John Akomfrah film places cultural theorist Stuart Hall in spotlight at New Art Exchange Nottingham

By Mark Sheerin | 18 June 2013

Exhibition preview: John Akomfrah: The Unfinished Conversation, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, until July 14 2013

Film still of an archive photo of cultural theorist Stuart Hall
John Akomfrah, The Unifinished Conversation (2012). Film still© Smoking Dogs Films 2012
When introducing the subject of this three-channel film in Nottingham, some disambiguation may be called for. John Akomfrah’s subject is Stuart Hall the academic theorist, and not the recently disgraced broadcaster.

Hall left Jamaica in 1951 and was a founder of an entire discipline: Cultural Studies. Along with Raymond Williams and EP Thomson, he launched the New Left Review in 1956 and during the 1960s became involved in the anti-apartheid, anti-war and disarmament movements.

Akomfrah weaves together archive news footage with family photos and filmed interviews, as well as excerpts from several of his speeches.

Cultural Studies may be heavy on theory, but the life story of its best known theorist is watchable stuff.

The Unfinished Conversation comes to New Art Exchange from Liverpool, where it won acclaim at last year’s Biennial. Although its subject is singular, its implications are broad. And so anyone with an interest in identity will find this compelling.

Hall may have been a militant figure, but this film is lyrical rather than didactic and meditative rather than argumentative. It takes cultural studies beyond the text book and back into the history of Britain.

We all walk a line between the personal and the political.

  • Open 9am-5pm Monday-Saturday (11am-5pm Sundays until July 28). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @newartexchange.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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