Maybelle Peters | Attention, Absorption

Thursday 15th September - Friday 25th November

Attention, Absorption is British Guyanese artist Maybelle Peters‘ most comprehensive exhibition of work in the UK to date. The show leads on from the When We Worked at Raleigh  (WWWAR) project and oral archive between 2020 and 2021 which was delivered in partnership with Nottingham Black Archive.


Peters’ newly commissioned time-based media works include a short 16 mm film, an installation of CGI animation, objects, and sound. The sound work is conceptualised and composed in collaboration with musician Tom Harris and sound artist Jim Brouwer. Accompanying the sculptural elements are archival images from the Historic England Archive of The Howitt Building (former Raleigh Cycle Company main offices) and a piece of artwork by British Jamaican photographer Vanley Burke. Raleigh is one of the world’s oldest and best-known bicycle manufacturers and brands. Established in 1887 in Nottingham, England, it is a longstanding institution which offered employment to the Windrush Generation, particularly Jamaicans, arriving in Nottingham and Britain.

During the last year, Peters undertook Research and Development for the WWWAR commission. The artist used her personal archives and reflexive journaling to respond to collective histories and worked with Bettina Wallace (née Wint), a WWWAR interviewee and former Raleigh employee. 3D scans of Wallace and an approach of deep listening to Wallace’s account of her time spent at Raleigh sensitively bring together a nuanced experience. Throughout the process, there has been a focus on the specific navigation of workers, care for Black interiority, the structure and sections of the working day, and the factory’s location on Lenton Boulevard. A tree is utilised as a symbolic and direct reference to the site. The exhibition explores the spatial design of the place, including the vegetation, the building, and factory assembly lines, by interrogating their linearity and how they co-exist in parallel.

The resulting body of work takes an interdisciplinary approach to consider the effects of obtrusive conditions pertaining to ecological and industrial environments. Drawing links between environmental and workplace toxicity, Peters explores the adaptability and resilience of the Black Caribbean labour force working within British industries. Institutional racism and toxic workplace structures, processes, and behaviours could be seen as ’emissions’. These ‘emissions’ linger as deteriorative and disruptive forces—an undercurrent of glitches, noise, wind, and the sound of machinery constantly in flux. Toxins and pollutants are registered in the moving image and sound works. Visible changes in movement, visibility and tonal values respond to the cumulative presence of unabated exertion—linking to themes of repetition and gesture; social class; the politics of labour; and onerous systems.

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