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THE BLACK INTERIOR

Silkscreen prints on paper and accompanying audio sound work

The texts, existing on the cusp of visibility, document quotidian microaggressions experienced by black men in various settings; the audio collates snippets from popular British 1970s and 1980s sitcoms evidencing racist attitudes masquerading as humour. In this manner, the combination of text and audio indicate that the not-so-distant past stretches into, and continues to condition, our present. Outright racism transformed into microaggression does not entail societal improvement between then and now, but rather manifests how racism lingers consciously and unconsciously, overtly and in a more subterranean fashion, throughout society. Until the statements collected by James one day become historical sources, they function at present as testimonies to how structural racism renders the lives of black people horrendously precarious in manifold ways - Dr Matthew Bowman, University of Essex

The Black Interior silkscreen prints on paper and audio sound work take its name from the title of the book of essays of the same title by the poet Elizabeth Alexander (2004). Assembled in a darkened, meditative setting, the collection documents thirteen accounts of racist microaggression from four Black men who anonymously shared their everyday lived experiences of growing up in or currently living in Essex, England. The collection of prints forms part of The Blackness Series - an ongoing series of numbered text works, commencing in 2016 and continuing to date, documenting historical and contemporary Black-lived experiences alongside broader critical social commentary. The font is typically black typefaced on a black background, making the works intentionally arduous to read. Through this technique, the work attempts to accentuate how Black communities are held in the tension between hypervisibility and invisibility in our fractured world. The works become fully legible to read as light reflects and interacts with the work—whether on a digital screen display or with the work itself. The audio edit contains abstracted and fragmented noise from the 1970s and 80s British television, which aired numerous prime-time programmes that were blatantly racist.

 

The prints and audio were exhibited in gallery two as part of the solo exhibition 'Othered in a region that has been historically Othered' at Focal Point Gallery between 25 June to 18 Sept 2022. The exhibition was also shortlisted for the Freelands Awards 2021. 

 

Each print is a silkscreen on Plike black 330 gsm paper, 680 x 680 mm and is an edition of 1+1 AP. 

A mini-print edition is also available from Focal Point Gallery - each print is 280 x 280 mm and is an edition of 3 + 1 AP.

Elsa James Work No. 32: The Fire Alarm, 2022 
Elsa James Work No. 31: The Sales Call, 2022
Elsa James Work No. 30: The Commuter Train, 2022 

Work No. 32: The Fire Alarm, 2022 
 

Work No. 31: The Sales Call, 2022
 

Work No. 30: The Commuter Train, 2022 
 

Elsa James Work No. 29: The Allotment, 2022
Elsa James Work No. 28: Primary School Comment, 2022
Elsa James Work No. 26: Mixed-Race Babies

Work No. 29: The Allotment, 2022 
 

Work No. 28: Primary School Comment, 2022

Work No. 26: Mixed-Race Babies, 2022 

Elsa James Work No. 25: Living Here, 2022 
Elsa James Work No. 24: The Pram, 2022
Elsa James Work No. 23: Outdoor Walks

Work No. 25: Living Here, 2022 

Work No. 24: The Pram, 2022

Work No. 23: Outdoor Walks, 2022 

Elsa James Work No. 22: The Leaving Do
Elsa James Work No. 20: The IT Guy, 2022
Elsa James Work No. 19: Dress Down Friday

Work No. 22: The Leaving Do, 2022 

Work No. 20: The IT Guy, 2022

Work No. 19: Dress Down Friday, 2022 

Elsa James Work No. 18: The Cafe, 2022 
Elsa James The Black Interior
Elsa James The Black Interior

Work No. 18: The Cafe, 2022 
 

Installation view, Focal Point Gallery

Installation veiw, Focal Point Gallery

The Black Interior was commissioned by Focal Point Gallery as part of the solo exhibition 'Othered in a region that has been historically Othered' (2022) and generously funded by Arts Council England, Focal Point Gallery and Southend-on-Sea City Council. The prints were typeset by Sue Withers and Andrew Moller, printed by K2 Screen, and photographed by Anna Lukala. The Black Interior Audio Edit was designed by Trevor Mathison and Elsa James. Audio installation by KSO Digital. The exhibition was curated by Elsa James.

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