The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

The Loose Ends of Empire: Unforgetting Colonialism

Expired February 28, 2021 1:00 AM
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About the program:


Haunted by the specter of British colonialism, three experimental meditations in sound and image by Keith Piper, Onyeka Igwe, and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa explore memory, amnesia, and empire across thirty years. Together, these works offer visual and sonic bricolages of the remnants of British imperial power, drawing on archival material to critically examine fact and fiction, repression, and remembrance.


About the films:


In Keith Piper’s multimedia slide sequence The Trophies of Empire (1985), fragmentary reflections trace Britain’s ties to slavery and colonization through images of the city streets of London. In a single continuous take, Promised Lands (2018) reflects on the ways that historical colonialism shrouds the present. Meditative and dissonant, the film is a contrapuntal critique of colonial amnesia and imperial power. Finally, Onyeka Igwe’s the names have changed, including my own and truths have been altered (2019) juxtaposes colonial, personal, and televisual archives. This study of memory and amnesia reveals the ambiguities and tensions that arise from the interplay of objects and archives. Following the program, filmmaker Onyeka Igwe will appear in conversation with Professor Bimbola Akinbola, Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. 


The Trophies of Empire (1985) (Keith Piper, 1985, Tape/Slide, transferred to digital, UK, 13 min)


the names have changed, including my own and truths have been altered (Onyeka Igwe, 2019, UK, 26 min)


Promised Lands (Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, 2015-2018, Uganda, Austria, Germany, 20 min)


"The Loose Ends of Empire: Unforgetting Colonialism" is a program of experimental films and audio-visual works from the UK, the second in a series of programs exploring the legacies and futures of Black British cinema, guest curated by Northwestern graduate students Madison Ivory Alan-Lee, Gervais Marsh, and Tyler Talbott.


The films in “The Loose Ends of Empire" appear courtesy of LUX and artist Keith Piper.


Co-presented by The Block Museum of Art with support from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Black Arts Initiative, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, the Department of Radio/Television/Film, Screen Cultures Program, and the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University.

The Trophies of Empire (1985) is an installation featuring a constantly looping Slide/Tape sequence comprised of one hundred and sixty two 35mm transparencies (two Kodak Slide Carousels each containing 81 transparencies) and an ambient audio track.


This work, features ‘Letraset’ transfer lettering applied directly to the surface of the transparencies, a technique directly influenced by ‘Expeditions One: Signs of Empire (1983) by Black Audio Film Collective. The work takes its title from Donald Locke’s 1972-4 work ‘Trophies of Empire’.


The work was first displayed as part of the exhibition ‘Black Skin, Blue Coat’ at the Bluecoat Gallery Liverpool (April-May 1985) featuring the work of Sonia Boyce, Tam Joseph, Eddie Chambers and Keith Piper.

--Keith Piper


The artist has approved a video presentation of the work for this program, based on a 2017 digitization of the original sequence. 


To approximate the cyclical nature of the work, the sequence will be presented approximately 1.5 times. 

  • Year
    1985
  • Runtime
    15 minutes
  • Director
    Keith Piper