This is a major new exhibition to celebrate Rock Against Racism (RAR), organised by RAR-RAP and De La Warr Pavilion. Featuring a new commission by artist Larry Achiampong created in response to the sounds, visuals and ethos of RAR, and contributions from Bass Culture and South Coast Squared.
Rock Against Racism (1976-82) was one of the most important British grassroots cultural movements of the 20th century. It harnessed the power of the imagination – thrilling music, vibrant design and witty, subversive polemic – along with a DIY ethos which expected everyone to do their own thing as well as being part of a huge collective effort. Hundreds of small local bands played RAR clubs and gigs, as well as big names bigger like Aswad, Au Pairs, Buzzcocks, The Clash, Misty in Roots, The Ruts, The Specials, Gang of Four, Steel Pulse, Tom Robinson Band and X-Ray Spex. The result was a movement which raised the consciousness of a generation.
Rock Against Racism: Militant Entertainment 1976-82 will capture the excitement of the moment and the thirst for change, setting RAR’s activities within the social and political context of the time. It will showcase the punky RAR aesthetic through posters, photography, badges, stickers, leaflets, letters from young fans across the world, as well as striking graphics from the legendary RAR fanzine, Temporary Hoarding. T.H.’s articles and interviews range from abortion rights to anti-colonial struggle in Zimbabwe: a platform for discussing multiple forms of oppression. The exhibition will include documentation of the movement from photographers including Henry Grant, Neil Martinson, John Sturrock, Virginia Turbett and Val Wilmer, and material about associated campaigns including the Anti-Nazi League, Rock Against Sexism, Asian Youth and Gay Rights movements. Bass Culture will present filmed interviews from their archive, together with new interviews produced by South Coast Squared and commissioned by RAR-RAP. These include key musicians and activists, commenting on their experiences of the time, and the importance of RAR. Visitors are invited to record their own memories and draw parallels to collective movements today. A programme of learning, participation and live events will accompany the show.
Larry Achiampong will present two newly commissioned works: a sound piece heard within the exhibition, featuring the voice of Ghanaian author Ama Ata Aidoo speaking powerfully about colonialism and racial injustice, and a flag, What I Hear I Keep, to fly from the Pavilion’s flagpole. Both works form part of the artist’s on-going, multi-site project Relic Traveller, which addresses issues around migration, displacement and nationhood through sound, film, performance and objects. Combining material that includes lost testimonies, pop-culture and stories of fallen empire, Relic Traveller methodically traces an Afro-centric narrative for the future, built on the dismantling of colonialism.
“I’m very excited to be making new artworks that consider important histories which are often forgotten or erased. This is an appropriate moment to ponder the symbolic imperatives of Sound and Music, not just from a Diaspora-based perspective, but also, the rooted relationship with the African continent.”
Rock Against Racism: Militant Entertainment 1976-82 is organised by RAR-RAP (Rock Against Racism – Research ‘n’ Archive Project) and De La Warr Pavilion. RAR-RAP participants include Andy Dark, Debbie Golt, Ruth Gregory, Wayne Minter, Kate Webb, Lucy Whitman and Jo Wreford.
The exhibition is supported by
Larry Achiampong’s solo and collaborative projects employ imagery, aural and visual archives, live performance and sound to explore ideas surrounding class, cross-cultural and post-digital identity.
With works that examine his communal and personal heritage – in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position, Achiampong crate-digs the vaults of history. These investigations examine constructions of ‘the self’ by splicing the audible and visual materials of personal and interpersonal archives, offering multiple perspectives that reveal entrenched socio-political contradictions in contemporary society.
Achiampong has exhibited, performed and presented projects within the UK and abroad including Tate Britain/Modern, London; The Institute For Creative Arts, Cape Town; The British Film Institute, London; David Roberts Art Foundation, London; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation, Accra; Logan Center Exhibitions, Chicago; Prospect New Orleans, New Orleans; Diaspora Pavilion – 57th Venice Biennale, Venice; and Somerset House, London.
Achiampong’s recent residencies include Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle; Praksis, Oslo; The British Library/Sound & Music, London; Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge; and Primary, Nottingham and Somerset House Studios (London).
Achiampong (b. 1984, UK) is a Jarman Award nominated artist (2021). He completed a BA in Mixed Media Fine Art at University of Westminster in 2005 and an MA in Sculpture at The Slade School of Fine Art in 2008. In 2020 Achiampong was awarded the Stanley Picker Fellowship and in 2019 received the Paul Hamlyn Artist Award in recognition for his practice. He lives and works in Essex, and was a tutor on the Photography MA programme at Royal College of Art between 2016 and 2021. Achiampong currently serves on the Board of Trustees at iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), facilitating art policies in the UK and internationally and also holds a place on the board of trustees for The Elephant Trust.
Achiampong is represented by C Ø P P E R F I E L D.
Read more here
RAR-RAP was set up to catalogue the unique archives of Rock Against Racism, and to develop an analysis which acknowledges the vibrant multi-tone nation that Rock Against Racism was embedded in at the time.
RAR-RAP utilises collaborative exhibition making as a research tool to reflect on a collective memory and narrative, appropriate to what RAR was: an example of participatory, organic organisation. This form of horizontal governance has contemporary resonance in movements of today and with young people, many of whom feel disempowered and marginalised, with no part to play in shaping society. Using a timeline (drawn up by Wayne Minter) as a map through its archives, RAR-RAP has explored “what we did and how we did it – how we communicated in a pre-digital age – what life was like around us and who the other campaigns that we collaborated with were.”
The exhibition Rock Against Racism: Militant Entertainment 1976-82 draws on several archives, including:
1. Archive of the Central RAR office, including over 1,000 original letters; internal papers documenting the organisational structure of RAR; hundreds of leaflets and papers produced autonomously by the RAR movement. Courtesy of Kate Webb.
2. Archive of the RAR graphics studio, documenting the production of Temporary Hoarding and including original artworks, photographs and cuttings, and an extensive poster collection. Courtesy of Ruth Gregory.
3. Archive of Rock Against Sexism, and archive of fascist and anti-fascist propaganda and action 1976-1982. Courtesy of Lucy Whitman.
The archives are promised to the British Library after cataloguing with any duplicate material split between the People’s History Museum Manchester and the Bishopsgate Institute Library.
Bass Culture is an academic research project exploring the impact of Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced music on British culture. Covering the period from the 1960s to the present day, with an initial focus on London and a particular interest in the years 1976-81, the research explores the profound ways in which the island’s music remade popular music in Britain – and was fundamental in the emergence of multiculture in the British city and the redefinition of the post-colonial nation. A key outcome of the project is the 2017 Grime Report, which led to the elimination of form 696, a risk assessment form for music events that many grime artists said was a racist way to prevent them from performing.
Read more here
South Coast Squared aims to collaborate, share and inform across communities and creative industries alike. The mission is to engage with multiple audiences, representing and supporting creative practice as well as cultural enterprise, providing global culture on England’s south coast.
An arts centre within a modernist building by the sea, the De La Warr Pavilion harnesses its prosocial, internationalist origins to stimulate exhibitions, performances and learning, and to mobilise current and future generations to take action and re-imagine the world. Over the coming months, DLWP will work in coalition with those in our neighbourhood and beyond to engage with urgent matters concerning race, migration and care. Responding to the impact that COVID-19 has had on communities and individuals, we will provide space for reflection, healing, debate and action.
Listen to Rock Against Racism founder member Debbie Golt and DLWP assistant curator Canan Batur in the Clear Spot slot on Resonance FM
Listen to Debora Ipekel’s Worldwide FM radio show with DLWP assistant curator Canan Batur and Rock Against Racism founder members Andy Dark, Debbie Golt and Ruth Gregory.
Read more on our blog
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