Dark Matter responds to ‘Epidemic threats and racist legacies’

Animated-collage artist Dark Matter brings his unique combination of live footage and archive imagery to respond to a text suggesting that the field of epidemiology emerged in the 19th century imbued with the doctrine of Western imperialism.

Multimedia artwork by Dark Matter

  • In pictures

My father was Jamaican, and I grew up as a mixed-race child in 1970s Britain, where postcolonial attitudes and prejudices were still prevalent. Life was not always so easy.

I'm now Senior Lecturer in Fashion Communication at Brighton University, where the movement to decolonise the curriculum is at the forefront of our minds. It is increasingly a consideration of the way we teach, and what we teach. 

The following short films were created in response to ‘Epidemic threats and racist legacies‘, written by Jacob Steere-Williams. Titled ‘Ivory Tower’ and ‘Macroscopic’, these films allowed me to explore the subject of physical, social and cultural representations of African and colonised people, in the context of decolonising medical history, refuting outdated expectations and looking with a clearer-eyed focus on wrongful attitudes and treatment. 

Ivory Tower

Queen Victoria looks out at her cannons blazing across her empire. So begins a symbolic journey through colonised territories, doctors engaging problematically with local children and holding presence in Indigenous communities. In tandem with this critical lens, a subversive voice makes itself known: elements interact to subvert, interrupt and disengage problematic subjects from their patients, so that cultural pride and magnificence stands alone, defiant, at the close of the film.

Epidemic threats and racist legacies. © Dark Matter / Studio PI for Wellcome Collection.

‘Ivory Tower’, 2022.

Macroscopic

In territories where Indigenous peoples had dealt with and treated infections and diseases for millennia, the external eye of the British Empire declared them to be dirty and dangerous. In this second, shorter film, the microscope’s eye is the colonist’s eye as we go down the rabbit hole of the lens and witness the perception of how diseases were said to grow and spread through the empire.

Epidemic threats and racist legacies. © Dark Matter / Studio PI for Wellcome Collection.

‘Macroscopic’, 2022.

About the artist

Black and white, head and shoulders photographic portrait of Chris Arran.

Dark Matter

Dark Matter is the pseudonym of illustrator, animator and artist Chris Arran. He creates animated collages that are fizzing and sparkling with style, blending live-action footage with animation, 3D, illustration and sharp editing. His art is defined by his curiosity, exploring a variety of ideas, including the beauty of black skin, the celebration of age, and questions about sustainability and ways to live in a more vibrant world. His works are driven by the universal energy that connects us all, exuding positivity and giving a voice to inclusivity and diversity.