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Divided Selves: Legacies, Memories, Belonging

Our first exhibition for 2023 explores ideas of community, belonging and collective identity

A photograph of a section of Bloodlines (1997) by Iftikhar Dadi & Nalini Malani, showing a line of red sequins intersecting a panel covered in gold and blue sequins.

Image: Detail from Bloodlines (1997) by Iftikhar Dadi & Nalini Malani, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum Collection

Free, drop-in

Curated by Hammad Nasar MBE with Rosie Addenbrooke and Alice Swatton

Divided Selves explores notions of belonging and living together at a time when the idea of nation is under stress, threatened by challenges ranging from populism to armed conflict. 

Held at a time where the politics of identity have been weaponised for political gain, and divisiveness is rewarded in likes, followers and votes, it presents the work of artists exploring how we:

  • Make peace with difficult histories and traumatic pasts without being paralysed by them
  • Listen to and amplify voices that are often ignored or suppressed
  • Work as citizens of a state, and members of a community, to shape a common future

Divided Selves is presented across four galleries. In the first, the works explore the process by which war and geo-politics have divided the earth into nation states, whose stability is increasingly at risk through war and oppression of ethnic minorities. Historic anniversaries of partitions and the often-violent birth of nations remind us of their fragility.

In the second gallery, artists engage with ideas of nation, not through lines and borders, but through the idea of 'imagined communities' put forward by political scientist Benedict Anderson, focusing on our shared stories, histories and cultural narratives. These works explore how this idea is under threat from digital technologies, unchecked capitalism and rising ethno-nationalism, and consider the resilience we find in hopeful acts of everyday living.

The remaining two galleries bring these separate but overlapping ideas of collective identity together in large-scale, immersive works. Over the course of this exhibition, these two galleries will change to present works that are being shown in Coventry – and some in the UK – for the first time.

Divided Selves includes works from the Herbert’s ‘Peace and Reconciliation’ collection and loans from the British Council Collection alongside new commissions and works borrowed directly from artists and their galleries. It also marks the development of the National Collections Centre in Coventry, which will house works from the Herbert and British Council collections, among others. 

Featured artists include: Larry Achiampong, Said Adrus, Array Collective, Fiona Banner aka The Vanity Press, Flo Brooks, Sophie Ernst, Gordon Cheung, Iftikhar Dadi & Nalini Malani, Richard Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, Aziz Hazara, Lubaina Himid, Sofia Karim, Peter Kennard, Delaine Le Bas, Goshka Macuga, Rene Matić, Chloe Dewe Matthews, Hetain Patel, Michael Peel, Jamal Penjweny, Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings, Donald Rodney and Jane & Louise Wilson.

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Email ctm.info@cvlife.co.uk

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