Liz Johnson Artur: Dusha

Brooklyn is where it all started for Russian Ghanaian artist Liz Johnson Artur (b. 1964). While visiting in 1986, she stayed with a Russian family in a predominantly Black neighborhood and began experimenting with her first camera. Having grown up in Bulgaria, Germany, and Russia, she was inspired by her visit to use photography as a way to connect with other people of African descent. Since moving to London in 1991, she has employed photography not only to make a living—publishing work in magazines such as i-D and The Face—but also to document the multiplicity of everyday life in Africa, Europe, North America, and the Caribbean.

Dusha, the Russian word for “soul,” is Johnson Artur’s first solo museum exhibition. It primarily features a selection of photographic works, including photo “sketchbooks” and videos, that draw from her vast Black Balloon Archive. This includes some of her most iconic pictures from the past thirty years as well as new photographs, such as portraits of people associated with a monthly East London club night. A copious selection of the artist's photographic sketchbooks highlights the ways in which she has organized and conceptualized her Archive since the early 1990s. Two videos and a sound installation show how she focuses on the unique voices of her subjects, from the stories of other Russians of African and Caribbean descent to a visual and audio portrait of legendary Ghanaian photographer James Barnor.