Digital video, 8 mins
Tower Room, Second Floor
It is thirty years since Ikon exhibited Keith Piper’s A Ship Called Jesus in 1991. An installation in three parts, it considered the complex relationship between the Christian Church and people of African descent. In this new digital video, commissioned with the support of the Paul Mellon Centre, Piper creates an impression of the archived exhibition which combined sculptural pieces with segmented framed photographs, projected images and reflecting pools of water. At the heart of the show was a tombstone inscribed with the words: “In 1564, Queen Elizabeth I donated a ship to John Hawkins for the first official English slave trading voyage…the name of the ship was JESUS OF LUBECK. We’ve been sailing in her ever since”.
In the introduction to his exhibition at Ikon, Piper observed how he and fellow members of the BLK Art Group, a “loose grouping of young Black artists, based initially in the West Midlands …[including] Eddie Chambers, Donald Rodney and myself, were all the products of Fundamentalist Christian backgrounds engaged in that (largely unspoken) process of extreme rebellion against that background.” His exhibition was as personal and heartfelt as it was research-based, reflecting on Black British experience and the phenomenon of Black Christianity – paradoxically, “the Christian church [being] a centre and focus from which many of our parents derived their strength”.
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