Elsa James is a British African-Caribbean, conceptual artist and activist living in Essex since 1999. Her work intervenes in the overlapping discourses of race, gender, diaspora and belonging. Her black British identity ignites her interdisciplinary and research-based practice, located within the fields of contemporary performance, text and language-based art, socio-political and socially engaged art; occasionally dabbling with drawing and painting.
Solo works employ recollection and the archives, to examine ideas surrounding regionality of race and black subjectivity. Recent projects Forgotten Black Essex (2018) and Black Girl Essex (2019) explore the historical, temporal and spatial dimensions of what it means to be black in Essex; England's most misunderstood, and, homogeneously white county. Her social practice includes advocating for the inclusion of marginalised voices and communities in the arts sector; New Ways of Seeing, Making and Telling (2018), a visual provocation and live debate, challenged how the art sector can 'genuinely' address barriers to participation and involvement in the arts for Black, Asian and other minority communities.
Elsa has exhibited, screened and presented projects nationally, including Autograph (ABP), London; Big Screen Southend at Focal Point Gallery, Southend; Create London, London; Firstsite Gallery, Colchester; Furtherfield, London; Metal Culture, Southend; Site Gallery, Sheffield and Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, London. Forthcoming exhibitions include a solo exhibition at Focal Point Gallery in Spring 2022. She is currently a Syllabus VI artist.
Elsa is a member of Girl Gang (2014 - present); a UK wide group of womxn artists utilising performative actions to challenge expectations in public spaces. She is also a member of the feminist activist collective the Essex Girls Liberation Front (2017 - present); a small group of womxn based in Southend campaigning to challenge and change the perception of the county's much-maligned female stereotype.
Elsa completed a BA in Fine Art and graduated with a first-class honours degree at Chelsea School of Art in 2010.