Commemorative Space: Artist Reflections on Monumentality in Leeds

  • Online event
  • Wednesday, 1 September 2021
  • Online publication launch, premiering on YouTube at 6pm. Part of our Monuments Research Season.

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Commemorative Space explores what monuments mean to artists living in cities today. Edited by Rebecca Senior, designed by Ashleigh Armitage and featuring commissioned works by Leeds-based artists Emii Alrai, Simeon Barclay, Samra Mayanja, Jill McKnight and James Thompson, it foregrounds artistic practice as a powerful mechanism for engaging with the complexities of monumentality in commemorative landscapes.

For this online publication launch, editor Rebecca Senior and artists Emii Alrai, Samra Mayanja, Jill McKnight and James Thompson reflect on their positions on monumentality and contributions to the publication.

View the Commemorative Space publication on Corridor8


About the speakers

Emii Alrai is an artist based in Leeds. Alrai’s practice is informed by inherited nostalgia, geographical identity and post-colonial museum practices of collecting and displaying objects. Focusing on the ancient mythologies from the Middle East alongside personal oral histories of Iraq, Alrai weaves together narratives by forging artefacts and visualising residues of cultural collision. Drawing references from objects in museum collections, ancient writing from the Middle East and cultural memories, her work questions the value and origins of artefacts, as well as navigating the experience of diaspora.

Samra Mayanja is an artist and writer whose central concern is what moves us and what it is to be moved. Her work spans writing, drawing, performance and film and is an effort to commune disparate voices; to generate around and beyond what’s inconceivable, lost or arrives in tatters.

Jill McKnight is an artist based in Leeds who works with sculpture and writing. Central to their practice is exploring their working-class, feminist and artistic lineages to tell stories that would otherwise be lost or overlooked. McKnight was awarded a Henry Moore Foundation Artist Award (2020) and selected as a Yorkshire Sculpture International Associate Artist (2019).

James Thompson is a Leeds-based artist who works across sculpture, moving image and performance. His work deals with the perception of space and its interpretation, using pre-existing spatial situations as the starting point recorded and re-interpreted to construct new multi-dimensional experiences of reality.

Rebecca Senior is a Henry Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow working on sculpture and 18th and 19th-century visual cultures in Britain. She has a particular interest in allegory, monuments and histories of British imperialism, which is the subject of her research at the Institute. Working in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, her post-doctoral project is titled ‘Allegories of Violence: Histories of the British Empire and Monumental Sculpture’. It explores the various manifestations of allegorical sculpture on monuments erected in honour of Britain’s imperial campaigns in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a specific focus on how allegory occupied a unique space as a sanitiser of violence in visual histories.

Monuments Research Season

Every Wednesday throughout September we will present new research around monuments in a variety of forms, ranging from pre-recorded lectures to podcasts and artists films.

Topics will include the relationship between monuments, gender and sexuality, the role of religion and politics, monuments and colonial memory, and artists’ responses to monumentality. All material will be available to access online on our website and YouTube channel.

See all Monuments Research Season events


Venue details

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