Text by Piot Bockowski
Somerset House Studios resident Sonya Dyer undertakes a new commission to be presented throughout the River Rooms from 29th September, marking the artist’s first solo exhibition in London.
The installation, Three Parent Child, will be the final stage of Dyer’s Andromeda trilogy, as part of herongoing project Hailing Frequencies Open. HFO reimagines human space travel’s history and radical potential, exploring the intersections between scientific enquiry and science fiction. Sonya weaves influences, including Star Trek, the legacy of HeLa cells, and mythology, to engage with ongoing conversations around monumentalism, memory and the role of speculation. Three Parent Child features two works: Action>Potential, and Lucy.
Hailing Frequencies Open intersects Nichelle Nicols’ astronaut recruitment activism, the dubious genesis of ‘HeLa’ cells and the Greek myth of the Ethiopian Princess Andromeda (who became both a galaxy and a constellation) – combining social justice with speculation, fantasy with the political.
In the 1970s, Nicols developed a programme enabling the first American woman and the first Black man in space. HeLa cells – taken from the body of a Black American woman named Henrietta Lacks – hold scientific significance as they are ‘immortal’ and can reproduce under practically any circumstances. These cells were the first human materials sent into Space – by the Soviets in 1960.
HFO builds a world (through film, performance and sculpture) wherein the HeLa cells are still in Space – and travelling towards Andromeda. Andromeda metaphorically embodies the reclamation of the neglected stories of Black women of science and myth
The title of the current installation, Three Parent Child, comes from the recent scientific development of Mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT). This new technique incorporates DNA from three people to create a child, which mirrors Dyer’s adherence to trilogies throughout her practice. While residing at the Studios, Sonya Dyer’s research has been supported as part of the King’s College London x Somerset House Studios Programme.
On 31st October, Sonya Dyer will be joined for a conversation by artist and researcher Ayesha Hameed to unpack the exhibition, including late access to Three Parent Child, as well as screenings of the previous two films in Sonya’s Hailing Frequencies Open trilogy: ‘Andromeda’ and ‘The Betsey-Drake Equation’. Tickets are available here.