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Exhibition: ‘Piece of Mind’ at Somerset House Studios’ Gallery 31 London

Text by CLOT Magazine

Selachimorpha & Semelparous, Joey Holder. Photo: Damian Griffiths

Piece of Mind is a new exhibition at Somerset House Studios’ Gallery 31. Running until 17 July 2022, it has been curated by Harlesden High Street, an art space that celebrates ungentrified neighbourhoods of London and provides resources for underrepresented artists.

The exhibition aims to explore the effects of the changing functions of our intimate domestic spaces – where we increasingly carry out more work, social and leisure activities, showing a range of multi-media works that draw its focus on the bedroom, a space that is often the main environment for these activities.

Lucia Rios Gonzalez and Jonny Tanna from Harlesden High Street share insights into the curational process and development with us:

For increasingly more people, the bedroom is becoming the main and sometimes sole space for all exchanges in everyday life – the place where they carry out all their working, affective, social and leisure activities. It accurately represents the collapse of the intimate space and the downfall of the division of productive and resting times. We wanted to explore the effects of this repurposing of the domestic environment on our perception of time and sense of self. This is a context in which it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the different areas of life and what they symbolise as they all merge into one.

We aimed to re-create an atmosphere of reality becoming uncanny and disorientating within a familiar environment responding to the social and economic conditions causing this – the housing market, long working hours and instability, virtual social currencies, neoliberal fantasies and the present continuous hyperspace, to name a few.

Of course, the pandemic has sharpened our perception of these realities and deepened their effects, but these are structural tendencies that were at play before covid, and we realized in conversations with friends and collaborators how alarmingly common burnout was. It was important for us to address how the places that used to be sheltered, even inner shelters, are currently being transformed and how this impacts mental health.

Emerging artists are traditionally in a precarious position because of how competitive and often inaccessible the industry is, which makes them particularly vulnerable to these circumstances. This is no hypothesis, as some of this show’s works were produced from the artist’s bed. Harlesden High Street has an ongoing commitment to the representation of POC artists, who historically find themselves struggling even more to find their way in, and the bridging of cultural gaps in the art scene.

For this show, we wanted to feature artists who were in an early stage in their career, both because the grasp that they would have on the issues that we were exploring would be closer to reality and because we wanted them to push their practice further and make the most of the visibility that working with an institution like Somerset House may bring to their outstanding work.

Tyreis Holder‘s For Ti and Foolishness follows feet explore the assault on our domestic and sacred spaces as well as self-rituals with her powerful textile carpet works that distort the perception of the room. 雅 YA’s pieces (in collaboration with airbrush artist Casandra Burrell) are sculptural re-interpretations of previous photography works, depicting eerie domestic atmospheres where the body often appears like a scattered set of independent parts that merge and interact with their surroundings. 

Farrah Riley-Gray’s woven synthetic hairpiece we felt seen today hangs above the exhibition space’s fireplace like a disembodied organ uncannily reclaiming its space as an autonomous entity. This contrasts with KO___OL’s video installation titled Violent Prayers, where hair becomes a memento from a loved one in reminiscence of the old practice of keeping a lock as a token when far from home.

In, Ocean Baulcombe-Toppin’s holographic representation of eucalyptus, a historically sacred healing tree, deepens the feeling that all things grounded are simulated through technological devices in the domestic space. And Anna Sebastian’s oil on canvas, Persephone, explores the contemporary evolution of myth in relation to astrology, a portal to the outside.

The first sense of displacement, maybe confusion leads to reflection… as the boundaries increasingly blur between private and intimate spaces, Piece of Mind explores the challenge of true rest – or peace of mind – and its psychological effect, as our minds are increasingly required to compartmentalise our lives in a way our spaces no longer can. 

(Image courtesy of Somerset House Studios)
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