Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Black Atlantic: a cultural partnership at the intersection of race, art, ecology and climate justice

5 October 2021

Black Atlantic is a new decolonial arts partnership, co-established by UCL Sarah Parker Remond Centre, Serpentine Galleries, Royal Court Theatre and Dartington Trust, that aims to strengthen the role of arts and culture in advancing social and climate justice.

Sensing the Planet

Leading UK cultural institutions launch new decolonial arts partnership, Black Atlantic, starting with Sensing the Planet, a 3-day interdisciplinary gathering to discuss how art and culture can confront some of the most important challenges of our time.

Sensing the Planet, a 3-day gathering at Dartington from 29-31 October, will see leading UK cultural institutions Serpentine Galleries, the Royal Court Theatre, UCL’s Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of racism and racialisation and Dartington Trust launch Black Atlantic, a new decolonial arts partnership that aims to strengthen the role of arts and culture in advancing social and climate justice.

Timed to take place just before the intergovernmental climate conference COP26, Sensing the Planet will highlight issues of race and environmental harm as well as the role played by the UK, and of the south-west of England in particular, in histories of slavery, empire and climate breakdown. It will also champion the role of interdisciplinary culture in imagining new futures built on principles of sustainability and justice, bringing together leading decolonial thinkers, artists and activists including headline speakers Paul Gilroy, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Philippe Sands QC. 

Confirmed artists include Barby Asante, Forensic Architecture, Ingrid Pollard, Tabita Rezaire, Jason Singh and Zadie Xa. Additionally, activists will attend from collectives including Black Lives Matter UK, Wretched of the Earth, Decolonising the Curriculum, Plane Stupid and Racial Justice Network. A group of 4 writers brought together by the Royal Court Theatre will also attend and there will be live performances from Shifa, Pat Thomas and Elaine Mitchener. 

Visitors and participants will have access to an installation of video interviews between the late Martiniquean theorist and novelist, Edouard Glissant and Serpentine’s Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and to a live feed from the Court for Intergenerational Climate Crimes [CICC] in Amsterdam – a project by writer, academic, lawyer and activist Radha D’Souza and artist Jonas Staal, produced by Framer Framed, in which the CICC will hold hearings against Unilever, ING, Airbus and the Dutch State.

Following the event, interdisciplinary artists will be invited to participate in a public seminar reflecting on key learnings. This will be held in London, later in the year. Details to be announced.

For Dartington, which has historically hosted luminaries including Rabindranath Tagore, Igor Stravinsky and Jacqueline Du Pre, Sensing the Planet will build on a 100-year history as a convenor and catalyst for cultural innovation, social change and political renewal. This history has witnessed milestones including the conception of the Arts Council and the writing of the Labour Party’s 1945 manifesto.

Sensing the Planet is spearheaded by filmmaker and activist Ashish Ghadiali and Serpentine curators Amal Khalaf and Lucia Pietroiusti. Additional support comes from advisor Paul Gilroy, Director of UCL’s Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of racism and racialisation, and partners Cafe OTO/OTO Projects, LUMA Arles, Verso, Lawrence & Wishart Books and the Stuart Hall Foundation.

Ashish Ghadiali, Activist-in-Residence at UCL’s SPRC and a Curator at Dartington Trust, says:

“Today’s ecological crisis is rooted in our histories of slavery and empire. Facing up to those histories, understanding the way they live on and recognising the primacy of the imagination, of art and activism, in creating new and better futures are activities as crucial in the work of reversing global warming as the net zero initiatives that will dominate the mainstream climate conversation at COP26. The imaginative space that we’re cultivating through Sensing the Planet may emerge, at a similar time, as the more relevant crucible for the kind of social transformation that we need.”

Paul Gilroy, Director of UCL’s Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation, says: 

“I see this initiative as an important opportunity to develop a revised understanding of Britain’s modern history in an area of the country that is strongly associated with seafaring and has an extensive record of long-distance trading activities that for many years included trafficking in enslaved people. This exciting initiative is a welcome chance to augment discussion of these neglected historical chapters as well as to re-assess the various consequences of slave trading for the economic, institutional and cultural life of the South West.”

Find out more about Sensing the Planet
29 - 31 October 2021
Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EG
Tickets available online at Dartington.org/event/sensing-the-planet

Check out the full programme of events at Black Atlantic