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Artist, Curator

Barby Asante

  • CountryUnited Kingdom
  • Born1975


London-based Artist, Curator and Educator, Barby Asante studied Fine Art at the University of East London, where she began making work in film, photography and installation, placing herself in the frame as a means of confronting the audience with the perceived problem of her image. After completing her MA in Visual Culture at Middlesex University, she was invited to be the artist in residence at the 198 Gallery where she explored themes of identity. Feeling troubled by the idea of the passive viewer considering her image, she began developing strategies that shifted the gaze back onto the viewer and invited the viewer to take part in an exploration of their own identity in relation to hers and others.

Barby is interested in creating works that stimulate dialogue around the cross-cultural and multicultural and how we view and frame these questions in contemporary Britain, often using familiar or popular culture triggers as a means to begin the dialogue. Making the idea of developing dialogue a defining part of her practice, Barby shifts freely between roles as artist, curator, educator, facilitator and other roles, exploring and emphasising the importance of the conversational and social aspects of creative and artistic practice. She has been working on projects exploring music and its cultural and social significance, with particular emphasis on black music and its importance in the creation of a post-war British cultural identity. This work includes projects such as the Funk Chorus, a non-professional choir with a Funk repertoire which began as a part of Harold Offeh’s Mothership Collective (South London Gallery, 2006); Barby’s Karaoke (Studio Voltaire, 2009), a karaoke DVD made with Caribbean Elders group Stockwell Good Neighbours and Bamboo Memories (Picture This, 2009) a film piece made with people from Bristol reflecting on Bristol’s first black music nightclub. More recently she has turned her focus on working with young people exploring how their voices are heard in society. Works include the Noise Summit commissioned by SLG, working with school-aged children who live on an estate in South London, exploring their relationship to noise, making noise and having their voices heard in public space.

Another arm to her creative research is to explore the legacy and material of Black British intellectuals, thinking of this material as not just being academic material but also the creative and cultural materials from these voices that have impacted or are invisible in contemporary society. With this in mind, she instigated an ongoing project Community of Conversations, in collaboration with fellow artist Yemisi Blake, with the first event focusing on the cultural legacy of Stuart Hall. Bringing together her interest in young voices and Black intellectual material, she has been developing work with Iniva’s Teresa Cisneros around Horace Ove’s 1969 film Baldwin’s Nigger with the recently formed sorryyoufeeluncomfortable practice and research collective.

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