John Akomfrah
The Unfinished Conversation

17 January - 7 March 2015

Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre

Coventry, UK

Free exhibition

The Unfinished Conversation examines the nature of the visual as triggered across an individual’s memory landscape.

Stuart McPhail Hall (1932-2014) arrived in Britain from Jamaica as a student in 1951 and, by 1968, had become a key architect of cultural studies and one of Britain’s foremost public intellectuals. A founder of the New Left Review in the 1950s, Hall joined the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University in 1964 and became director there in 1968. Hall believed identity and ethnicity not to be fixed, but to be the subject of an ‘ever-unfinished conversation’.

In The Unfinished Conversation, artist John Akomfrah interweaves archival imagery of Hall with news footage from the 1960s and 1970s, all overlaid with a stunning soundtrack incorporating the writings of William Blake, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, Jazz and Gospel music.

Past Acclaim for The Unfinished Conversation

Much more than biopic, Akomfrah juxtaposes archive news footage, readings of William Blake, Dickens and Virginia Woolf and most of all Hall's own voice, to describe the world's tumbling. Hall's thoughts about identity, immigration and selfhood, evolve through a roar of telling images. Akomfrah's film, like the essence of Hall's work, is about the conundrum of being in the world, and is as unexpected as it is brilliant.

Adrian Searle, The Guardian

The Unfinished Conversation deserves at least three viewings

Sanjay Brown, LeftLion Art

Akomfrah’s film stands out as a work of substance that says important things about what Britain has become over the last half century.

Mark Hudson, The Telegraph

Anyone with an interest in identity will find this compelling

Mark Sheerin, Culture 24

What the Press Says

deserves notice...conjures a multilayered celebration of Hall’s central principle: that ethnic, sexual and cultural identity are open to recreation. What’s truly remarkable is Akomfrah’s interweaving of intellectual insight and poetic evocation.

The Guardian


The Unfinished Conversation commissioned by

Autograph ABP

Executive Producer

Mark Sealy

Mark Sealy MBE is the Director of Autograph ABP. He is currently a PhD candidate at Durham University, his research focuses on photography and cultural violence.

Produced by

Lina Gopaul and David Lawson, Smoking Dogs Films

In collaboration with

Professor Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall was one of the founding figures of the school of thought that is now known as British Cultural Studies.

Additional Info

Mead Gallery
Warwick Arts Centre
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL

T: 024 7652 3734
E: arts.centre@warwick.ac.uk

Opening hours
Mon - Sat 12pm - 9pm

  • Still from John Akomfrah, The Unfinished Conversation
  • Installation at Warwick Arts Centre