Johan Zoffany, 'Colonel Blair with his Family and an Indian Ayah' 1786
Johan Zoffany
Colonel Blair with his Family and an Indian Ayah 1786
Oil on canvas
unconfirmed: 965 x 1346 mm
Bequeathed by Simon Sainsbury 2006, accessioned 2008

The Black Subject: Film screening of Borderline - Q&A

Borderline (1930) is a groundbreaking silent film with an explicit theme of racial prejudice and an implicit homoerotic subtext. Directed by Kenneth Macpherson, editor of the influential intellectual film journal Close Up (1927–33) it is highly influenced by the psychological realism of GW Pabst and Sergei Eisenstein’s montage.  Borderline tells the story of a tense, inter-racial love triangle and its deadly consequences. Macpherson embellishes this story by portraying the extreme psychological states of the characters. The result is a unique and complex matrix of racial and sexual tension moving between the boundaries of black and white, male and female and the conscious and the unconscious. This version of the film includes a score by jazz musician Courtney Pine. 

This is a post screening discussion with Prof. Laura Marcus (Oxford University) and writer and critic Prof. Sukhdev Sandhu (NYU), chaired by Tate Curator Sonya Dyer.

The Black Subject: On presence and absence

‘From Absence to Presence,’ session takes in depictions of Ancient Mythology right through to the Georgian era featuring speakers including artist Kimathi Donkor, Michael Ohajuru, Dr Temi Odumosu, researcher and writer SI Martin, and Prof Michael Fisher.


The Black Subject: Victorians - a conversation

‘Victorians – a Conversation’ considers alternative visual readings of the era including presentations on photography and painting from Dr Caroline Bressey (The Equiano Centre at University College London), Dr Florian Stadtler (University of Exeter) and Jan Marsh (National Portrait Gallery).

The Black Subject: Model citizens - a panel

In ‘Model Citizens’ we delve into the lives of artists models in the interwar years with presentations on Patrick Nelson and Sunita by Dr Gemma Romain (The Equiano Centre at University College London) and Dr Roshan McClenahan. Both feature in the ‘Spaces of Black Modernism’ display.

The Black Subject: Modernism

The final session, with Prof Partha Mitter, considers the role of Indian artists and art students in the dawn of Modernism, followed by a plenary chaired by Dr David Dibosa (UAL).

From characters from ancient mythology to the birth of modernism, this symposium takes an interdisciplinary approach, exploring relationships between artists and models, multi-racial interwar communities, historical subjects, sexuality, gender and the work of previously neglected artists.

The aim is to take a broad historical sweep, using the Tate collection as a starting point for a discussion on depictions of people of African and Asian decent in British art, tracing a journey from subject to subjectivity.