Arrivals + Departures, YARA + DAVINA

Arrivals + Departures

03 – 26 April 2020
Lancaster Place

At the dawn of a new decade, we honour our heritage with a special series of public art installations and events from March – October inspired by Somerset House’s history.

For over 130 years*, Somerset House was home to all records of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the UK and archived the wills of the nation.  8.5 miles of vaults were situated within Somerset House, holding documents written by luminaries from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen, and even an egg, after one Briton put the entirety of their estate on an eggshell, which was carefully stored on site.  The first ever census encompassing every single British household was also organised from Somerset House, becoming the place to get the most real sense of the state of the nation.

At the dawn of a new decade, Somerset House honours its heritage with a special series of public art installations and events from March – October inspired by this chapter of Somerset House’s history. Contemporary artists investigate and interpret the incredible stories of our ancestors and imagine how we could also become inspirational ancestors for future generations.

The first interactive art installation will be Arrivals + Departures, opening on 03 April 2020. 

Created by artist duo YARA + DAVINA, Arrivals + Departures takes the recognisable form of an arrivals and departures board, displaying the names of people submitted by the public as a way of celebrating a birth (arrival) or commemorating a death (departure).  Capturing both the joy and sadness of an arrivals hall or departure lounge, visitors and passers-by can choose to contribute names as a way to acknowledge, celebrate and commemorate.  Names may range from the personal to the political, from our unsung personal heroes to national treasures, as they are shared on the large-scale artwork via a live interaction with a guide or online.

Throughout the spring and summer, Public Search Room - a display inspired by the room in which members of the public could research the records held at Somerset House - will be stationed inside Seamen’s Hall (the original site of the Public Search Room) and other spaces around Somerset House, providing an introduction to the building’s previous purpose.  The MA students of The Courtauld Institute of Art will also curate their summer show in response to this captivating subject.  More artworks and events will be announced in due course.

Arrivals + Departures is supported by Without Walls and commissioned by Artsadmin, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and Freedom Festival Arts Trust.

*The records and the staff of the General Register Office and Principal Probate Registry left Somerset House almost 50 years ago to more purpose-built premises, making way for Somerset House to be transformed into London’s working arts centre today.