February 10 – April 7, 2018

The Slave's Lament

Graham Fagen

The exhibition The Slave’s Lament presents works by the multidisciplinary artist Graham Fagen, wherein he collaborates with reggae artist Ghetto Priest, and members of the Scottish Ensemble. Comprised of a large-scale multi-channel video installation, drawings, and landscape photographs, the exhibition explores issues of colonialism and complicity. Bringing to light less-known histories in the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns, Fagen and Priest’s collaboration questions ideas of nationalism and identity through addressing Scottish involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Together, these artists offer a pertinent examination of cultural and social heritage, and by implication, possible futures through artistic communication.

In the multi-channel video installation, Fagen filmed Priest and the Ensemble in close-up, then divided the temporal sequence into pieces that he recomposed into an epic-style ode to identity that can be inherited, stolen, or assumed. The camera scrutinizes the gazes and gestures, lingering over certain details as if to track down a potential for authenticity and identity to be safeguarded and shared. The work of these long-time collaborators prompts further discussion about cultural remixing, allyship, and appropriation. The installation is accompanied by a set of photographs of the Atlantic Ocean from opposing perspectives, suggesting exile and loss through the passage of space and time, as well as acknowledgement of connection. A series of blind drawings of the artist’s teeth investigate representations of identity and consciousness.

Through a culture clash and critique of national monuments, Fagen’s work brings together musical and visual language to consider how cultural identity is formed by both the personal and political. The Slave’s Lament premiered at the 2015 Venice Biennial and was exhibited in 2017 at the Galérie de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, curated by Louise Déry.

About the Artist

Graham Fagen is one of the most influential artists working in Scotland today. His work mixes media and crosses continents; combining video, performance, photography and sculpture with text, live music and plants. Fagen’s recurring artistic themes, which include flowers, journeys and popular song, are used as attempts to understand the powerful forces that shape our lives.
Graham Fagen studied at The Glasgow School of Art (1984-1988, BA) and the Kent Institute of Art and Design (1989-1990, MA) and is senior lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee.

In 1999 Fagen was invited by the Imperial War Museum, London to work as the Official War Artist for Kosovo, and since then has exhibited widely both in the UK and abroad. Exhibitions include: Golden Age, Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1999), British Art Show (2000), Zenomap, Scotland + Venice at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), Bloodshed at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Art of the Garden, Tate Britain (2004), Busan Biennale, South Korea (2004) and the Art and Industry Biennial, New Zealand (2004).

In 2011 Fagen was the International Artist in Residence at Artpace, San Antonio, concluding with a solo exhibition, Under Heavy Manners. With theatre director Graham Eatough he created The Making of Us, a performance, installation and film, for Glasgow International 2012.

Recent exhibitions include Cabbages in an Orchard at The Glasgow School of Art (2014); GENERATION: 25 Years of Contemporary Art from Scotland (2015) at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, In Camera (2014) with Graham Eatough at the Panorama, La Friche de la Belle de Mai, Marseille, and The Mighty Scheme with Matt’s Gallery at Dilston Grove and CPG London (2016).

In 2015 Graham Fagen was selected to represent Scotland at the 56th Venice Biennale.

Additional support provided by Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Creative Scotland, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and University of Dundee.