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Installation - © Science Museum/Jennie Hills
In the House of My Father - Loan from Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London
Marlene Smith installing Blood is...? - © Science Museum/Jennie Hills
Blood is...? - © Science Museum/Jennie Hills
Location: Who am I? gallery, first floor Wellcome Wing (no longer on display)
In the House of My Father is a photograph of artist Donald Rodney’s hand holding a sculpture of a house made from his own skin. Rodney often took an autobiographical approach in his work to explore identity, family and the politics of race. He suffered from sickle-cell anaemia, a debilitating genetic blood disorder, and collected the skin from one of the many operations he underwent throughout his life.
To accompany the installation of In the House of My Father, Rodney’s friend and collaborator Marlene Smith worked with Year 11 BTEC art students from his former secondary school, St Michael’s CE High School in the West Midlands. The students’ task was to create artworks which explore the themes raised by Rodney’s seminal artwork. They took photos of themselves and chosen objects to capture their personal identities, and then transformed the photographs to construct their own house. Their final artwork, Blood is...?, echoes and connects with the processes Rodney used when creating In the House of My Father.
Smith created Thicker than water?, a video montage that includes photographs and comments from the students as they responded to questions Marlene raised about family and kinship. The images of hands, skin, eyes and hair symbolise personal identity and refer to family history and bloodlines.
British artist and curator Marlene Smith (born 1964) exhibited work alongside fellow students as part of the Blk Art Group. Smith was also Director of London’s Black Art Gallery in the 1990s and joined multi-million-pound project The Public in 2001. From 2003 she led the gallery there until going to work in Shanghai in 2009 as part of a NESTA fellowship.
In the House of My Father is kindly on loan from Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London.
British artist Donald Rodney (1961-1998) emerged in the 1980s and worked alongside Eddie Chambers, Claudette Johnson, Keith Piper and Marlene Smith as a member of the Blk Art Group. A prolific collective active from 1981 to 1984, the group explored black identity by organising two national conferences and exhibiting their works.
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