PRINT September 2020


Where we’re at: London, Dublin

Abney Park Cemetery in London. Photo: Wikipedia.


I LIVE BY A CEMETERY called Abney Park, a Victorian resting place for nonconformists and their families. Among those buried there are Joanna Vassa (1795–1857), the daughter of the renowned abolitionist Olaudah Equiano and an Englishwoman named Susannah Cullen, and Thomas Canry Caulker (1846–1859)—the son of Richard Canreba Caulker, the chief of Bumpe who worked to end the slave trade in what is now Sierra Leone—who died in Islington at age thirteen. Abney Park is also an unmanicured arboretum, the first in Europe integrated with a cemetery. Within its overgrown arches of vines and bending trees, I walked and videoed during the lockdown in order to commune with the motley crew of dissenters and freethinkers metabolized by the tentacles of twenty-five hundred varieties of trees and plants. Recording and listening to the piercing birdsong helped me cope with reports of those suffocated by the coronavirus or fatally choked for living while being Black.

We imagine the earth losing its bearings as a breathable planet; we absorb the collective sorrow and anguish caused by escalating loss. What has become ever more evident is the extent to which the eugenic calculations of the UK’s Tory government have disproportionately harmed the country’s Black and Asian working classes. Meanwhile, the transnational protests against a racist, militarized police state build on the organizing of the Movement for Black Lives over the past decade, challenging the disregard endured by those forced to live under the racial calculus of what Saidiya Hartman calls the afterlives of slavery.

I take courage, at this time, from the nonconformists who produce science fictions of the accelerated now. From all those discontented with the capture of futurity. From the diasporic practices that seek to make sensible the interscalar poetics of the present. From Jota Mombaça, whose work addresses the end of the world as we know it and the possibilities that such figuration allows. From Ayo Akingbade, whose films envision British Blackness in all its fluid, aesthetic sociality. From Kader Attia’s La Colonie, which, I hope and trust, will reemerge in a Paris bereft without it. From Bonaventure Ndikung’s SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin. From sister platforms that demonstrate the necessity to gather, to think out loud. That reveal the power that we share: a power stronger, as George E. Lewis suggested, than itself—greater than any one of us.

Anjalika Sagar is an artist and curator who in 2002 founded The Otolith Group with Kodwo Eshun.



BY LOCKDOWN TIME, galleries and institutions worldwide finally understood that the internet was a Real Thing, which was confounding because it’s been one for decades. Amid their scramble to devise new online platforms and (cheaply) gather original content, some artists, curators, and writers stopped looking at art and certainly stopped producing it “on demand.” The online conversations that followed these refusals have been the closest to a proposal for the kind of future I want to be a part of. They (d)evolved into an energetically legible gibberish: discussions that doubled back on themselves and swiftly shifted focus, long threads interrupted by the OP admitting they’d lost the plot, thoughts grown and multiplied rather than articulated. These ways of speaking about art and life after everything was suspended felt free, liberated from the need to provide tidy sound bites for an established phantom “we.” Long-standing demands were rehashed in unapologetically personal and unending terms, and the overall opaqueness felt more conducive to progress than any formal scheme. I muted anyone who sounded too clever, blocked anyone who made too much sense, and reported anyone who suggested anyone’s physical condition was up for debate. I’d cancel myself if it meant the world could be one iota more beautiful. For months I’ve existed inside conversations with no destination or deadline, full of care and mutual aid, their ends trailing off into sleep or long stares out the window. These exchanged words are engaged in, as Octavia Butler would call it, a “positive obsession” with how we want to live together—an obsession that must withstand whatever new normal we’ll soon be asked to exist in.

Cécile B. Evans is a London-based artist.



AS A TEEN, I used to devour novels at a rate impossible today. Among my favorites were the epistolary stories, with their characters’ correspondence sustained over the course of geography and time, their hunger for connection only satisfied after days, maybe weeks, of waiting. I imagined what living in that tension, in that state of postponement, would be like, particularly since for the avid reader that delay was conveniently diminished to the immediate gesture of turning a page. Dialogue is inherent to our roles as curators, and during this pandemic lockdown talking to artists, curators, colleagues, and friends has occupied my days. The most generative exchanges have happened at hours much too early or too late to confess, often around current projects or imaginary ones. Afterward, I have been compelled to go back to my library to pick up Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov (1984) after years of abandonment. To hunt for that Bergson quote. To rewatch Rasheedah Phillips’s presentation “Dismantling the Master’s Clock[work] Universe.” To linger on the poems of Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia (2017). To listen to Lightnin’ Hopkins’s “Awful Dream” over and over again. Conversations around Afrofuturism, politics of care, and how to expand our social imagination to make vital change have kept my sanity in place and my energy levels high.

Elvira Dyangani Ose is Director of The Showroom, London; a Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London; and a member of the Thought Council at Fondazione Prada.

“I’d cancel myself if it meant the world could be one iota more beautiful.”
Cécile B. Evans


THE BLACK LIVES MATTER protests have been massively energizing. I’ve made work about the human trafficker Edward Colston, but I never imagined that his statue in Bristol would be removed in my lifetime. To see it dragged down and thrown into the river blew my mind. The statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the Natural History Museum in New York is another monument I’ve known intimately for decades. I photographed it two years ago, and now real life may be overtaking my imagination, as, after years of complaints by campaigners, it is finally being removed. This gives me hope for the future.

Back at home is the Caribbean Artists Salon, which my wife, Indra Khanna, set up two years ago. Its strength is that it is intergenerational, without any agenda or structure to put pressure on participants. As recordings are banned, people feel comfortable speaking freely. I’ve made new friends through it, and it has even survived the transition to Zoom. 

Most days, I walk in Brockwell Park in Brixton. I especially like to visit the Walled Garden. I watch the honeybees going about their work, buzzing from one bed of flowers to another as some species die and others come into bloom. It’s soothing: the cycle of nature—it’s life as normal.

Hew Locke is a Sculptor based in London.



EARLY IN THE PANDEMIC, hopped up on a heady mix of terror and prescription steroids, I would wake at dawn and drink several cups of strong coffee, spiraling ecstatically on potential projects before spending the rest of the day totally immobilized by anxiety re: the existential state of affairs. On one such morning, I obtained several brief joyful moments by tuning in to Cherishhhh TV, an Instagram streaming platform run by the Geneva project space of the same name, to watch Ian Wooldridge’s Echo Chambers, 2020. Each of the seven one-minute videos in Wooldridge’s suite features webcam footage closely fixed on some odd little figure or figurine: a box, a frog, a troll, etc. These stranded objects are accompanied by hypnotic jingles, complete with floating slogans, like infomercials for remote and remote-controlled love: “Tip and I’ll vibe.” My brain frantically parsing all media for meaning, these videos seemed to directly access my own vibrational pattern and, more than anything else I saw at the time, to anticipate and describe the particular quality of lockdown loneliness and the communication and mediation of desire in a pandemic, playing with the erotics as well as the neurotics of distancing and disaster.

Eva Kenny is a writer based in Dublin.