Brexit and the Occult: Gendered Ghosts of Empire Falmer 4 February 2020

Performance art at the University of Sussex 16.15-18.00, Arts A108

In 2018, artist collective Project O exhibited Saved (2018) at London’s Somerset House. The video-installation featured two women of colour in swimwear and plastic robes performing magical rituals in a post-apocalyptic watery wasteland. What might such an artwork mean in the midst of Brexit? Since the 2016 referendum, Leavers and Remainers increasingly used the occult as a metaphor to attack each other. The press have also warned of a ‘Tarot revival thanks to Brexit’ (BBC News) or ‘Cults, human sacrifice and pagan sex: how folk horror is flowering again in Brexit Britain’ (The Guardian). With anti-racist and feminist theorists, artists, poets and activists reclaiming witchcraft as a tool of protest – what might contemporary art tell us about the current crisis of British identity?

Dr Edwin Coomasaru is an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art. His current research examines the politics of gender, sexuality and race in Brexit’s visual culture – for which he was awarded The Courtauld’s 2018-19 Sackler Research Forum Postdoctoral Fellowship. His AHRC-funded PhD at The Courtauld examined representations of gender, sexuality and the legacy of the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’. He has contributed to The Irish Times, Irish Studies Review, The Irish Review, Photoworks Annual, Burlington Contemporary, and the Barbican’s upcoming exhibition catalogue on masculinity and photography.

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