Making Ground @ Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh

The three artists in the Embassy group show Making Ground each deal with the persistence of the physical and social violence of colonialism

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 11 Mar 2019
  • Making Ground @ Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh

Throughout the gallery, the audio is heard from the shared work of artist Rosa Johan Uddoh and poet and artist Ebun Sodipo. They present an academic exchange on Queerness as a legacy of colonisation. Following their careful historical analysis, queerness as imagined to be new and radical is a further forgetting of already violently destroyed languages of ways of thinking of love, death, sex and living within autochthonous cultures. Queer is thus considered as a Western term that has emerged from the death and violence of colonisation.

Around the partition from the large table of reading materials, there's the work and the sea brings forth new lands. Through the video, there’s a narrative thread of the routine and secret killing of mixed race Black and Asian babies during the 70s in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The video’s juxtaposition of imageries of Black and Brown people dancing, singing, retelling the brutalities of living – and murderous – histories of colonisation is an atmospheric and ambiguous resistance of conventional mourning.

Also making an oblique approach towards the effects of colonialism, Zoë Zo, Zoë Tumika & Zoë Guthrie’s videowork Part 1: The Dinner is mainly a fish eye recording of an informal dinner at a kitchen table. Warmth and solidarity is represented, at the same time as the silence of the video restates the importance of Black-only spaces of discussion, socialising and sharing. Continuing celebration of colonialism is brought to attention when the video cuts to a video of the Glasgow streets named after colonised territories and merchants, and the image of a young Black person held on a thin leash. There’s a subtle line of reasoning between the protective muting of the conversation and the light allusion to continuing colonial violence and subjugation.

Throughout the works, there’s an emphasis on disturbing associations. Queerness is seen as culpable in the effacing of colonised lifestyles, the absolute horror of infanticide becomes an animating force instead of petrifying, and the welcoming warmth of The Dinner is necessarily tempered by the surrounding streets that monumentalise colonial histories.

Making Ground, until 24 Mar, Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh, free