Following the successes of Mapping the City and Futurismo Ancestral, Somerset House will again collaborate with arts organisation A(by)P to present Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday Utopias of the Street. As part of ‘UTOPIA 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility’ at Somerset House, the exhibition will explore unsanctioned public art – or graffiti – as an intrinsically utopian practice.
Arguing against the traditionally-held belief of graffiti as a dystopian movement or ‘glorified vandalism’, Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday Utopias of the Street will showcase the specially-commissioned work of seventeen street artists from around the globe, from stars of the scene such as Shepard Fairey, Swoon and REVOK, to critically acclaimed artists such as Eltono and Filippo Minelli, each of whom will produce or specially select pieces responding to this theme. A number of artists, including Nano4814 and Brad Downey, will create installation works on site at Somerset House. From 13 – 20 April, artists Horfée and Russell Maurice will take up residency in Somerset House’s Courtyard Rooms, providing visitors with an insight into the processes of the practice. Working in situ, they will produce a new body of work based on the utopian themes of the exhibition. This project space will then remain open for viewing alongside the main exhibition until 2 May.
In a literal sense, graffiti compels its practitioners to ‘venture beyond’ spatial and architectural boundaries, but also metaphorically provokes them to ‘venture beyond’ conceptual frontiers, to form new ways of thinking, acting and being in the world. Graffiti ornaments the city in resplendent colour and brings art out into the open, an art which belongs to all of us. It simultaneously reveals an aesthetic and social practice which anyone is welcome to join. Above all, graffiti and street art acts as an alternative voice, whether it is loud and brazen or more subtle and difficult to decipher, which strives to challenge the well-worn systems of society – something which Thomas More’s seminal text also set out. All of the artists will uniquely interpret their ideas on these utopian foundations of graffiti.
In addition, A(by)P and Somerset House will be producing a wide-ranging programme of events to follow the key themes of the exhibition, including workshops, talks, films, music and performances. These events are presented in association with the UCL Urban Laboratory.
In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia, Somerset House will be transformed into a space of possibility, participation and imagination throughout 2016. People from all walks of life will be invited to experiment with new ways we might live, make, work and play. The season will provide physical and virtual spaces where positive visions are nurtured, supported and celebrated, and where anything is possible.
Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday
Utopias of the Street
3 March – 2 May 2016
Terrace Rooms, Somerset House, London
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