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WHAT I'VE BEEN DOING LATELY (2023), explores archival imagery as a potent source of poetic utterance. Combining photographic, musical, and literary references, Southgate-Smith’s compositions capture fragments of black experiences with multi-sensory resonance, allowing viewers to engage with the deliberate interventions both intellectually and emotionally. The series’ title is borrowed from Jamaica Kincaid’s 1981 short story, featuring an introspective narrative and a protagonist recounting moments from her life that blur the line between memory and imagination. Southgate-Smith aims to embody a similar approach to storytelling, where historical and cultural anchors, alongside the creative potential of archives, are used to visually convey the collective complexities and realities of the black experience. Much of the original imagery for the series is sourced from John H. White’s photographic series Portrait of Black Chicago, which resides within the National Archives and Records Administration (United States). Originally commissioned as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA project, White was assigned to document “subjects of environmental concern” on the South Side of Chicago in 1973–74, but instead found a resilient community of Black residents facing difficult circumstances with “spirit, love, zeal, pride and hope.”

Archival material: 

 

1. READING IN-BETWEEN SPACES (2023); John H. White: Lexington, North Carolina; 1945. (August 1973) Black Beauties With Colorful Hair Grace A Float During The Annual Bud Billiken Day Parade [Photograph] National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency; Project: DOCUMERICA; courtesy of The National Archive; Samuel Daniell: Chertsey; 1775-1811. (1804) A Kaffer village; Native village and watering hole. [Aquatint] Image is taken from A collection of plates illustrative of African scenery and animals, with descriptive letterpress; Project: General Dundas's expedition in South Africa 180; copyright unknown; courtesy of The British Library; 2. TOMORROW IS MY TURN (2023); John H. White: Lexington, North Carolina; 1945. (August 1973) Black Beauties With Colorful Hair Grace A Float During The Annual Bud Billiken Day Parade [Photograph] National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency; Project, DOCUMERICA; courtesy of The National Archive; John H. White: Lexington, North Carolina; 1945. (October 1973) Black Soul Singer Isaac Hayes Performs At The International Amphitheater In Chicago [Photograph] National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency; Project, DOCUMERICA; courtesy of The National Archive; 3. ‘NEATH THE MANGO TREE (2023); John H. White: Lexington, North Carolina; 1945. (August 1973) Black Family Enjoying The Summer Weather At Chicago's 12th Street Beach On Lake Michigan [Photograph] National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency; Project, DOCUMERICA; courtesy of The National Archive; 4. OWARE (2023); John H. White: Lexington, North Carolina; 1945. (August 1973) Black Beauties With Colorful Hair Grace A Float During The Annual Bud Billiken Day Parade [Photograph] National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency; Project: DOCUMERICA; courtesy of The National Archive; Frederic Morellec: France. (30 May 2000) Image of artwork from Galerie CSAO private collection [Photograph] Project: African Style, by Stephanie Guibourge, published by Flammarion; courtesy of Galerie CSAO; 5. WATERING SEEDS (2023)John H. White: Lexington, North Carolina; 1945. (August 1973) Black Beauties With Colorful Hair Grace A Float During The Annual Bud Billiken Day Parade [Photograph] National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency; Project, DOCUMERICA; courtesy of The National Archive; Richard Earlom: London; 1743-1822. Johan Joseph Zoffany RA: Frankfurt; 1733-1810. (2 December 1802) Tiger Hunting in the East Indies [Mezzotint] Project: British Deputy High Commission, Kolkata, India. Purchased from Colnaghi, April 1952; copyright unknown; courtesy of The British Library.

"Tomorrow Is My Turn" (song), is the English version of "L'Amour, c'est comme un jour" (1962) a song by Charles Aznavour. Written by Marcel Stellman for Nina Simone, the song was recorded by Nina Simone on her 1965 album I Put a Spell on You.