Elsa James is a British African-Caribbean artist and activist whose practice intervenes in the overlapping discourses of race, gender, diaspora, and belonging.
Her Black British identity ignites her collaborative research-based practice, located within the fields of performance, film, sound, text and socially engaged art. Since 2018, Elsa has established a body of work focused on disrupting the Essex identity and cultural stereotypes, as she demarcates a ‘Black space’ that shifts the pejorative nationwide perception held about the county of Essex and its people.
For Precarious, we have dedicated our Project Space to the Black Interior, a series of prints which document the accounts of every day microaggressions experienced by four black men who share details of their lives in Essex. The black font on black paper is intentionally arduous to read, serving as a reminder about who is visible and who is invisible in our fractured society – and becomes fully legible to read as light reflects on the work. The audio accompanying the prints contains fragments of 1970s and 1980s BBC TV, which broadcast racism often wrapped in the cloak of ‘banter’ or ‘comedy’.
Elsa James lives and works in Essex. She has exhibited widely, including Othered in a Region that has been historically Othered at Focal Point Gallery, Southend (2022), New Contemporaries, touring (2021) and in Superblack at Firstsite, Colchester (2019), an exhibition which she co-curated.