“Black spaces are great but queer Black spaces are better”- Pacheanne Anderson on upcoming BCA exhibition, Transforming Legacies

The Black Cultural Archives Black Futures season launches later this month and will be opening with their largest exhibition of the year Transforming Legacies. The exhibition combines work from emerging and established artists to present a reflection of the last four decades of Black British art.

Curated by Pacheanne Anderson Transforming Legacies uses painting, performance, film, photography and other artistic disciplines to evaluate the way British art history is understood, shared, celebrated and portrayed, particularly amongst the Black community. 

In the following interview with AZ, Pacheanne talks in-depth about the origins of the project and why centering queer artistic expression in conservative Black spaces is as important as it is taboo.  

AZ: Please could you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a curator?

PA: I used to be an artist. I studied fine art and Moving Image. Once I graduated and became part of the art space I didn’t enjoy being an artist as much as I thought I would but at that time all of my skills, all of my friends, and everything I’d been working toward was geared at being an artist. I really enjoyed that space still so I looked at other ways to stay, that’s how I started curating. 

What is the inspiration behind Transforming Legacies and how did the idea develop?

The idea was actually put to me as part of [The Black Cultural Archives’] Black Futures season…they wanted a really big exhibition as part of this new season to bring in younger artists.  When they came to me with that final proposal, my first instinct was I’m from South London, I love art history and I’ve never spent time at the BCA. Why is that? What type of exhibition would I want to see there if I was a younger artist or just even part of the community? 

The first thing [I wanted to do] was to ensure that a majority of the artists were either from or based in South London. It was also really important to me [that the exhibition] shows the diversity of art, not just painting or classical literature. It’s nice to show a broader representation of what it means to be an artist, especially in 2022, because we’ve got so many artists working with different forms.  I wanted to concentrate on different art forms that aren’t necessarily highlighted so there are a lot of Moving Images and there’s a lot of performance art as well. Even some of the painters’ work is much more quirky than the formal style of painting. 

I really felt it was important to bring in as many queer artists as I could, not to fill gaps in narratives because we know those stories, those practitioners and those artists but I think it’s important to have our voices [centered] in a space that’s quite conservative. Historically there’s been a lot of sidestepping in bringing queer artists in or letting them show certain types of work, for example, we’ve got a Ajamu X confirmed for the show, and the work that we’re showing is wonderful, but it’s gonna push some buttons and I think that’s one of the things we need to do – black spaces are great but queer black spaces are better, they’re more real. 

The reason the BCA might not get younger black artists or creatives coming through is because [those people] might not feel like it’s a space for them. I don’t feel like the BCA is a space for me but the only way to kind of interrogate or see some change when I have these opportunities in these spaces, is to push what I know as reality. That’s actually how the title came together as well, in terms of transforming legacies, [queer legacies] are there but they’re not necessarily considered or respected. 

I’m all for public response. So even if the responses aren’t great, I think it would be a good signal to the Black queer community as to where things are and how much work there is to be done still. 

What are some of your favourite pieces from the exhibition and why?

PA: We’ve been able to source this really great Isaac Julien film. I’m working with a film curator, DJ and Moving Image artist Deborah Findlater and they were working with Otherness archive which is now specifically looking at queer narratives and history through film. They managed to get a licence for this old Isaac Julien film called a Darker Side of Black, which is about homophobia in the Black community in Jamaica. It’s a really good documentary and we’re gonna do a screening of that. I think it’d be really nice for people to have the opportunity to see it because for a long time it was quite a hard film to get hold of. I think it’s important for people to see work like that and stories like that and for conversations like [the one the film provokes] to be held in a space by a Black Moving Image artist. The tone and narrative [make for] a really good documentary, so that’s one of my favourite pieces. We also managed to get some [photographs from] Charlie Phillips’ archives and I’d say those are also up there with my favourite pieces. 

What do you hope the impact of the exhibition will be and what are some of the key takeaways? 

I just hope there’s a response. Obviously, curatorially it would be great for people to enjoy [the installations] and look into the different stories that are being told but I’m almost more interested in the public’s response to some of the aesthetic decisions. A lot of the show is not curated on the basis of the imagery necessarily… It’s more to do with what’s being said through the works, so I’m interested to see how people respond to that. We’ve got one fully blacked-out room and I’m interested to see the response to that because it won’t be the whiteboard exhibition space that people are used to. It will be more intense so hopefully, people respond intensely, in some way. Good or bad, I just hope people responded in a way that [lets me know] that they’re thinking about it. 


Transforming Legacies exhibits at the Black Cultural Archives on Windrush Square, Brixton, from October 28th to January 31st 2023.

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