A black and white illustration of a talon and haired leg. Below it are drawn diagrams of bodies swimming, marking the stages of strokes through water.
Somerset House Studios

Gallery 31: Swimmers Limb

Curated by Taylor LeMelle

29 Jul - 20 Nov 2022
Daily 10.00 – 18.00
New Wing

An exhibition that takes as its starting point the role of pleasure in creative work, and a question about what regenerative possibilities could exist for the stretch of road between two gardens on Victoria Embankment.

Curated by Taylor LeMelle, the exhibition features contributions from two Somerset House Studios artists: Turner Prize winner Tai Shani and design studio Comuzi Lab, as well as a new site-specific commission from artist Mani Kambo who was selected via open call.

The exhibition  is ‘about’ no theme in particular. If it is about anything, it is about the viewer’s appreciation of whatever connections exist between their own life experience and the works. LeMelle’s curatorial focus is on connecting with their own intuition, and is convinced that new possibilities emerge for joy, for longevity and for revelation when they can train their focus onto their own pleasure.

LeMelle invited the artists to speculate on a series of prompts centred around a theoretical intervention on Somerset House’s surroundings – the space in between Victoria Embankment Gardens; green areas either side of the site along the River Thames. These prompts included questioning the implications of connecting these surroundings, looking at the change to the air quality, who might be the workers to execute this alteration and what would be the imagined worker's needs. The title Swimmers Limb surfaced as a way to encompass the societal impulse to imagine new futures while still beholden to old habits. People try to swim forward in time as laws and policies drag them back toward an origin myth: becoming humans (or not) owning property (or not). 

Swimmers Limb sees artist Tai Shani share watercolours from her latest series The Neon Hieroglyph where nine hypnotic stories form feminist mythology of psychedelics. For Shani, the psychedelic is a space that can drive new visions of society.

Design studio Comuzi Lab’s current focus is on digital healthcare services and learning to be intentional about care giving. Working on this exhibition from the design studio are Yaa Addae and Safiya McKenzie. In Swimmers Limb they call for contributions to their budding research on love and wellbeing.

Artist Mani Kambo will respond to Tai’s wall work with an immersive wallpaper design. Kambo works with symbols and iconography, assembling patterns and complex shapes into textile and print works. Tapping into her own ‘gut reactions’, she is teaching herself about human cells, living off the land, hallucinations, rituals, the transformative power of fire and the cleansing power of water. 

About the artists

Mani Kambo

Mani Kambo is a multidisciplinary artist, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She explores the inner spirit by drawing on her own personal totemic symbols. Influenced by her upbringing in a Sikh household filled with superstition, prayer and religious ceremony. Textile, fabric dying and printmaking is rooted in Kambos family history within the caste system. She focuses on objects, routines and rituals distilled both from the everyday and mythology.  

Her work records movement and documents performative actions – the hand that creates the action, fire that reveals, water which is the purifier and eyes that perceive: through the exploration of totemic objects and symbols. Through layering and editing images together she collages narratives and weaves dreamscapes. These visuals are repeated throughout her work like markers linking to notions of spirituality and belief in reincarnation.

Comuzi Lab (Yaa Addae and Safiya McKenzie)

COMUZI Lab is a design and technology studio. 
Yaa Addae is a curator, writer, and artist who works as a community researcher at COMUZI. Their practice is informed by the liberatory power of the imagination,play, and restorative love economics: bringing love to the systemically underloved. 

Safiya McKenzie is an artist and designer. At Comuzi her approach to design explores how imagining, storytelling and co-creating with communities can shape the way we bring new things into the world, from a holistic perspective. She is currently documenting themes around communal dreaming, cancel culture, and algorithmic bias for a narrative- based project with the Omidyar Network. 

Tai Shani

Tai Shani's multidisciplinary practice comprising of performance, film, photography and installation, revolves around experimental narrative texts. Shani creates violent, erotic and fantastical images told in a dense, floral language which re-imagines feminine otherness as a perfect totality, set in a world complete with cosmologies, myths and histories that negate patriarchal narratives. These alternate between familiar stylistic tropes and structures and theoretical prose in order to explore the construction of subjectivity, excess and the effects of the epic as the ground for a post-patriarchal realism. She is the joint 2019 Turner Prize winner together with Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo. She has exhibited at Nottingham Contemporary, Wysing Arts Centre, Serpentine Galleries, Tate, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and many more.

Taylor LeMelle

Taylor LeMelle writes, organises and produces objects using their training in art history, architectural theory and developmental psychology. Recent work has included curating exhibitions, facilitating groups, building infrastructures, producing audio tracks, drawing diagrams, and designing objects.  In 2018, they became one of the founding directors of not/nowhere, an artists’ workers cooperative which is dedicated to supporting BIPOC to explore moving image practices and photochemical technology. With PSS Press they have edited and produced Orion J. Facey's science fantasy novel The Virosexuals. Taylor is a 2021-22 Research Fellow at Sandberg Instituut.

Supported by The Foyle Foundation

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