Warpole said, “[Essex] contains both radical and conservative elements, so open to all possibilities”, for which I am attempting to imagine through my work.

Elsa James is an artist and activist living in Essex since 1999. Her work intervenes in the overlapping discourses of race, gender, diaspora and belonging. Her black British identity ignites her interdisciplinary and research-based practice, located within the fields of contemporary performance, text-based art, socio-political and socially engaged art.
Solo works employ aural and the archives to examine ideas surrounding regionality of race and black subjectivity. Recent projects Forgotten Black Essex (2018) and Black Girl Essex (2019) explore the historical, temporal and spatial dimensions of what it means to be black in Essex; England’s most misunderstood and, homogeneously white county. Her social practice includes advocating for the inclusion of marginalised voices in the arts sector; New Ways of Seeing, Making and Telling (2018), a visual
provocation and live debate, challenged how the art sector can ‘genuinely’ address barriers to participation and involvement in the arts for Black, Brown and other minority communities.

She has presented, screened, and exhibited projects nationally and online internationally, including Autograph (ABP), London; Axisweb, Wakefield; Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend; Create London; Cubitt, London; Firstsite, Colchester; Furtherfield, London; Magic Me, London; Metal Culture, Southend; RadicalxChange Conference, New York; Site Gallery, Sheffield and Tate Exchange, London.

This talk will take place on Zoom, using video & audio, and you can participate during the Q and A session after the talk (either by voice or text chat). You are very welcome to bring a support worker with you to the session (just let us know by email after you book so we can share the Zoom link with them too). There is live-captioning (words pop up as they are spoken).