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GRAHAM FAGEN: THE SLAVE'S LAMENT

Louise Déry and Erica Moiah James

Galerie de l’UQAM
111 pp col. ill. 11 x 8.25 in hardcover
9782920325685
$35.00 Can. $40.00 U.S.
February 2018

The Slave’s Lament was Robert Burns’ only poem to empathize with the appalling hurt of the displaced, the trafficked and the enslaved. Written over two hundred years ago, it is a narrative that remains entirely contemporary as we think of current tragedies unfolding on borders around the world. Taking Burn’s work as it’s starting point, Graham Fagen’s multidisciplinary installation explores the theme of slavery and Scottish involvement in the fate of African people deported to the Caribbean in the 18th century. The central piece is an imposing video and music installation wherein reggae artist Ghetto Priest transforms the poem into song. Fagen films the singer and instrumentalists in close-up, then divides the temporal sequence into pieces that he recomposes into an epic-style ode to the identity that we inherit, that is stolen from us or that we assume. 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. Published to mark Black History Month. In English and French.

Graham Fagen is a Glascow-based artist and senior lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee. His work has been presented at, most notably, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (2015), Victoria & Albert Museum (2004), Tate Britain (2004), and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1999). He represented Scotland at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003). 

Louise Déry is director of the Galerie de l'UQAM and associate professor in the Department of Art History at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal). She has authored best-selling monographs on David Altmejd, Shary Boyle and Michael Snow. Erica Moiah James is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Miami and was founding Director and Chief Curator of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.


"It was in sweet Senegal
That my foes did me enthral,
For the lands of Virginia — ginia O!
Torn from that lovely shore,
I must never see it more,
And alas! I am weary, weary O! […]"
                          Robert Burns, The Slave’s Lament, 1792