A still from Juan Covelli's PATH AI commission.A computer generated image of a not too-distant future

Somerset House Studios 2022 Round-up

20 Dec 2022

As 2022 comes to an end, we're grateful to share just a few of this year’s highlights from across Somerset House Studios, celebrating the community’s work and achievements over the last twelve months.

Across the calendar year Studios artists have shared their work in galleries throughout the city and beyond..

enorê presented work at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair and Michael Ho at Frieze Art Fair. Elsewhere, Joe Namy featured in Focal Point Gallery’s Receiver and Shenece Oretha’s In Counter Harmony formed a part of Brent Biennial 2022. Another highlight was Ufuoma Essi’s solo presentation, Is My Living in Vain at Gasworks, a major new film commission by the London-based filmmaker and artist. Informed by Black feminist epistemology, her films and moving image works examine history as an embodied experience. The film is a meditation on the continuing history and emancipatory potential of the Black church as a space of belonging. This interview with Essi unpacks the work further.

Somerset House Studios also played a big part in Somerset House’s cultural programme throughout the year. Major exhibition The Horror Show!, curated by Studios residents Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard and Claire Catterall, invites visitors to journey to the underbelly of Britain’s cultural psyche and look beyond horror as a genre, instead taking it as a reaction to our most troubling times. Featuring new commissions and existing works from Studios residents including Gareth Pugh, Nick Ryan, Col Self, Laura Grace Ford, Tyreis Holder and Tai Shani, the five-star exhibition (Guardian) showcases just some of the cross-disciplinary work being made in the building.

In August, Studios residents Gareth Pugh and Carson McColl staged a month-long takeover of the Somerset House courtyard with a programme of performance, music, dance, film, talks and workshops, platforming established creatives and grassroots communities. This Bright Land saw everything from Vogue balls to sensory experiences, street parties and film screenings.

Elsewhere in the building SERAFINE1369 (Jamila Johnson-Small) presented a new large-scale durational work exploring systems that shape our perceptions of time. Unfolding across the interconnected spaces of the River Rooms, the installation We can no longer deny ourselves was conceived as an ‘exploded clock’ made up of several elements including sculptural objects, video and live performance, asking of its audience to reflect on the relationship between time and labour, bodies and capitalism.

In October we celebrated six years of our artist community with AGM, our yearly access all areas party. The late-night event brought DJs including RP Boo, Nazar, NIKS, Lil C with friends Arthi and Kemarr to unexplored areas of the building. Alongside this were performances from SERAFINE1369 and fellow Studios resident Rowdy SS. Elsewhere, BORN::FREE presented an edition of Veranda, its flagship literary events night, featuring Belinda Zhawi and malakai sargeant alongside special guests Sarah Lasoye and past Studios resident Nadeem Din-Gabisi for spoken word, live music and readings.

Just outside the grounds of Somerset House is the newly pedestrianised Strand Aldwych. To celebrate the new public space in central London Studios resident Nick Ryan was commissioned by Northbank BID to create an immersive audio installation, delivered in partnership with the BBC. Inspired by the historical broadcasting legacy of the area, the installation draws on the resources of the BBC audio archive as well as the multilayered histories of the Strand, delivering a unique spatial sound work comprising archive, original recordings and compositions.

In the awards department, Studios residents have also been picking up accolades. Current resident Onyeka Igwe and Studios alumni Zinzi Minott were shortlisted for the Max Mara Prize for Women. Elsewhere, Libby Heaney was announced winner of the 2022 Lumen Prize, Keiken was awarded the Chanel Next Prize and Shamica Rudduck and Chris Zhongtian Yuan were named recipients of this year’s FLAMIN Fellowship. Choreographer, dancer and designer Saul Nash won the International Woolmark Prize and the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in the same week, undeniably rising “to the top of London’s next generation of designers" (Financial Times). Learn more about Saul Nash’s practice through this artist profile film, shot earlier this year. 

This year we also launched the PATH AI Residency, a programme aimed at artists interested in exploring the international landscape for AI ethics, governance, and regulation. Launched with UAL Creative Computing Institute, in partnership with The Alan Turing Institute, the University of Edinburgh, and the RIKEN research institute in Japan, artists and researchers Juan Covelli, Chris Zhongtian Yuan and Nouf Aljowaysir were selected. Three new film commissions were created as a result of the residency, with the works debuting on Channel, our new curated online space for art, ideas and the artistic process.