Barby Asante is a London based artist, curator, educator and occasional DJ. Her work is concerned with the politics of place, space memory and the histories and legacies of colonialism. Asante’s work is collaborative, performative and dialogic, often working with groups of people as contributors, collaborators or co researchers.
Barby Asante, As Always a Painful Declaration of Independence: For Ama. For Aba. For Charlotte and Adoja (2017), Diaspora Pavilion, Venice (2017)
Her artistic practice explores the archival, makes propositions, collects and maps stories and contributions of people of colour using storytelling, collective actions, and ritual, to excavate, unearth and interrogate given narratives, making works that consider migration, safe spaces to gather in cities antagonistic to ones presence and how one maps the self as a contributor to narratives of society, culture and politics. She resists the idea that the stories of “Other-ness” are alternatives to dominant given narratives, but for her these stories and narratives are interruptions, utterances, presences that exist within, that are invisible, unheard, missing or ignored. By making these narratives and stories visible, asking questions and making proposals she is interested in what these possibilities offer as we examine our present and envision our futures.
Asante’s projects include; The South London Black Archive (Peckham Platform / Tate Modern, 2012) an archive project, mapping black music and memories in South London, through an invitation to audiences and local people to create the archive of black music memory collaboratively. Baldwin’s Nigger RELOADED (Iniva, Nottingham Contemporary, Framer Framed/ Art Rotterdam 2014- onwards) with the London based collective sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, using Horace Ove’s 1968 film Baldwin’s Nigger as a start for a contemporary study of Baldwin’s provocation, through a reflective re-enactment ritual of transcribing, rewriting, re-staging and re-performing the original event.
Her current artistic research is focused on her long term project, As Always a Painful Declaration of Independence : For Ama. For Aba. For Charlotte and Adjoa. This is being realised in a series of project episodes, including Intimacy and Distance (Diaspora Pavilion, Venice, 2017) For Ama. For Aba. For Charlotte and Adjoa (Dolph Projects, London, 2017), The Queen and the Black Eyed Squint, (Starless Midnight, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead, 2017, Get up Stand Up Now, Somerset House, London 2019, GOMA, Glasgow, 2021) and Declaration of Independence (Diaspora Pavilion, Venice, Feminsist Emergency, Birkbeck, London, Sonic Soundings, Venice, 2017, Library of Performing Rights, LADA, London, Resisting Narratives, The Horse Hospital, London, 2018, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead, 2019, Bergen Kuntsatll, 2020). The project explores the social, cultural and political agency of women of colour, as they navigate historic legacies of colonialism, independence, migration and the contemporary global socio-political climate, through performative actions that engage with historic spaces, archives and collections.
Asante has taught on Fine Art and Critical Studies programmes in London, Berlin, Gothenburg and Rotterdam. She is co founder of agency for agency a collaborative agency concerned with ethics, intersectionality and education in the contemporary arts who were mentors to the sorryyoufeeluncomfortable collective. Asante is on the board of the Women’s Art Library and 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning. She is also a PhD Candidate in CREAM, Westminster University, London.