Jade Montserrat is one of the UK’s brightest emerging artists, and a current PhD student at the Institute of Black Atlantic Research (IBAR) at the University of Central Lancashire.
Jade works at the intersections of art and activism, through the mediums of performance and live art, works on paper and interdisciplinary projects.
Her PhD is entitled Race and Representation in Northern Britain in the context of the Black Atlantic: A Creative Practice Project, continuing her work on the black diasporic perspective in the North of England.
In 2017, Jade was the recipient of a new three-year Stuart Hall PhD scholarship funded by the Stuart Hall Foundation, Honeywell Inc and the Hollick Family Charitable Trust.
Jade was one of the female artists commissioned by Art on the Underground to celebrate the centenary of some women in the UK being able to vote. Her work will be used on the cover of the Tube map, of which 25 million copies are printed a year.
Race and Representation in Northern Britain in the context of the Black Atlantic: A Creative Practice Project
Jade’s thesis is a combination of critical and creative practice, that falls under the general heading The Rainbow Tribe.
Performance, installation and works on paper make up the creative elements that form the thesis; the creative iterations that come under the heading The Rainbow Tribe comprise Shadowing Josephine – now retitled Revue – and No Need For Clothing. The Rainbow Tribe project investigates, using the critical and theoretical methodologies developed from the practice of visual art and performance, a combination of historical and contemporary manifestations of Black Culture from the perspective of the Black Diaspora.
The creative works explore the intersection of art and activism through performance, film, installation, sculpture, print and text. The project interrogates these mediums with the aim to expose gaps in our visual and linguistic habits.
No Need For Clothing
Audiences have been able to experience Jade’s No Need For Clothing performance and drawing installation in a number of locations in 2017. She took the installation from UCLan to Bristol, Dundee, Folkestone and London, and further afield to Poitiers in France and Essen in Germany.
Her documentary photograph taken during the performance installation at Cooper Gallery, Dundee, No Need For Clothing, was given a Jerwood Drawing Award in 2017.
As part of her PhD, research, Jade makes versions of No Need For Clothing in different spaces. The drawing installation manifests through drawing on gallery walls with charcoal, and the artist’s naked body gets covered in the dirt of the work of it, emphasising the labour that goes into creative practice.
No Need For Clothing uses text as a device to work through the embodied material conditions that a reciprocity between words, bodies and materiality can address.
The installation speaks of entanglement and commodity fetishism; possessively accumulated, intimately discarded; a polemic engaged in combat between histories of colonialism and today’s realities, imposition and economies of trust, protection and survival.
Towards the Rainbow Tribe
In 2017, Jade’s solo exhibition Towards the Rainbow Tribe at the Alison Jacques Gallery in London was described as “fiercely arresting” by Art on the Underground curator Kiera Blakey. The exhibition featured “small yet defiant” watercolour paintings and referenced Jade’s research into the history of slavery and migration.
Jade also performed No Need For Clothing (2017) on the opening night, and the performance to camera was shown throughout the exhibition.
Towards the Rainbow Tribe is a nod to Josephine Baker’s 20th-century experiment The Rainbow Tribe, which saw her raise 12 adopted ethnically diverse children.
Shadowing Josephine, an iterative work from The Rainbow Tribe project, is being developed into a new performance entitled Revue,. Currently, the choreographed, repeated routine is performed naked for up to four hours, and set to Cab Calloway’s popular Cotton Club track “Pickin’ up the Cabbage”. It was first shown at “The Art Party Conference” and renamed Revue to reference Baker’s “La Revue Nègre” (1925). As it develops into Revue, it is filtered digitally through institutions in cities throughout the world where Josephine Baker performed, and then back into the public domain.
Over time, Revue will develop to be be performed over 24 hours and has the potential to invite multidirectional memory work by locating the performance within terms of reference including: slavery and the spectacle of bondage (slave auctions); consumption of culture and black presence within art institutions; visual consumption of the human body; 24-hour news cycles; dance marathons of the 1930s; monitoring and surveillance; operating in the world despite pain; narratology; time – circular time, racial time, revolutionary time.
The performance is intent on reimagining the representation of black bodies, with an emphasis on protection, care, positioning and preservation.
Revue leads to a key question: Through self-referentiality, exploring the loss and emergence of identity , how might a theoretical practice-led critique of Black Diaspora eventually push against monological autonomy within the work?
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