The Unfinished Conversation

Opening: Liverpool Biennial

September 2012

Three channel HD video installation, 7.1 sound

45 minutes 48 seconds

Director: John Akomfrah

Producers: Lina Gopaul and David Lawson

This multilayered and immersive installation investigates how identity is not an essence or being but instead a ‘becoming’, a product of history, memory and the intersections of the public and private.

Exploring the personal archive of the influential and acclaimed cultural theorist Stuart Hall (born 1932 Kingston, Jamaica), for whom identity and ethnicity are not fixed, but are the subject of an ‘ever-unfinished conversation’ the work unfolds over three large screens as Hall discusses his discovery of a personal and political identity.

Focusing on Hall’s “formative years” in the 1950s and 1960s, Akomfrah describes the work as an exercise in “spectropoetics”: a re-visitation of the ghosts that haunt a life.

Mixing a myriad of far ranging literary references, including William Blake, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf and carefully constructed archival sequences, Akomfrah uses Halls own life to investigate his theories and notions on identity, immigration and selfhood.

Identities are formed at the unstable point where personal lives meet the narrative of history. Identity is an ever-unfinished conversation.

Stuart Hall


Tate Britain

Nottingham New Art Exchange

Liverpool Biennial

Taipei Biennial

Warwick Art Centre

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

Sharjah Biennial

Goldsmiths University of London

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)