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Assembly Black Country: Black Box

Thursday 11 - Saturday 13 July 2024

Day 1 – Thursday 11 July 2024, 9.30am – 5.15pm: online via Zoom


Day 2 – Friday 12 July 2024, 10.30am – 4pm: online via Zoom


Day 3 – Saturday 13 July 2024, 11am–3pm: in-person at Sandwell Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, 48 Lodge Road, West Bromwich B70 8NY

Image credits (from left to right): Helen Cammock, Image by Alun Callender; Haja Fanta, Image by Marta Camarada; Dr Jareh Das, Image by Nelta Kasparian; Jade Foster, Image by Tom Platinum Morley.

Assembly Black Country: Black Box explores notions of access through ‘teach-in’ workshops, screenings and discussions with art workers from across the Black Country, an area with limited contemporary visual arts infrastructure.


This programme only touches the surface in terms of addressing the pertinent social and political issues of our time and how they impact cultural workers. So what we want out of this programme is time—three days to create a space of learning that is life-affirming where people can value themselves and their work. We hope you can be a part of this moment.


About Black Box


black box [Noun]:


1. a self-contained unit in an electronic or computer system whose circuitry need not be known to understand its function.


2. You can refer to a system or device as a black box when you know that it produces a particular result but you have no understanding of how it works.


Black Box is the Black Curators Collective’s takeover of arts organisations and BCC’s programming approach. Drawing on the concept and function of self-contained systems, Black Box works towards protecting ideas and labour by Black creatives from institutional co-option, dilution and tokenism. The programme aims to create a safer space—in and outside institutions–for participants to undergo creative activity. BCC and the programme participants will choose how and what to share about the circuitry and function of the programme with the institution and the public. BCC will also act as a negotiator and mediator between the institution and programme participants whenever possible.

The first day of activities, such as teach-ins, will reflect on ‘what it means that to occupy the subject position of an artist, an artist has to operate against [...]’. The quote is from American artist Carolyn Lazard, who discusses the work of the late Sandwell-born artist Donald Rodney. In the context of Lazard’s verbatim, the word ‘illness’ was used at the end. However, ‘illness’ can be swapped with another force. So for Assembly Black Country, we invited artists and curators to host teach-ins on Zoom to intentionally think with you on what it means to work with, against or through a variety of conditions—illness, coloniality, classism, racism, ableism, and gendered violence—that structure one’s life, bringing critical thinking to address the state of art-making and cultural production in the region and the sector more broadly.




Helen Cammock lives and works in North Wales and London. Her practice spans film, photography, print, text, song and performance and examines mainstream historical and contemporary narratives about Blackness, womanhood, oppression and resistance, wealth and power, poverty and vulnerability. Her works often cut across time and geography, layering multiple voices; and investigating the cyclical nature of histories in her visual and aural assemblages.


In 2017, Cammock won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women and in 2019, Cammock was the joint recipient of The Turner Prize. She has exhibited and performed worldwide with recent and current solo shows, including Bass Notes and SiteLines, Amant, New York, USA (2023); I Will Keep My Soul, Art + Practice, Los Angeles and UNO Gallery, New Orleans, USA, (2023); Behind The Eye Is The Promise Of Rain, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (2022); Concrete Feathers and Porcelain Tacks, Touchstones, Rochdale and The Photographer’s Gallery, London, UK (2021), Beneath the Surface of Skin; STUK Art Centre, Leuven, Belgium (2021); They Call It Idlewild, Wysing, UK (2020); Che Si Può Fare, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2019), Che Si Può Fare, Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy (2019) and The Long Note, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland (2019); VOID, Derry, Northern Ireland (2018). Group shows include Breathing, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany (2022) and Radio Ballads, Serpentine Galleries, London, UK (2022). She is represented by Kate MacGarry, London.

Haja Fanta is a London-based curator, writer, and researcher originating from Sierra Leone. She works with artists and institutions to deliver a range of visual art exhibitions, projects, and programmes. She has a particular interest in artistic and cultural production from Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone and in building creative connections between those cultures and the broader diaspora. In her practice, Haja explores different approaches to curatorial production. During her MA in Arts and Cultural Enterprise, for example, she examined how incorporating sound and spatial design in curatorial practice can enhance levels of engagement and accessibility in contemporary art spaces. Haja has previously developed projects with Southbank Centre, The Africa Centre, National Portrait Gallery, HOME by Ronan Mckenzie, and photographer Neil Kenlock. She is currently working as a Project Curator at The Africa Centre delivering the National Lottery Heritage funded Malangatana Programme. She is also a member of the SXWKS collective.

Dr Jareh Das is an independent curator, writer and researcher who lives and works between West Africa and the UK. Das’s academic and curatorial practice is informed by an interest in global modern and contemporary art with a specific focus on performance art. In 2022, Das curated Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics and Contemporary Art held at Two Temple Place, London and York Art Gallery. The exhibition spanned seventy years of ceramics and explored how clay has been disrupted, questioned and reimagined by Black women artists. Das has held curatorial and editorial positions with Deptford X, Middlesbrough Institute of Art, Middlesbrough; Etemad Gallery, Dubai; Arts Catalyst, London; MVRDV, Rotterdam; and Camden Art Centre, London and has contributed to a number of print and online publications.

Jade Foster (they/them) is a British curator, artist and art historian of Afro-Caribbean heritage based in Nottingham and from Sandwell in the West Midlands. They are the Public Programme Curator at Primary and a trustee of Nottingham Contemporary. In addition to their work at Primary, they freelance with Hospital Rooms as a Visiting Curator, commissioning artworks for Sandwell CAMHS, an outpatient service for children and young people with complex mental health needs.

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