Residency Unlimited


Talks | Mar 23 2016 6:30PM

Curating Queer Black Legacies: Ajamu and Sur Rodney (Sur) in conversation

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
6:30pm (free and open to the public)

Lubin House
11 East 61st Street
Lubin House, NY, 10065

This timely conversation between Residency Unlimited / Visual AIDS Curatorial Resident Ajamu and artist, archivist and curator Sur Rodney (Sur) will highlight Ajamu's photography and archival curatorial practice. In the context of the recent controversy over a lack of representation of black artists in the exhibition Art AIDS America, Ajamu and Sur will consider the history and stakes of curating art and archives from artists of color, in both America and international contexts. The event will take place at Syracuse University's Lubin House NYC hub, which currently has a retrospective exhibition of renowned photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode, a friend and inspiration for Ajamu's work.


Ajamu is from London and is one of the leading historians concerning Black LGBT history in the UK. He has worked with a cross section of community organizations within the HIV/AIDS sector in the role of Black Gay Men’s Outreach worker, trainer and workshop designer for Gay Men Fighting Aids (GMFA), freelance consultant, photographic tutor and freelance photographer—creating images for safer sex campaigns, flyers and posters in relation to activism and social justice.

Sur Rodney (Sur) is a writer, artist, archivist and activist. A fixture on the East Village art scene, Sur was co-director, with business partner Gracie Mansion, of the celebrated Gracie Mansion Gallery (1983–88), which helped establish the international reputations of many young and emerging artists. In the late 1980s, Sur shifted his practice to work with artists affected by the growing AIDS crisis, leading to his involvement with Visual AIDS and the Frank Moore Archive Project. He also began to collaborate on curatorial projects with his longtime partner Geoffrey Hendricks, organizing a series of exhibitions related to art and AIDS.

Rotimi Fani-Kayode is a seminal figure in 1980s black British and African contemporary art. His timeless photographs constitute a profoundly personal and political exploration of complex notions of desire, diaspora, and spirituality. In his large-scale portraits, the black male body becomes the focal point of a photographic inquiry to imaginatively interpret the boundaries between spiritual and erotic fantasy, cultural and sexual difference. Ancestral rituals and a provocative, multi-layered symbolism fuse with archetypal motifs from European and African cultures and subcultures – inspired by what Yoruba priests call ‘the technique of ecstasy’.


Ajamu's one-month residency is made possible and co-sponsored within the framework of the collaboration between RU and Visual AIDS. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


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“Suitcase Under The Bed” Ephemera Gathering Workshop with Ajamu

Ajamu's Archiving Activist Portrait Project