South London based Artist, Curator and Educator, Barby Asante studied Fine Art at the University of East London, where she began making work in film, photography and installation, placing herself in the frame as a means of confronting the audience with the perceived problem of her image. Making the idea of dialogue and participation a defining part of her practice, Asante shifts freely between roles as artist, curator, educator, facilitator and other roles exploring and emphasising the importance of the dialogic and social aspects of creative and artistic practice.
Asante is interested in creating works that stimulate dialogue around the cross-cultural and multicultural and how we view and frame these questions in contemporary Britain, often using familiar or popular culture triggers as a means to begin the dialogue.
After completing her MA in Visual Culture at Middlesex University, she was invited to be artist in residence at the 198 Gallery. Still exploring themes of identity and feeling troubled by the idea of the passive viewer considering her image, she began to develop strategies that shifted the gaze back onto the viewer and invited the viewer to take part in an exploration of their own identity in relation to hers. Using wigs to explore the creation of identity and our desires around our identities, Wig Therapy (198 Gallery, 2001) invited its audience to take part in a dialogue with the artist by becoming the artist’s client in a one to one session akin to that of a therapy session. In 2002, picking up on the fact that it was a Jubilee year, she took on the role of an explorer in London to reflect on ideas of Britishness. In Journey into the East (the Showroom, 2002), she took a journey from south London to east London. Asante turned the gallery space into a tearoom where you could get a free cup of tea, join in one of her weekend saloons with invited guest speakers, read her diaries of her visits to east London, watch video’s of people she visited in east London’s tea rituals and explore the objects she was given on her journey.
Recently Asante has been working on projects exploring music and its cultural and social significance, with particular emphasis on black music and it’s importance in the creation of a post-war British cultural identity. This work includes projects such as the Funk Chorus, a non professional choir with a Funk repertoire which began as a part of Harold Offeh’s Mothership Collective (South London Gallery, 2006); Barby’s Karaoke (Studio Voltaire, 2009), a karaoke DVD made with Caribbean Elders group Stockwell Good Neighbours and Bamboo Memories (Picture This, 2009) a film piece made with people from Bristol reflecting on Bristol’s first black music nightclub. She has shown work in exhibitions and festivals nationally and internationally and has also been involved in projects with the Live Art Development Agency, home Live Art, Hewitt and Jordan, The Serpentine Gallery and 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, where she is currently Associate Curator.