The Ghosts of Songs - A Retrospective on The Black Audio Film Collective 1982-1998

Inaugurated in 1982 and dissolved in 1998, the seven-person Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC) is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential artist groups to emerge from Britain in recent years.

John Akomfrah, Lina Gopaul, Avril Johnson, Reece Auguiste, Trevor Mathison, David Lawson and Edward George produced award winning film, photography, slide tape, video, installation, posters and interventions, much of which had never been exhibited in Britain.

Their first film Handsworth Songs won seven international awards in 1987; their second film Testament premiered at the Semaine de la Critique at Cannes International Film Festival in 1988; these and subsequent works such as Twilight City (1989) and The Last Angel of History (1995) staked a claim for a new kind of moving image work that was resolutely experimental and confidently internationalist.

Throughout their career, the BAFC worked within and between the media of art, film and television, participating in British survey exhibitions such as From Two Worlds (Whitechapel Gallery, 1986), The British Art Show (Hayward Gallery, 1990) as well as international exhibitions such as Documenta X (1997) and Documenta XI (2002).

Curated and produced by Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar of THE OTOLITH GROUP and designed by David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates THE GHOSTS OF SONGS… was the first retrospective to explore the significance of BAFC’s entire body of work, it revealed the collective as dynamic, articulate artists, dedicated to engaging with the past, present and future of memory, media and moving image.

The installation The Black Room was reworked for the first time since 1996 and commissioned for a contemporary audience by The Otolith Group. Archival material and documents that place the groups’ practice in the artistic, cinematic, cultural and historical contexts of a changing Britain, were also presented in the context of a lab conceived by Gary Stewart.

THE GHOSTS OF SONGS: A Retrospective on Black Audio Film Collective 1982 - 1998 opened at FACT 2nd February - 1st April 2007. In 2007, the exhibition toured to Arnolfini 2th7 April – 22nd June.

The Ghosts of Songs: The Film Art of the Black Audio Film Collective, edited by The Otolith Group and published by FACT, Liverpool University Press, and Chicago University Press, was launched at FACT on 02 February 2007.


©The Black Audio Film Collective Trust


Project Category
curation