A wake-up call for our non-stop world

Photo by Douglas Coupland

Last call for Somerset House’s landmark exhibition examining our inability to switch off from our 24/7 culture, through a series of immersive works from some of today’s most exciting global artists.

Over 50 multi-disciplinary works have been brought together to explore the unrelenting pressure to produce and consume around the clock.  The exhibition takes visitors on a 24-hour cycle from dawn to dusk through interactive installations and interrogations.  It holds a mirror up to a society where complex systems are exerting control, causing us to sleep less and disrupting our instincts to daydream and pay attention to the world around us, and each other. Some of the works playfully suggest solutions, inviting visitors to unplug and unwind, from Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima’s meditative isolation chamber Life Palace (tea room) to Canadian artist Catherine Richards’ Shroud/Chrysalis I, where visitors can opt to be completely shrouded in a copper blanket, blocking out any electro-magnetic signals from devices such as smartphones.

Photo by Pierre Huyghe

Inspired by the book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by New York-based art critic and essayist Jonathan Crary (Verso, 2013), it is the first time that a major multi-disciplinary exhibition has been dedicated to creative responses to this modern malaise.

Curated by Somerset House and Sarah Cook, contributors include Marcus Coates, Mat Collishaw, Douglas Coupland, Harun Farocki, Susan Hiller, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Katie Paterson, Pilvi Takala, and ten artists and designers from Somerset House Studios, including Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, some of whom have created new work especially for the exhibition.

Photo by Douglas Coupland & Maria Francesca Moccia

This inability to switch off has become one of the most important issues of our time.  Since 2010 we’ve added a full week (37 hours) to our working year, yet 200,000 working days are now lost annually due to insufficient sleep.  Britain has become a nation of night owls, with almost half of the country (48%) regularly going to bed after 11pm.  Living in the glow of blue light, people in the UK now check their smartphones, if averaged over 24 hours, every 12 minutes.  These shocking statistics show how critical it is to understand better this pressing subject, which is increasingly considered a public health epidemic.

The exhibition takes visitors on a journey from the cold light of the moon to the fading warmth of the sunset, through five principal zones.  With light installations by the acclaimed theatre lighting designer Lucy Carter, the zones are based around the tensions of life in a non-stop world.  New technologies have blurred the boundaries between day and night, activity and rest, the human and the machine, work and leisure, the individual and the collective.

Exhibition runs until 23 February 2020

Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, London

£14/£11 concessions 

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