Interview: Phoebe Boswell “I always want drawings to be open and moving and shifting”

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-01-22 03:13Z by Steven

Interview: Phoebe Boswell “I always want drawings to be open and moving and shifting”

Moving Histories: History and Memory through the Moving Image and its dialogue with other media

Yvette Greslé

Phoebe Boswell, wall drawing, “For Every Real Word Spoken”, Tiwani Contemporary, 2017. © Sylvain Deleu, courtesy of the artist and Tiwani Contemporary.

This interview (Yvette Greslé and Phoebe Boswell) was conducted at Tiwani Contemporary, 14 March 2017.

Phoebe Boswell was born in 1982 in Nairobi, Kenya and raised, as an expatriate, in the Middle East. Boswell, who is now based in London, studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and 2D Animation at Central St Martins. Her dialogue with her Gikuyu-Kenyan born mother (Joyce) and British-Kenyan (Timothy) father underpins her first major multimedia installation The Matter of Memory (2014) shown, together with work by John Akomfrah and Rashaad Newsome, at Carroll/Fletcher (London) in 2014. In 2015, The Matter of Memory was shown at the Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (GIBCA) curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose. A second major multimedia installation, Mutumia (2016) was commissioned and produced for the Biennial of Moving Images at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva in 2016. In 2017, Mutumia was exhibited in Kiev for the Future Generation Art Prize for which Boswell was shortlisted; and subsequently awarded the Special Prize which supports a residency program. In addition to The Matter of Memory and Mutumia, Boswell has produced a number of works notably Prologue: The Lizard of Unmarriedness (It’s All About How You Tell It) and The Stranger in the Village (both 2015). She was awarded a Sky Academy Arts Scholarship in 2012 and has been an artist-in-residence at the Florence Trust and the Konstepidemin, Gothenburg (2015). Since 2016 she has been an artist-in-residence at Somerset House (London). Boswell’s film Dear Mr Shakespeare, directed by Shola Amoo, was selected for the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. The medium of drawing, as an art practice encompassing animation, is central to Boswell’s oeuvre thus far. Her drawing work is also situated in relation to audience participation; architectural and spatial environments; video art; sound; and found objects and materials.

Yvette Greslé: What was the impetus for the work produced for For Every Real Word Spoken at Tiwani Contemporary? It is preceded by Mutumia and emerges from this work?

Phoebe Boswell: A friend of mine sent me an image of naked, older African women lying in a dirt path in Uganda. My own immediate visceral reaction was: “What’s happening to these women? What’s being done to them? How are they being violated?” I was horrified by this image. Then, my friend sent me the story of the photograph and I discovered that these were Acholi women. The Acholi people had been fighting for their land rights for a long time. On this specific day, the government had sent in people to physically remove people. The women decided: “Enough is enough, we’re going to do something”. They took off their clothes. It’s a taboo for men to see women naked, to see their mothers naked. So they took off their clothes and lay down in the path. They affected what happened next. They were not removed from the land that day. Actually, the image that I was looking at is a very heroic image but my conditioning made me read the naked female body and black women’s bodies through the filter of my own conditioning. I was so sure that this was a terrible image…

Read the entire interview here.

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Dear Mister Shakespeare – inspired by Othello

Posted in Arts, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Videos on 2016-10-16 16:01Z by Steven

Dear Mister Shakespeare – inspired by Othello

British Council

Multimedia visual artist Phoebe Boswell has written an original piece, ‘Dear Mister Shakespeare’, in which she questions Shakespeare on the inherent racial tensions within his writing of Othello in the 1600s, and how these tensions continue to resonate today.

The film, directed by Shola Amoo, is a collage of modern black British experience, and follows Othello’s (Ashley Thomas aka Bashy) journey as a ‘man through time’.

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Stranger In The Village – A Visual Essay

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Europe, Media Archive on 2016-05-15 22:31Z by Steven

Stranger In The Village – A Visual Essay

Phoebe Boswell, Visual Artist

Artist’s Talk at Bla Stallet Konsthallen,
Angered, Gothenburg, Sweden

September 2015

The term ‘residency’ is an interesting one to me – it offers a sense of belonging, of being present, resident, which is artificial of course since you are more often than not placed somewhere you have no connection with, no ties to, no friends in, and no reason for being there, except of course to make work. Belonging is something I think a lot about in my work. A tutor at the Slade once said to me that you make work to ‘fill a hole’, and the difficulty lies in determining within us what that hole is. Mine, I realise, is ‘home’, or a lack of it, and I’m fascinated by how, as human beings, we each individually negotiate our personal sense of belonging.

To give a little history, I’m from Kenya. My father’s family settled there from Britain three generations before him, bought land and farmed it, and he grew up bearing the guilt of a colonial system within his home, much to his dismay.

My mother’s family are Kikuyu, and of course it was the Kikuyu who set up the Mau Mau who fought for Kenya’s independence from the British, and won it in 1963…

Read the entire article here.


Artist Turns Racist Flirtations on Tinder Into Compelling Look at Race and Sex

Posted in Articles, Arts, Europe, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-05-15 16:30Z by Steven

Artist Turns Racist Flirtations on Tinder Into Compelling Look at Race and Sex

The Root

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley

Phoebe Boswell Source:

She Matters: Inspired by James Baldwin’sStranger in a Village,” Phoebe Boswell was interested in exploring the perceptions of black women in predominantly white spaces.

Over the weekend I swung by the 156 Art Fair, an annual exhibition of African art at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, N.Y. Among the many strong presentations on display, Phoebe Boswell’s Stranger in the Village stood out.

In April 2015 Boswell, a biracial Kenyan woman currently living in London, was temporarily situated in Gothenburg, Sweden, in a predominantly white area. Boswell set out to explore perceptions of race and sex during her stay by turning to dating app Tinder.

“I thought I might want to explore what my body might feel like living in a space that might not be very welcoming,” Boswell says.

Any black woman who has ever ventured online to look for love—a particularly painful place for black women—should be able to predict the worst of what happened to Boswell next. Reactions to Boswell ranged from microaggressions to flat-out racism. But Boswell turned her lemons into artistic lemonade. For her installation, she sketched portraits of her online suitors with a mechanical pencil and included quotes from her exchanges.

“In the space of day, I go back through microaggressions for a month,” Boswell explained. “It’s like, ‘Oh, my God!’ I’m frightened from the things that I see.” Here, she talks about the experiences on Tinder that inspired the project…

Read the entire interview here.

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Artist Phoebe Boswell explores what ‘home’ is, migration, family and Kenya’s troubled past

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, History, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-01-25 16:29Z by Steven

Artist Phoebe Boswell explores what ‘home’ is, migration, family and Kenya’s troubled past

True Africa

Phoebe Boswell is one of the most exciting young artists working today. Her moving-image installation, The Matter of Memory, was exhibited at Carroll / Fletcher Gallery in London in 2014 alongside John Akomfrah and Rashaad Newsome. She is involved in Paul Goodwin’s African Diaspora Artists of the 21st Century project and is currently collaborating with Binyavanga Wainaina on a digital literary project called Since Everything Suddens in the Hurricane.

Her work mainly focuses on ‘transient middle points and passages of migration’, hardly surprising given her upbringing. She was born in Kenya, she spent most of her childhood in the Middle East before coming to London where she now lives and works. She took some time to tell us about her exhibition at the Gothenburg Biennale where she recreated her grandmother’s living room and what’s next for her.

Could you tell us about the Gothenburg Biennale and your piece?

The theme of GIBCA this year is A Story Within a Story, a title allows us as artists the opportunity to really play with the construction of storytelling. Elvira Dyangani Ose is at the curatorial helm of GIBCA and has offered us this title with the aim of contesting history, of rewriting it from new and perhaps previously silenced vantage points.

Curatorially, she has brought together works that seek to re-examine and possibly debunk predetermined histories, histories constructed in stuffy seats of power in order to control the collective memory of who we are, where we are, why we are, and how we came to be. The question she and the Biennale are asking the audience is: ‘If you could rewrite history, what would you do?’ It’s a very participatory experience. It’s a Biennale full of works which demand the audience to be active.

The Matter of Memory Courtesy of GIBCA ©Hendrik Zeitler

My piece in it is an immersive installation called The Matter of Memory. Within the Hasselblad Centre of the Gothenburg Art Museum, I have recreated my grandmother’s living room and filled the fabric of it – its wallpaper, teacups, milk pots, lamps, mantelpiece etc – with drawings, props, sculptures, sound and animated projections based on stories my Kikuyu mother and fourth generation British Kenyan father told me of their childhood memories of ‘home’…

Read the entire interview here.

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