Interview with Origins Untold

Working in collaboration with the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and with support from Impact on Urban Health, The Brixton Project are contributing to the wider public programming of the groundbreaking and life-affirming Soulscapes exhibition through a curated Late opening of the gallery.

In response to the exhibition’s themes, the late sets out to explore our relationship with the natural world above and below the visible landscape, focusing on that which is often invisible, from the harm in the air we breathe, to the healing potential of our connection to the natural world.

In the garden, the programme weaves together glimpses of work from artists and practitioners invited to think alongside an exhibition that not only textures our understanding of landscape art, but calls us to reckon with the intricacies of our relationship with land itself.

One of the practitioners taking part is Origins Untold, an arts organisation which produces cultural, creative and social events centering Black, African- and Caribbean-heritage people in Folkestone, Kent, UK. 

We caught up with one half of Origins Untold, Ray Felix Carter, to talk about the exhibition, their contribution to the late, and their thoughts on the intersection of climate, landscape and Black communities.

What reflections did you come away from the exhibition with?

The exhibition left me with an impression of the deep trauma that the landscape holds and hides. It spoke to my awareness that, alongside and despite this, we can also find joy, solace and spiritual connection from the land.

So much of the work is as simple as depicting black people in our bodies, occupying and inhabiting a landscape. It made me think, is it enough for us just to be ‘in’ the landscape? What more do we want to do or say? When just our presence in the context of nature is radical by itself, do we overlook the deeper complexities held by these pieces of these work?

I was also struck by how it felt to move between the the main gallery and the Soulscapes exhibition space. Re-entering the main gallery was such an abrupt reminder of the formality and hierarchy of gallery spaces and a huge shift in emotional energy.

 

How is your piece responding to the exhibition?

chalk, grass, land is our ongoing project about Black embodiment in the particular bit of land that we both grew up in; the south Kent coast. This land is really fraught with border violence and notions of nationhood and belonging, but it’s also where we’re from and where we grew up. 

It’s amazing to see Black artists thinking and making about what it’s like to exist in different types of landscapes, or to relate to landscapes differently. This situates us and our work in a wider context of Black artists wondering what it means to exist and navigating these complicated relationships between landscapes, our bodies, our minds and our communities.

By bringing chalk, grass, land to the exhibition, we wanted to soften the border between two worlds; between the world of Soulscapes and the rest of the gallery, between the inside and the outside, the natural and the non-natural, the human and the landscape. We’re using our costumed presences and found/made ‘ritual objects’ to ‘haunt’ the gallery and gardens, as a way of finding possibilities for Black connection to nature and landscape outside of the Soulscapes exhibition and in the rest of the world. 

 

Climate and its relationship to black and brown communities is an important part of the exhibition. The Gallery is situated in a London borough in which Black and brown communities are adversely affected by air pollution issues. How can we tackle this issue and what role does art & performance have to play in that?

Climate and pollution are such big issues and it’s so easy to feel frightened, hopeless and inert in the face of them. Art and performance help us find ways around the fear and interia, to approach and look at the reality of the climate crisis and think about what our part is in addressing it. 

I also think it’s about learning to change our relationships; with each other, ourselves and the environment. We’re born into a our society that’s built on extractive models of relating, designed towards profit and exploitation. Art can give us new ways of looking and imagining what these relationships could be like; away from urgency and towards patience, away from exploitation and towards collaboration, away from independence and towards interdependence. 

Art and performance let us into feeling. We can process our grief about the environment, what we’ve lost and what we will lose as a result of colonialism and global capitalism, but we can also celebrate the joy of our connection to nature and landscape where we can find it.

The Soulscapes Late takes place on the 31st May, 6pm. Entry to the Late is free, for more information click here.

Origins Untold

Origins Untold is an arts organisation which produces cultural, creative and social events centering Black, African- and Caribbean-heritage people in Folkestone, Kent, UK. 

Ray Felix Carter is a multi-disciplinary artist-entity whose practice spans across facilitation, narrative illustration & comics, spoken word poetry, sound installation, drawing-as-performance & costume-making.

Josephine Carter is a queerblack poet and performer. Working solo and collaboratively as an artist-facilitator, she leads creative projects at the intersection of migration, land heritage, LGBTQIA+ rights and racial justice.