BALTIC commission process journal


BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

22 October 2022 – 30 April 2023

Hinterlands is a group exhibition that invites us to consider our relationship with the land and its ecosystems. The artists showcased explore complex histories, mythologies, legacies and potential futures for its custodianship.

The show considers the landscape of the North East, its histories, mythologies and legacies and potential futures for custodianship. New commissions and existing works by artists connected with the area reflect on ideas of rootedness and belonging, human and more-than-human relationships, boundaries, land and time in the era of the climate emergency.

The idea of hinterlands – the land away from the coast or the banks of a river – is at the core of the exhibition, which explores what lies beyond the visible or known. Considering land and place as a complex layering of relationships, the exhibition will explore these ideas through innovative artistic processes and approaches, including through the possibilities of materials and contexts: geological, biological and social, shaped and hardened by history.


Michele Allen / Uma Breakdown / Jo Coupe / Laura Harrington / Emily Hesse /Alexandra Hughes / Mani Kambo / Dawn Felicia Knox / Sheree Angela Matthews / Anne Vibeke Mou / Sabina Sallis

Taken from The BALTIC’s website.

If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

Toni Morrison

BALTIC commission process journal

I’ve been commissioned to create new artwork for a group exhibition taking place on Level 3 of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Autumn 2022.

This was an invitation extended to me after a few years of working with the BALTIC on establishing anti-racism practices within the foundations of the institution. I had the pleasure of working with the Learning and Civic Engagement team to produce a number of different resources for schools. As well as working with the staff to facilitate their anti-racism reading group from 2021-2022.

I’m honoured to be recognised as a practicing artist now with this commission and I’m working hard to make sure what I produce work which reflects my varied and diverse practice as well as gives this opportunity the due justice it deserves.

Here I’ll be sharing my process and practice as I explore the themes and focus of the exhibition as we’ll as share some sneaky glimpses of the final product/commission.

The Atlantic Ocean wasn’t simply a conveyance of the slave trade, it was … a place of transformation from human to cargo.

Ellen Gallagher
BALTIC commission process journal

Talking Things Through – 15 June 2022

BALTIC commission process journal

This week saw me meeting with one of the curators of the Hinterlands exhibition to talk about my commission. If I’m being honest, I was and wasn’t looking forward to meeting. I felt as if I was no further forward than the last time we talked. I felt as if I had nothing to show for my research, reading and thinking. 

As it happened, the meeting turned out to be really productive and inspiring and encouraging as I appreciated the time and space to talk through my thoughts and ideas. To think about the concepts and themes and logistics with someone else is a valuable resource I’d forgotten about or taken for granted. So I was super grateful to come out of the meeting, not so much everything pinned down, but more of an idea of the next step.

My next best step, which really is all I should be focusing on as a means of not allowing this commission to run away from me is to take my forthcoming residency at Cornwall Zine Library @ Fish Factory Arts as an opportunity to gain some clarity and produce a project proposal that will communicate my vision to others. 

That is my next step, a big one, but a really exciting one as once I have it pinned down what I want to do, I can start executing it to the best of my ability. 


The Rain in Cornwall – 19 June

Tonight in Penryn I appreciate the sound of the rain, the fading light and nothing really to do except listen.

It’a only in recent years, have I come to appreciate the sense of sound. In the past, I’ve not had the patience or reason enough to slow down and listen. Until, I was forced to with a global pandemic. Then everything took on new meaning. And things I knew about myself came undone or were no longer true. The voice, sounds and silence became my companion as I dived into listening to podcasts.
The feelings I get when listening to someone speak to me, and only to me through my headphones is so intimate and close that all else doesn’t exist. I’m cocooned in this world created just by their words, voice, music, and silence. It’s magical. It’s powerful.

So who wouldn’t want to replicate this? The Earth Sea Love Podcast was born. Sharing stories and experiences of Black bodies in nature is the focus and it’s uniqueness.
Somewhere in this commission there will be sound. My voice, field recordings, music. I do not know how or what yet, but for the fullest of expression and connection there has to be something for the sense of sound.

My practice is the Practice of ::SLOW::

Here on a residency in Cornwall, I’m not rushing to rush into anything. I’m content to lie here, cosy, let the night come on and the rain continue to fall. Listening to the water hit the water. Rain hit river. Heart hit home.

BALTIC commission process journal

How are things going with the Baltic Commission? I was asked today! – 06 July

I worked it out, from 01 July to 09 October 2022, it is exactly 100 days. As you know, if you are frequent visitor here, I’m known for completing 100 day projects around certain practices and projects. 100daysofBlackWomen, 100daysofAbstracts, 100daysoftheGoddessAndLove.

I find committing to a project or series for 100 days as a great device to use in order to keep touching it. To keep me up close to the project as well as making sure I hold myself accountable and producing. From the beginning of July, I took up the challenge of another 100 day project for this Baltic commission.

In some shape or form, I’ve been engaging with, touching, musing around my proposal for this group exhibition. The proposal involves creating a multi-disciplinary archival installation.

I know it sounds big and bold.

Title: The Country Journal of a Blackwoman (Northumberland)

For details to follow.


BALTIC commission process journal

“The most effective way to do it is to do it.”

Sonia Boyce

I set myself the task of touching the Hinterlands commission every day for the next 100 days from the beginning of July. And on the whole, I have succeeded so far in this task. Day 23 of July and I’ll be honest, this commission is filling my waking and sleeping hours, as I agonise over how to bring my ideas and concepts to fruition. How to communicate what I think, or feel or see to others. How to make that connection of understanding, empathy and solidarity when exploring the Black woman’s body with/in nature.

This is not an easy task. And I think I’ve made the task more difficult for myself by trying to incorporate multiple and diverse art form into the brief. It’s that same old story, that fear of never getting another chance like this so I have to say everything I’ve ever wanted to say on the subject all at once to make sure I get my message across. That I use this opportunity to it’s limits as this might be my only shot, my only slot, my only opportunity to speak and shine.

Of course this is not based on fantasy. This is based on fact. Did you know that just 2,000 artworks in the UK’s permanent art collections are by Black artists – most of which aren’t on display?


What’s been happening? – 22 September

Queen Nefertiti’s Bust

I know it’s been a while since I’ve been here. And I’m here late at night. Can’t sleep. So what’s a better way to use my sleepless nights if not updating this project page?

I can honestly say, that since I took up the 100 days of touching this commission, I have stayed true to it and got stuck into it.

It helped that I had some concentrated time on residency in Edinburgh in August at the Split Milk Gallery. It also helped that I’ve been totally inspired and excited about the whole process. I think this stems from believing in my ideas and having a vision but also going with the flow and appreciating the process.

So I’ve been creating/ imagining an archive of my matrilineage and our bodies in the landscape. I’ve been having so much fun creating a composite Blackwoman and her country diary ( Northumberland). So much fun that the time has just flown by and because of other commitments, I’m ready to hand everything over to the BALTIC tomorrow.

I’m done. It’s complete and I’m proud. I’ve been oscillating between being freaked out about being on show at the BALTIC and that this is just a stop on this exploration of the archive. I know now that this work will continue. I’m already excited about the next step because I know I’ve held back on this commission. Not that I didn’t deliver but I mean the more I practiced the more ideas and possible explorations came to the top. And I had to put a stop/ draw a line somewhere otherwise I’d be still creating now. But I know there’s juice still in the tank and give me a little rest and I’ll be diving back in for more. And see where this next stop of this journey will be.

Archive: The Country Diary of a Blackwoman – 3rd November 2022

A Visual Journal Spread from The Country Journal of a Blackwoman (Northumberland), archive

Right now my practice is on display within The BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary Art. 

As I was out of the country when the group exhibition, Hinterlands, launched on Friday 22 October, 2022, I managed to get into seeing it after such event the following week. 

I really didn’t know what to expect as you visualise the end result, the culmination of months of hard work, dreaming and winging it. But to actually see it all come together in a white cube space is another thing.

I visited my archive last week, with my daughter, excited and nervous and unsure. I got to see The Country Journal of a Blackwoman(Northumberland) exhibited on level 3 of The BALTIC. I was shocked and surprised to see my work out of context within this space. It was an emotional as well as nerve wracking experience. 

Because of my absence, I had to leave instructions about the installation as well as extensive notes and labels for each art piece. There are about 50 items if not more within this creative archive. It’s to be expected that things got lost or mislaid in translation. So my focus for this trip was to make sure everything was how I wanted it to be. 

After some discussion and sending of correct audio files, everything is now complete and as I want it to be presented to the world.

I’m not sure how I feel that during the launch of the whole exhibition, that things were wrong or missing. But I do know that after seeing everything in terms of my contribution and making things right after my visit, I felt great relief and was able to enjoy the achievement. It was also weird to be there at the same time as seeing peel interacting with my work. I’m not sure I want to have many experiences like that as their reactions did affect my state of mind, pride and achievement. And it would be very unsetting, I feel, to be there and witness someone laughing and disrespecting my work. I think this is something I need to gain a thicker skin for. But right now, my skin is thin for a number of reasons, tat I might explore here in time. 

I know I have to return now, to take in the rest of the group show as well as the rest of The BALTIC’s exhibitions for this season, as this is a strong presentation.

I’m honoured to be showing at the same time with them.

Of course more reflection and images to come around this achievement. 

22 October 2022 – 30 April 2023, BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary

Capture: The Country Journal of a Blackwoman – 3rd November 2022

A walk thru of The Country Journal of a Blackwoman ( Northumberland), BALTIC, October 2022

Hinterlands Finissage – 24 March, 2023

Blessed Martin- Patron Saint of Racial Harmony

As you know, I had the honour of being part of a group exhibition at the BALTIC this winter, Hinterlands, with my creative archive titled, A Country Journal of a Blackwoman( Northumberland).

I’ve enjoyed revisiting the exhibition throughout it’s installation, alone and with others. What has been so rewarding has been the responses I’ve received from individual directly, as well as through the BALTIC in relation to the exhibition and my contribution.

Once such response or experience really made me laugh out loud with joy and surprise and involved the statue of Blessed Martin, pictured above.

I argue that creating alternative labels for each item within my archive as a must, as a means of extending the conversation, bringing in a chorus of diverse voices into the white cube space as well as pushing back against the standard, expected practice and pushing back to decolonising the space. 

The label assigned to this artefact of Blessed Martin reads: 

Blessed Martin ~ Patron Saint of Racial Harmony

“Take Blessed Martin with you. In your pocket in you bag, whatever. Whenever you go outside, traveling or just walking. Take Blessed Martin with you. He will protect your journey. Keeping you safe with the ancestors as you journey through this world as a Black woman; present and absent.” Advice from Mother given to her sojourning Daughter.”

On one visit to the exhibition, I was told the story around one woman who took the time to really read this label and then proceeded to take the statue down from display, place him in their bad and walk out with him. Luckily, they were spotted doing this and were stopped before they could leave the building.

This individual believed that if they literally took this saint and carried him with them that they would be safe and protected. My response to hearing this tail, after a full belly laugh, was that they must have needed him, at this time. And I felt humbled that they wanted to be part, gain something from this archive also. 

The exhibition ends April 30 and to mark it there will be a closing event at the BALTIC. 


Saturday 29 April 11am, Donation & free tickets available. This is going to be a whole day event where you’ll get to hear from the artist who have been part of the exhibition. Some will be performing, reading work and sharing natural rituals.

I think I’ll be sharing around building an archive for ourselves so we start taking back the power around who gets to decide what is collected and preserved for future generations. Who’s histories and stories are worthy of being part of an archive?

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