Exhibitions

Utopian Voices, Here and Now

All images © Ibrahim Kamara, courtesy Somerset House

Utopian ways of thinking about key contemporary issues are visualised at a new exhibition in Somerset House, London.

A new series of photography displays and installations show the utopian visions of young UK-based artists on the issues most affecting them today, from gender to sexuality to race.

Curator Shonagh Marshall has brought together a group of artists who each explore issues close to them that “present their individual ideas about Utopia now.”
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The exhibition will be on show across Somerset House as part of UTOPIA 2016, the Thames-bank based venue’s year-long programme to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s seminal work.
Each artist will bring their vision of utopia to life using a variety of media, from photography to digital paintings, fashion to film, and performances to ephemera,” Somerset House said in a statement.
“By presenting questions and prompting discussion and debate, the works create a journey where the visitor can consider what their own utopia might look like.
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Highlights include a cross-cultural collaboration between British fashion stylist Ibrahim (IB) Kamara, originally from Sierra Leone, and South African photographer Kristin Lee-Moolman.
Entitled 2026, the project has been conceived to challenge heteronormative attitudes to self-expression through fashion.
It imagines what menswear might look like in 10 years’ time, through the use of fabrics rescued from rubbish skips and thrift shops in Johannesburg and customised into contemporary garments.
Ten large-scale photographic prints of young men will be exhibited in the Courtyard Rooms, suggesting that in a more utopian world, there might be no policing of masculinity and that an individual would be free to choose how best to express their identity. A selection of the repurposed garments will also be displayed next to their images.
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Next door, Matthew Stone’s new digital paintings will take over the Terrace Rooms. Stone created virtual sculptures, digitally ‘painting’ their contours before printing on raw linen.
The founder of the utopian South London-based collective !WOWOW!, Stone’s work has long been inspired by how the body can explore society.
Collaborative duo Rosie Hastings & Hannah Quinlan Anderson will showcase their new work the UK Gay Bar Directory (UKGBD) in the New Wing. Taking the form of a film installation, the directory uses Go-Pro footage of 170 gay bars around the UK to query the notion of the ‘gay bar’ spatially, aesthetically and politically.
In the face of many recent closures, UKGBD is a valuable historic and artistic record of inclusive spaces across 13 cities. The films will be screened within a space that calls to mind a Queer Community Centre, containing historic and contemporary pamphlets and ephemera relating to LBGTQI issues.
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Around the site, visitors can see the first works from SOVEREIGN. The brainchild of stylist Matthew Josephs, artist Phoebe Collings-James and writer Emma Dabiri, SOVEREIGN is a poster series that provides “a creative space for its contributors, free from advertiser influence.”
The first series of four images have been created using a unique collaborative approach that aims to destabilise the white male gaze that dominates mainstream image-making. On the reverse of each image, there will be a number of features inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, taking the Yoruba people from West Africa as inspiration.
From 6 July – 29 August 2016