Sphinx At The Crystal Palace brings together three opaque and imperfect colonial subjects: the famous detective Hercule Poirot, radio producer and poet Una Marson and a one hundred year old palm tree, all implicated in an investigation of a crime no-one can remember.
From press release accompanying solo exhibition at Black Tower Projects, curated by Phil Serfaty (http://www.blacktowerprojects.com/projects/) :
'The starting point for this investigation is Black Poirot, a video work by Rosa Johan Uddoh in which the artist observes Poirot’s circumstances as a foreigner who is never quite accepted by the British aristocracy. In doing so, Uddoh recognises Poirot to be an outsider looking in, a black man flung from his homeland into the diaspora.
Assisting Black Poirot in this enquiry is Una Marson, a British/Jamaican activist, radio producer, presenter, and poet. While at the BBC she instigated Calling West Indies, the first radio show made from a Caribbean perspective for the purpose of Caribbean audiences. The Empire Service welcomed this broadcast, as it would encourage Caribbean colonial subjects to identify as British subjects, which was crucial if they were to be galvanised for the war effort.
Black Poirot and Una Marson stand at the foot of The Great Palm, a one hundred year old palm tree that was stolen from Réunion by the French, and shipped to Empress Joséphine's palm garden in Paris. When she died in 1814, and the French Empire began to fall, it was purchased in a coup for the English to be housed at Loddiges Botanical Garden in Hackney Central. When the Botanical garden went bust, The Great Palm was transported ostentatiously through the streets by a fleet of twenty horses to Crystal Palace. Now three stories high, The Great Palm was the centrepiece for the Festival of Empire, before it succumbed to, or perhaps fuelled, the flames that destroyed The Crystal Palace in 1936.
Using video, sound, performance and sculpture, Uddoh offers clues to the relationship between Poirot, Una Marson and The Great Palm and invites the viewer to investigate these awkward colonial subjects. Uddoh will host a number of performance events and workshops during the run of the exhibition, which will activate her installation and bring us deeper into the mystery of the Sphinx At The Crystal Palace.'