This season, Somerset House, London, presents two landmark shows. Multidisciplinary exhibition Get Up, Stand Up Now highlights the impact of 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond, whilst Kaleidoscope explores identity and immigration in the UK through photography.
This comes at an important moment in history. As Ceri Hand, Director of Programmes at Somerset House, notes: “The country is gripped by daily conversations and debate about our national identity and future place in the world. There’s no better time to reflect on and celebrate the multiplicity of voices that together form modern Britain.”
Get Up, Stand Up Now is curated by acclaimed visual artist Zak Ové (b. 1966), and showcases work by 100 practitioners working across art, film, photography, music, literature design and fashion. The selection includes historic and newly commissioned pieces from Steve McQueen, John Akomfrah, Sonia Boyce, Carrie Mae Weems, Bradford Young and Aesthetica Art Prize-winner Jenn Nkiru, each addressing and articulating the black experience from the post-war era to the present day. In this way, the exhibition is ground-breaking. “These intergenerational, interdisciplinary contributions have never been shown together on such a scale by a large centre before,” Hand reveals. “It really feels like a landmark moment.”
In Kaleidoscope, ten image-makers offer personal insights into the experience of making the UK home. Co-curator Ekow Eshun explains: “Most of the photographers in the exhibition have family origins that lie outside Britain. The works in the show explore immigration from a range of perspectives, with photographers drawing on personal insight and family memories to explore themes of home, belonging and cultural identity.”
Examples include the Hong Kong-born practitioner Kurt Tong (b. 1977), who offers a multilayered visual narrative tracking his family’s path across 100 years – from China at the turn of the 20th century to Britain today. Chris Steele-Perkins’ (b. 1947) The New Londoners studies families from each of the 200 UN-recognised countries now living in London, whilst Rhianna Clarke’s Many Rivers to Cross forms a retrospective of her father’s photography of the Caribbean community in 1970s-1980s London.
“I hope audiences get a sense of Britain as a place composed of multiple voices and viewpoints; as a place defined by diversity and difference,” says Eshun. “The works in this exhibition suggest that to best understand Britain today we need to see our national story from the point of view of all the diverse peoples and communities that make up our country.”
Get Up, Stand Up Now runs 12 June – 15 September. Find out more here.
Kaleidoscope runs 12 June – 8 September. Find out more here.
Lead image: Jenn Nkiru, ‘Still from Neneh Cherry, Kong’, 2018. Copyright of the artist.