The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

The Power Plant presents The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding in partnership with Autograph ABP. The winter exhibition takes cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s (1932-2014) essay “Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse” as its point of departure, exploring how meaning is constructed, how it is systematically distorted by audience reception and how it can be detached and drained of its original intent to produce specific or slanted narratives.

Hall, a Jamaican-born United Kingdom academic, devoted his life to studying both the complexities and the interweaving threads that exist between culture, power, politics and history. He arrived in Great Britain in 1951 as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and quickly became one of the founding figures of the new left in Europe, a key architect of cultural studies, and one of Britain’s foremost public intellectuals. Hall’s interdisciplinary approach drew on literary theory, linguistics and cultural anthropology in order to analyze and articulate the relationship between history, culture, popular media, Cold War politics, gender and ethnicity. He has been credited with opening the debate on immigration and the politics of identity.

With Hall’s thinking in mind, The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding presents the work of Terry Adkins, John Akomfrah, Sven Augustijnen, Shelagh Keeley, Steve McQueen and Zineb Sedira. Their works cull from image and audio archives to reflect upon a particular socio-political event and its subsequent historicized narrative and the artists bring into play time, memory and archive in an effort to offer new readings of the past.

The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding lays emphasis on the idea that the visual is an assimilatory process, continuously at work in the construction of culture, political, personal and national identities. Together the works on view suggest that multiple and alternative perspectives are integral to understanding history, as accounts of the past are too often moulded by dominant narratives. In doing so, the works on view reframe particular socio-political moments in an effort to propose new ways of understanding the world we live in. They push formal boundaries to tackle significant social issues confronting contemporary culture.

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