John Akomfrah commission on display at Midlands Arts Centre

7 May - 26 Jun 2022

about the commission on display

In 2011, Autograph commissioned John Akomfrah to create The Unfinished Conversation - a beautiful, multi-layered film about Jamaican-born academic Professor Stuart Hall. The work debuted at the Bluecoat as part of the Liverpool Biennial 2012 to overwhelming critical acclaim, and toured internationally.

Midlands Arts Centre presented The Unfinished Conversation as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. The film sees academic Stuart Hall's memories and personal archives extracted and relocated in an imagined and different time, reflecting the questionable nature of memory itself. In the footage, Hall, who led the Cultural Studies department at the University of Birmingham from 1964, discusses his discovery of his personal and ethnic identity. The Unfinished Conversation looks at the theory that identity is not an essence or being but instead a becoming, where individual subjectivities are formed in both real and fictive spaces.

Since the early 1980s, John Akomfrah’s moving image works have offered some of the most rigorous and expansive reflections on the culture of the black diaspora, both in the UK and around the world. The Unfinished Conversation is an immersive three-channel video installation, and examines the nature of the visual as triggered across the individual's memory landscape with particular reference to identity and race.

The Unfinished Conversation is an Autograph commission, produced by Lina Gopaul and David Lawson, Smoking Dogs Films, in collaboration with Professor Stuart Hall. Executive producer Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph. The project was funded by Grants For Arts, Arts Council England and supported by the Bluecoat, New Art Exchange, Nottingham and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University, Boston, Royal College Inspire Programme and Smoking Dogs Films Production.  With kind support from NAXOS Books, The Open University, BBC, Time/Image and Getty Images.

see the commission on display


Midlands Arts Centre
Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham
B12 9QH, UK

past exhibition

This exhibition is now closed. View our current exhibitions here

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Autograph commissions

Supporting artists is essential to us at Autograph. We’ve been commissioning the making of new work since 1989, inviting creative practitioners to explore ideas of representation, identity, rights and social justice.

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The Unfinished Conversation at Midlands Arts Centre Birmingham has been loaned courtesy of Lisson Gallery and the artist

Banner image: John Akomfrah, The Unfinished Conversation, 2012. Three channel video installation, 7.1 sound 45 minutes 48 seconds (AKOM120001) © Smoking Dogs Films; Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery. Photography Ilona Zielinska / elonaphotographer.

Discover more image: From Dexter McLean, Untitled [detail], 2020, © and courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Autograph for for Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other