Critics’ Picks

View of “Practice Makes Perfect,” 2021–22. Photo: Harry Meadley.

View of “Practice Makes Perfect,” 2021–22. Photo: Harry Meadley.


Rosa-Johan Uddoh

The Bluecoat
School Lane
October 25, 2021–January 23, 2022

For this show’s largest work, a billboard-sized collage titled Breaking Point, 2021, Rosa-Johan Uddoh cut different Balthazar figures out of the background of one hundred and fifty traditional European “adoration” paintings from as early as the eighth century and arranged them in a marching scene in solidarity with each other. In another collage, Get up mate, we’re going to the protest, 2021, the artist presents a kind of alternative nativity scene in which multiple Balthazars wake the other two biblical magi, Melchior and Caspar, to join them in a protest march.

“Practice Makes Perfect,” Uddoh’s first institutional solo exhibition, shares its title with a twenty-minute video coproduced with fourteen-year-old students after a series of workshops in August 2020. The footage includes mock protests, interviews, a performance of her text WINDRUSH: A TONGUE TWISTER, freestyle raps, game shows as well as a behind-the-scenes look at its own making. The video begins with a student reciting a quote from Stuart Hall’s 1978 essay “Racism and Reaction” about how the formation of a British national identity through its relation to the people from its ex-colonies is a story that should not “require to be rehearsed.” Following Hall’s notion that identity is part performance and part story, Uddoh restages history as tragifarce, offering counternarratives about Blackness with a deadpan and absurdist sense of play that cuts deeper than theoretical critique ever could.