Keith Piper
Jet Black Futures

Keith Piper, Surveillance: Tagging the Other,
1991, mixed media installation with 4 video monitors, video projection, sound. Presented by the Contemporary Art Society through the Rapid Response Fund, 2020. Courtesy the artist.

We are delighted to present a major solo exhibition by artist Keith Piper.

Jet Black Futures is an ongoing project encompassing a number of existing and proposed works, texts and interventions, exploring issues of “race”, speculative futurism and technology in the age of anxiety.  The project will manifest in this major solo exhibition in Walsall.


 

 

The exhibition will include two brand new works.  In Search of Four Horses is an epic four screen video installation based around an exploration of the myth, metaphor and symbolism of the story of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as well as a wider investigation into contemporary hopes, fears and anxieties for the future.

 

Stories from a Jet-Black Country will be a site-specific work exploring aspects of the landscape and history of Walsall and the conglomeration of industrial and post-industrial spaces that came to be known as The Black Country.

 

The exhibition also includes the installation Surveillance: Tagging the Other which was acquired for our collections from the Contemporary Art Society’s Rapid Response Fund in 2020. This work was created in response to issues arising in the run-up to the instigation of the European Union in 1992.  The four monitors, installed in a row, show the artist’s head being a target of surveillance and control.   His Black body is scrutinised in terms of ethnicity, gender, citizenship and appearance. The soundtrack features fragments of news reports related to the rise of racist attacks, anti-Semitism and right-wing tendencies across Europe.  Although it was made in 1991, the work remains hauntingly pertinent.

 

A publication will accompany the exhibition with essays by Keith Piper and Anjalie Dalal-Clayton.  It is published with partners The New Art Gallery Walsall, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Middlesex University London with support from The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

 

 

Biography 

Keith Piper grew up in Birmingham and studied in Coventry, Nottingham and the Royal College of Art, London.   He was a founder member of what came to be known as the BLK Art Group which was formed in Wolverhampton in the early 1980s with a range of artists including Eddie Chambers, Claudette Johnson, Donald Rodney and Marlene Smith.  Against a context of political unrest and widespread racial discrimination, these artists fought for their place in the art world and paved the way for the career development of many other artists as well as forcing the sector to confront the harsh reality of institutional racism.  His initial interests in collage and print media contributed to a pioneering use of early computer technology, not only as a tool for video editing and effects but also for its potential interactivity.  Piper works across a wide range of media.  He has shown his work extensively with many solo exhibitions including Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Camden Arts Centre, London and The New Museum, New York.  Recent exhibitions include Body Politics at Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2019), Mic Drop at Beaconsfield Gallery, London (2017) and Unearthing the Banker’s Bones at Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool and New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2016-17).