Stuart Hall (3 February 1932 – 10 February 2014). “Stuart Hall, a beloved cultural theorist and political activist whose work reached so many people across so many borders, died Monday in London (February 10, 2014), at the age of 82” (Retrieved from http://www.massreview.org/node/329).
John Akomfrah is described by Sukhdev Sandhu from The Guardian newspaper as “widely recognised as one of Britain’s most expansive and intellectually rewarding film-makers” (Sandhu, 2012). In a recent video on the frieze video website, Akomfrah talks about his latest project which is based around the activist and cultural theorist, Stuart Hall. Stuart Hall was discussed not long ago by Noel Ivanoff, Head of Department Fine Arts at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design during a MFA seminar talk in January 2014. Ivanoff uses Hall’s theories on representation and the media to highlight the role or implications it can have for the artists and encourages artists to think about a ‘new’ interpretation of representation, outlined by Hall, which can express itself within contemporary society.
Stuart Hall describes “representation as [is] the way in which meaning is somehow given to the things which are depicted through the images or whatever it is, on screens or the words on a page, which stand for what we’re talking about” (Hall as cited in Jhally, 1997). But ‘meaning’ works in a multiplicity of intricate ways and an “image can have many different meanings and [that] there is no guarantee that images will work in the way we think they will” (Jhally, 1997). Central to Hall’s argument is the notion that power and knowledge is controlled by media and the dissemination of these media-driven images corrupts our understanding of reality and truth (Jhally, 1997). With this in mind Hall asks us to reconsider the role of representation and goes on to say that:
representation is constitutive of the event. It enters into the constitution of the object that we are talking about. It is part of the object itself; it is constitutive of it. It is one of its conditions of existence, and therefore representation is not outside the event, not after the event, but within the event itself; it is constitutive of it. (Hall as cited in Jhally, 1997)
Sut Jhally, Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, founder and Executive Director of the Media Education Foundation and Producer and Director of the video Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media sums up Halls thinking by stating that:
Hall understands that communication is always linked with power and that those groups who wield power in a society influence what gets represented through the media. Hall wants to hold both these ideas: that messages work in complex ways, and that they are always connected with the way that power operates in any society, together at the same time. He examines our everyday world where knowledge and power intersect. (Jhally, 1997)
Jhally concludes in his introduction by saying that Hall “insists on the role that intellectual work can play in helping to regain control of an image dominated world that has drifted beyond the democratic reach of ordinary people” (Jhally, 1997).
In the video below, John Akomfrah talks about the multiple identities, the image and the influences that Stuart Hall represented based on a well known paragraph written by Hall which states that “identities are created at the crossroad of historical moments, events and psychic activity… at some crossroads between the personal and the political” (Hall as cited in Akomfrah, 2014).
John Akomfrah: On essays, identities and Stuart Hall
The award-winning filmmaker discusses the origins of the Black Audio Film collective, his recent project exploring the life and times of cultural theorist Stuart Hall and the ‘pariah space’ of the film essay on television and in the art gallery. Retrieved from: http://video.frieze.com/film/john-akomfrah-essays-identities-and-stuart-hall/
Akomfrah, J. (2014). John Akomfrah: On essays, identities and Stuart Hall. Retrieved from: http://video.frieze.com/film/john-akomfrah-essays-identities-and-stuart-hall/
Jhally, S. (1997) Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media. Media Education Foundation Transcripts. MEF, Northhampton, MA. Retrieved from http://www.mediaed.org/assets/products/409/transcript_409.pdf
Sandhu, S. (2012, February 20). John Akomfrah: Migration and memory. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/jan/20/john-akomfrah-migration-memory