Global London in the 1970s
In his infamous 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech, British member of Parliament Enoch Powell criticized Commonwealth immigration and anti-discrimination legislation. Ten years later, in an address to the nation, soon-to-be-elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stated that citizens are “afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.” In the intervening years, this rhetoric gave way to laws that exacerbated anti-immigrant violence and xenophobia across the country. Migrants—many of whom were from Great Britain’s former colonies—were scapegoats for the country’s political and economic anxieties.
In the face of escalating anti-immigrant sentiments, artists from the global south found themselves living and working in London. These artists—who sought and created opportunities outside the established art scene—were integral to a flourishing of conceptual art. Pakistani artist Rasheed Araeen created the journal Black Phoenix, a forerunner to the influential Third Text, and Fillipino artist David Medalla opened Signals Gallery—a space that would show some of the decade’s most important global artists. In 1974, Medalla and Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña, among others, founded Artists for Democracy, an organization supporting liberation movements around the world. Meanwhile, Mexican artist Felipe Ehrenberg began making performances using the city’s infrastructure and later co-founded Beau Gess Press, an independent publisher of artists’ books. In order to explore how artists contributed to and were shaped by the country’s socio-political landscape, we invite papers that consider the practices and networks created by artists who immigrated, escaped to, or found some measure of refuge in London in the 1970s. We are especially interested in papers that explore artistic production within the political and social context of 1970s London. Details for submitting an abstract can be found here.