Somerset House Studios 2020 Round-Up

17 Dec 2020

2020 has been a strange and difficult year, with many artists and creatives facing major challenges to their livelihoods and their ability to share work with audiences in traditional ways. Despite this, there have been many things worth celebrating, and we couldn’t let it go unmarked – there are some things worth celebrating. Here, we spotlight the Studios community by rounding up a selection of artists’ work and achievements from the last twelve months for you to read, watch, listen.  

Listen: Paul Purgas’ Electronic India

At the tail-end of this year Paul Purgas’ exhibition and events programme We Found Our Own Reality opened at Camden Art Centre. Bringing together architecture, furniture, textiles and sound, Purgas explored India’s first electronic music studio, founded in 1969. He investigates the lost history of India’s electronic avant-garde on Electronic India, a radio feature originally broadcast on BBC Radio 3. 

Read: Sonya Dyer on a practice centring Black female subjectivities and futurity

In October the Arts Foundation Futures Award, celebrating emerging artists, selected Sonya Dyer as one of four finalists for their 2021 Fellowship (to be announced in January 2021). In this interview curator Jareh Des spoke with Sonya, discussing working in a pandemic and her long-term project Hailing Frequencies Open, which in part featured in our I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now… Live programme earlier this year. 


A still from a film by Sonya Dyer. It shows a woman speaking - this image is set against a backdrop of galaxies in space.
Sonya Dyer, Hailing Frequencies Open: Dr Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, 2019. Video still.

Read: Akinola Davies Jr’s Lizard reviewed by gal-dem

Featured at this year’s London Film Festival was Akinola Davies Jr.’s Lizard, a short film longlisted for Best British Short Film. The film sees Juwon, an 8-year-old girl with an ability to sense danger, ejected from Sunday school service in this vivid snapshot of Nigerian life. You can catch the film in full next year as part of Sundance Film Festival’s official selection, online. Read gal-dem’s Kemi Alemoru review the film below.

Watch: a walkthrough of Phoebe Davies’ exhibition Points of Rupture

Commissioned by Site Gallery, Phoebe Davies’ first solo exhibition Points of Rupture included the premiere of new work, drawing from ongoing research into contact-based sports, athletic methodologies, training and rehabilitation. Though the exhibition was impacted by lockdown, you can experience much of it online, including a stream of the new moving image work The Sprawl, plus, soundscapes Spiral Rides and Involuntary Peaks, all featured in the exhibition.

Listen: Anna Meredith's Mercury Prize nominated Fibs

Anna’s third album, Fibs was nominated for the Mercury Prize this year, alongside the likes of Stormzy, Dua Lipa and winner Michael Kiwanuka. Fibs was hailed as ‘in perpetual motion, skipping deftly between moods and sounds’ (BBC) and you can watch Anna perform a track from the album here. More recently Anna has been working with us on Bumps per Minute, a new interactive artwork for our winter event Dodge.  

Read: Q&A with Imran Perretta, winner of a Turner Prize bursary

London-based artist Imran Perretta was commended for his film the destructors (2019) by this year’s Turner Prize jury. The film is a personal reflection on South Asian men from Muslim backgrounds ‘coming of age’ in the UK. In this Q&A with The Art Newspaper he discusses the destructors and the influences that inform his work.

Watch: Jenn Nkiru, Jarman Award joint recipient, discusses her work

Peckham-based artist and filmmaker Jenn Nkiru was one of six artists to be shortlisted for the Jarman Award this year. The award is an annual prize recognising innovative UK-based artists working with moving image. In this interview with Film London, the award organisers, Jenn discusses her approach to sound, representation and archive in her 2019 film BLACK TO TECHNO.

Listen: Beatrice Dillion’s album Workaround

Workaround is the playful and ambitious solo debut album by the musician and DJ Beatrice Dillon. Released back in February, Workaround was praised by critics for its inventive sampling and mixing techniques. Now included in the Guardian’s top 50 albums of the year, you can listen to it below.

Listen: Gaika’s latest record Seguridad

Gaika’s latest album Seguridad was made with Mexico City collective NAAFI and released in July. In this review by The Quietus’ Michael Appouh describes the album as an ‘impressive and transportive listen’. Alongside GLOR1A, Shannen SP and Zara Truss-Giles, Gaika’s The Spectacular Empire also launched Nine Nights, an initiative that raised funds for UK and US black-focused charities through a series of live streams celebrating Black culture. 

Watch: Evi Kalogiropolou’s Neighbours as part of New Museum Screens Series

New York’s New Museum took its Screens Series online this year. The series presents new video works by emerging contemporary artists, with Evi’s work Neighbours (2018) originally presented as part of New Museum’s exhibition The Same River Twice. Through filming and conversation with scrap yard workers, Kalogiropoulou hones in on themes of immigration, land ownership, and machismo. Watch the work in full. 

Read: Aesthetica Art Prize winner Rhea Storr in conversation with Flatpack Festival

This year Rhea Storr was announced as Aesthetica’s Art Prize main prize winner. On show at the Art Prize Exhibition was her film A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message, also screened as part of our PAUSE series and Flatpack Festival’s Between Worlds series. Flatpack Festival met with Rhea to discuss the work. Her latest work Here is the Imagination of the Black Radical premiered online as part of BFI London Film Festival.

Read: The Reason I Jump film review via Variety; Nick Ryan nominated for Best Sound

Nick Ryan, the award-winning composer, sound designer, artist and audio specialist was this year nominated for a British Independent Film Award for Best Sound, for his work on Jerry Rothwell’s documentary The Reason I Jump. The film is an account of living with autism, ‘emotionally piercing as it is beautiful to behold’.

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