Get Up, Stand Up Now at Somerset House
Somerset House celebrates 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond with Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers. Curated by artist Zak Ové, the exhibition brings together 100 artists for the first time across disciplines that explore five main themes: Mother, Dream to Change the World, Masquerades, Imaginary Landscapes and Mothership.
Beginning with Horace Ové’s work that captures the dramatic change to Britain’s Black communities and the rise of Black Power in the 60s and 70s through film and photography, the exhibition connects the works of the Windrush Generation with those of contemporary artists committed to social and political change. By uniting father and son through the lens of their artistic gaze, Get Up, Stand Up Now brings together past and present, and connects the diasporic communities from the Caribbean to the Motherland as it explores race, class and identity through developing a creative model that is representative of a multicultural Britain.
This series of creative conversations between Black artists begins with an intense jolting of the senses as Franklyn Rodgers’s Loretta – depicting a large-scale portrait of his mother – stands proudly next to Richard Rawlin’s Black Power fist rising from the quintessentially English cup of tea, thus redefining British while looking at the changing notions of identity as well as a sense of rootedness of the Black resistance movement.
In Dream to Change the World, Horace Ové’s film Baldwin’s Nigger (1969) features James Baldwin and Dick Gregory in a meeting with the West Indies Student Centre, which includes Stuart Hall. Ové’s film is intercepted by the sound of endless shots being fired across the room – emanating from Sanford Biggers’s film For Walter (2016), which alludes to police shootings of unarmed people.
Yinka Shonibare’s Revolution Kid (Calf) (2012) is the highlight of this series, depicting the youthful spirit of revolution with the head of a calf on the body of a stylish mannequin carrying a gold gun.
In Masquerades, Zak Ové’s fantastic and truly mesmerising La Jablesse (2013) references Caribbean folklore while dramatising roots connected to the African continent and nets pulled from the River Thames that bring to mind questions of force, deception, lure and enticement that continue to shape the diasporic condition. This piece is pivot to the theme of the Caribbean Carnival as protest through art and music that is explored in this section.
Kaleidoscope continues this theme with Zoe Bedeaux’s visual poem From the Mouths of Babes Speak I (2016) and Phoebe Boswell’s I Need to Believe the World Is Still Beautiful (2018) that decentres from the white male gaze of the female body to explore the Black female body as a site for protest in art.
The final section, Mothership, invites future generations of creative artists to take on the current political climate through the impact and influence of Afrofuturism as the space of Black Power in the future. This section features Zak Ové’s Umbilical Progenitor (2018), which is the barefoot astronaut carrying a child on its back. This piece refers to the African tradition of masquerades and sums up perfectly the Get Up, Stand Up Now exhibition as a search for identity that is shaped by and in turn shapes protests that imagine radically alternative futures while conscious of the complicated and deeply interconnected past.
Featured image: Armet Francis, Fashion Shoot Brixton Market, 1973
Courtesy of the artist
Get Up, Stand Up Now is at Somerset House from 12th June until 15th September 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Get Up Stand Up Now here: