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Sonia Boyce

Updated: Mar 26, 2019

Artist 95 Sonia Boyce The Audition / Black representation Performance Art

Sonia Boyce is a British Afro-Caribbean artist who lives and works in London. She is one of the most important artists associated in large part with the emergence of Black artists in 1980s Britain.

Boyce's work involves a variety of media. Her art explores the interstices between sound and memory, the dynamics of space, and incorporating the spectator.

She draws questions around race and cultural difference. Sonia Boyce conveys political messages focusing on black representation and perceptions of the black body through her art.

She achieves this by using drawing, print, photography, performance and installation, Boyce aims to shift notions of race that have pervaded since the abolition of slavery.

Today’s focus is on ‘The Audition’ (1997) of 400 black & white photographs mounted on aluminium.

The making of The Audition took place in 1997 as part of a residency by Boyce at The University of Manchester. An open call invited participants to go to Cornerhouse to try on an afro wig.

Each individual was photographed with and without the wig and a collection of photographs was made. For the participants, the act of putting on the wig was a kind of performance, with the introduction of an element of supposed ‘otherness’ opening a space for discussion and exploration of identity as unfixed and collectively constructed.

Boyce’s practice has taken a multi-media and performative turn by bringing people together to express themselves in improvised ways. Central to her practice are questions about the production and reception of unexpected gestures, with an underlying emphasis on the intersection of personal and political subjectivities.

By involving the audience she creates a creates a space to converse around hair and racial identity.

It’s important to note that cultural appropriation like an Afro wig worn without realizing the history behind it is wrong. Here the artist tackles that and makes it is part of the conversation. What makes us different? What makes us similar? What is the ‘other’?


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