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Frieze London 2021

Languid Hands On Being Artists Who Curate

Meet the London-based collaborative duo, curators this year's Frieze London LIVE programme

BY Olamiju Fajemisin in Frieze Week Magazine , Profiles | 12 OCT 21

'We leave blueprints made by languid hands,’ reads the statement of London-based writer and performer Imani Robinson and DJ and filmmaker Rabz Lansiquot, who act under the collaborative honorific, Languid Hands. Acting both as a statement of concession and intent, their maxim acknowledges ‘all of the people who came before’, meanwhile expressing their duty to ‘leave traces behind so that they can be picked up [and] built upon by other people in the same way we did with those who came before us’. And so the cycle continues.

Ashley Holmes
Ashley Holmes. Photo: Deniz Guzel

Mapping the trajectory of the pair’s individual and shared careers – rooted as much in art-making as in its facilitation – leads from traditional and non-traditional pedagogical structures through institutions and institutional critique to anti-racist, abolitionist organizing. Criticality, too, is fundamental to the duo. ‘We want to be held accountable by the people we trust enough to hold us accountable, including each other, right?’ Robinson asks Lansiquot, who nods in agreement, as they speak to me via Zoom from their London home, occasionally looking at one another for affirmation as they describe their mutable strategies for translating social and political concepts across curatorial and exhibition semantics.

Currently in residence as 2020–22 curatorial fellows at Cubitt Gallery in London, Robinson and Lansiquot are midway through realizing their long-postponed programme of newly commissioned solo exhibitions by four UK-based Black artists of Caribbean descent: R.I.P. Germain, Shenece Oretha, Camara Taylor and Ajamu X. ‘No Real Closure’ navigates mourning, Black queer community and colonialism, among other ideas, through multifaceted installations and archival presentations, allowing for multiple points of critical entry and departure. Fundamentally, Languid Hands are concerned with foregrounding and supporting artists in a city – London – where infrastructures and institutions (particularly in the eyes of those raised there, like Robinson, Lansiquot and myself) are at once underwhelming for their overfamiliarity, yet conventionally inaccessible.

Rebecca Bellantoni
Rebecca Bellantoni. Photo: Deniz Guzel

Though there is no single point in time that can be identified as the genesis of Languid Hands, the seeds for Robinson and Lansiquot’s shared practice were sown in 2015, when they met as anthropology students at the University of Sussex. (Robinson read international relations, too.) Recalling their time at Sussex, Robinson summarizes their experience as a ‘real education in colonial logic’, one that they saw as decidedly ‘very helpful’, since ‘it gave [them] a really robust, critical voice’ of the kind typically denied to the average Black British student. The crux of Robinson’s theory of refusal hinges on how to extract value from an otherwise harmful educational context. Moreover, they are grateful for the insight they gained into interpersonal and governmental relationships, as evidenced through their longstanding commitment to anti-racist organizing, particularly direct action, and to promoting political education among communities of Black queer people. While in their first year at Sussex, Lansiquot became involved in ‘Baldwin’s Nigger RELOADED’, a cross-cultural discursive project initiated by curator Teresa Cisneros and Lansiquot’s mother, artist Barby Asante. This project soon spawned the sorryyoufeeluncomfortable (SYFU) collective, where Lansiquot and Robinson first engaged collaboratively in radical study and public programming. ‘That was the beginning for me as a filmmaker,’ says Lansiquot, who produced their first film during this time with the support of the collective, ‘and also as a curator [...] We were thinking about public programming, institutional critique and race politics.’ After five years of ‘ebbs and flows and transformation’, Robinson and Lansiquot realised they had yet to work exclusively with each other. ‘We thought about what we wanted to do as a duo.’ In this time, Lansiquot had embarked on a master’s degree in documentary film alongside a curatorial research residency at LUX, London. Meanwhile, Robinson was studying Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. Languid Hands was the sum of these parts.


Ebun Sodipo performing live
Ebun Sodipo. Photo: Deniz Guzel

For the forthcoming edition of Frieze London’s LIVE, the duo will present an online programme of performances by artists Rebecca Bellantoni, Ashley Holmes and Ebun Sodipo – something of an extension of ‘No Real Closure’. ‘It goes back to this idea of us being artists who are interested in programming other artists. It’s really exciting, as a performance artist, to be involved in putting this programme together,’ explains Robinson. ‘It’s really an opportunity to commission and programme performances, just as we were doing before the pandemic,’ adds Lansiquot, noting crucially: ‘We want to put a spotlight on the artists we believe deserve attention, deserve to be resourced and deserve to have their work witnessed in this city. It’s about who we want to honour in this moment.’

‘We are very different, actually,’ Robinson tells me. The mutual synthesis of the duo’s working process functions because each partner plays to their respective strengths, with one assuming responsibility to allow the other a moment of respite, and vice versa. At this juncture in their career, Robinson explains, ‘there is a way that we could very easily be consumed and make a series of wrong decisions. It feels like a really important time to think through what is possible for us, what we want to generate for ourselves and for our communities.’ ‘And, also, to take a break,’ interjects Lansiquot, ‘because I’m 26 and you’re 29.’ Robinson laughs: ‘It might look like we’re in a rush, but we’re not.’

The performance programme will be hosted online on frieze.com from Thursday 14 October.

This article first appeared in Frieze Week, October 2021 under the headline 'Live and Kicking'

Main image: Imani Robinson (left) and Rabz Lansiquot (right), aka Languid Hands, at Cubitt Arts, London. Portrait: Adama Jalloh

Olamiju Fajemisin is a writer based in London, UK.