- Liz Johnson Artur born 1964
- 26 photographs, inkjet prints on paper
- Overall display dimensions variable
- Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2021
These twenty-six black and white and colour prints, taken from March to June 2020, show images of protestors at the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in London that year. They are displayed as a set and are taken from the larger group of 134 prints that comprise the totality of Time don’t run here. After joining protests in her neighbourhood of Peckham Rye in south-east London, Artur was motivated to photograph BLM protests in Vauxhall, Westminster and Trafalgar Square. She has said that, for her, this is a work about London as much as it is about the people she depicts. Artur decided to print the work on the A4-sized leaves from the 1968 braille edition of Iris Murdoch’s novel The Red and The Green (1965) and the A3-sized leaves of the 1975 braille edition of John Harris’s Ride out the Storm (A Novel of Dunkirk). The former is a tale about The Easter Rising of 1916 in which Irish nationals rose up against British rule, with the aim of establishing an independent Irish republic. For Artur it is significant that in its materiality and content Time don’t run here contains multiple references to conflict and resistance, both historic and contemporary.
Time don’t run here forms part of what Artur calls her Black Balloon Archive, the vast body of work she has made since the 1990s depicting people of Africa and the African and Caribbean diaspora, mostly in London – especially in south-east London – but also further afield. Artur rarely photographs people close to her: the vast majority are strangers. Sometimes she approaches them, explaining who she is and that the images will become part of her artwork or archive (they are never used in her advertising or editorial projects). Other times she feels that consent is implied because the participant is aware that they are being photographed. On the subject of consent, she has said that she has ‘never received a negative response’ and ‘can defend every single picture’. She also notes that at the Black Lives Matter protests, ‘people were there to be seen’ (all artist quotes from conversations with Tate curators Yasufumi Nakamori and Emma Lewis, 13 July 2020 and 23 September 2020). She did not include in this work the photographs of negative altercations and abuse that she also shot that day.
For Artur, it is important that events like Black Lives Matter are recorded and that these records are visible to the public. On seeing positive images of oneself and one’s community reflected back in visual culture. she has said that ‘there is a generation of kids who don’t have time to wait’. She never shoots covertly and sometimes uses a medium-format camera, which necessitates working slowly. Artur prints on the materials she has to hand, including different paper stocks she has collected over the years. She purchased the multiple volumes that comprise the braille editions of The Red and The Green and Ride out the Storm (A Novel of Dunkirk) from a charity shop many years ago. In addition to the fact that this paper introduces to the work two references to historic moments of conflict and civil unrest, Artur finds the braille significant because it is illegible to the majority of people. She finds this poignant given the context of the Black Lives Matter protests and the fact that the experiences of so many are misunderstood, obscured or ignored. She also felt the choice of this paper was important as a means of unifying the images. She has attended demonstrations for decades, but was struck by how diverse the Black Lives Matter protests were in terms of the ages and races represented in the crowds.
The images in Time don't run here were printed within days of being photographed. This is rarely the case in Artur’s practice: often she will archive her negatives and print them only years later, reusing the same negative multiple times. Part of her working process involves using ‘workbooks’ – found or handmade books in which she affixes different prints, as well as excerpts of her poetry. These prints may be made on photographic paper, or not: found paper stocks, acetate and textiles are among the surfaces on which she prints, and she also experiments with photocopies.
Time don’t run here, as with the Black Balloon Archive as a whole, can be seen as a mode of resistance against the colonial gaze. The artist has stated: ‘As far as I’m concerned, it’s a direct exchange and it’s also a way of ignoring this perspective of the “other”’ (Nakamori and Artur 2020, p.55).
Liz Johnson Artur and Bakri Bakhit, Liz Johnson Artur, Munich 2015.
Ekow Eshun, ‘A Family Album for the Black Diaspora’, Aperture, 4 December 2018, https://aperture.org/editorial/liz-johnson-artur/, accessed 9 October 2020.
‘Yasufumi Nakamori and Liz Johnson Artur: A Conversation from South London’, Camera Austria, no.149, 2020, pp.51–60.
Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.