At Home: Reading – Empire of Love / Black History Month

For this months reading list we are looking at 6 works related to a recent acquisition and conversations happening for Black History Month. In the week leading up to re-opening (5 October) we installed some recent acquisitions for Glasgow Museums’ Collection including Empire of Love (2020) by Glasgow based, contemporary artist Camara Taylor. They were originally commissioned to make a work that would be a catalyst for a conversation in the exhibition Domestic Bliss, but it became clear as the work developed that it would make a provocative addition to the Fine Art Collection and we were delighted when National Fund for Acquisitions supported the purchase of the work.

Images of Empire of Love (2020), Camara Taylor installed in Domestic Bliss, Gallery 4 – © Camara Taylor

Empire of Love (2020) is a series of Zippo® lighters which Taylor has had engraved with text in key Scottish writing against the abolition of slavery, in particular James Boswell’s 1791 poem ‘No Abolition of Slavery, or the Universal Empire of Love’.

The engraved texts include the following excepts:

licentious joy!
your false philanthropy calls
Let’s justify the Planters’ ways
Love’s strong empire must remain
anti-colonial ire / ensnaring and deceitful veil
No Abolition of Slavery

Empire of Love (2020) quietly inserts itself into the corner cabinet in Domestic Bliss and engages with the social history objects on display there. It inserts a literal incendiary device in to disrupt the white privileged merchant narratives on elite dining clubs, aspirational lifestyles and Glasgow’s proclaimed reputation as the second City of Empire.

Camara Taylor (2019) – portrait by Matthew Arthur Williams as part of an ongoing commission for Glasgow Museums to document artists in the collection © Matthew Arthur Williams

In the conversations with the artist about the commission they spoke about the first three books listed below that inspired the development of their thinking. When we caught up with them recently they spoke about the last three books below as works that they returned to while making Empire of Love.

They make for powerful reading and especially relevant during Black History month and thinking about Empire, Class and the legacies of slavery.

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being 
Christina Sharpe

Know your Place: Essays on the Working Class
Nathan Connolly (editor)

No Abolition of Slavery- Empire of Love – A Poem
James Boswell

Ima-Abasi Okon

Passion: Discourses on Blackwomen’s Creativity
Maud Sulter

Shola von Reinhold
Review by Christiana Spens

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