FEELING HER WAY
GREAT BRITAIN PAVILION AT THE 59TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION, BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 2022
curated by Emma Ridgway
Artist: Sonia Boyce
Commissioned by British Council
M+B Studio has collaborated with the British Council, the artist Sonia Boyce and the curator Emma Ridgway for the Exhibition Management in Venice, giving also support with the coordination and development of the Venice Fellowship Programme during the exhibition period. M+B is also collaborating as Pavilion Local Manager.
Sonia Boyce’s exhibition at the British Pavilion won the Golden Lion Award at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2022 as Best National Participation.
Running from 23 April – 27 November 2022, Boyce’s installation Feeling Her Way immerses visitors in the collaborative dynamism of five Black female musicians (four British, one Swedish) brought together by the artist to improvise, interact and play with their voices. Colour-tinted video works take centre stage among Boyce’s signature tessellating wallpapers and golden 3-D geometric structures, which bring the audience into the work through their highly reflective surfaces. The rooms of the pavilion are filled with sounds – sometimes harmonious, sometimes clashing – embodying feelings of freedom, power and vulnerability.
Vocalists include award-winning, intergenerational singers: Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth MBE, Sofia Jernberg, Tanita Tikaram and composer Errollyn Wallen CBE – all linked by their jazz and soul influences and impressive vocals. The central video installation will show the singers as they meet for the first time, improvise and perform together acapella, demonstrating the potential of collaborative play as a route to innovation, a central theme in Boyce’s practice. The videos were filmed at Abbey Road Studios in London and Atlantis Studios in Stockholm.
This new commission expands on Boyce’s Devotional Collection, built over 20+ years and spanning more than three centuries, which honours the substantial contribution of Black British female musicians to the emotional lives of the public and to transnational culture. Works from this collection – vinyl, CDs, books and ephemera – form part of the installation in the pavilion, elevated by golden plinths.
On the British Council Commission, Sonia Boyce commented:
“I feel deeply honoured to have been selected to produce this work for the British Pavilion at Biennale Arte 2022. The wealth of generosity and sheer talent of those who have contributed to making Feeling Her Way has been immense and I am so proud of what has been achieved. Most of all the performers who dared to go on this journey – they are absolutely brilliant!”
Emma Dexter, British Council Director Visual Arts, Commissioner of the British Pavilion and Chair of the British Pavilion Selection Committee, said:
“We are extremely proud to have Sonia Boyce representing Britain at the Biennale Arte 2022. Feeling Her Way typifies Sonia’s highly collaborative way of working – bringing together performers in the spirit of inclusiveness, generosity, experimentation and play. This exhibition is her most ambitious to date and brings fresh ideas and perspectives to the British Pavilion. It asks us to consider how Black British female musicians have played a part in our own lives, moreover it encourages us to immerse ourselves in a truly joyful experience.”
Curator Emma Ridgway, (Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator) of the British Pavilion at Biennale, said:
“It has been a privilege and pleasure to work with Sonia Boyce, the performers, production teams and the British Council on this uplifting exhibition. Central to the exhibition are Boyce’s colour-filtered video works that immerse the gallery spaces in the emotive sound of women singing. Powerful singing requires both imagination and the maximising of each individual breath; particularly relevant in our recent times, as both breathing and improvising together in uncertain situations have become vital.”
The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture. A panel of visual art specialists from across the UK selected the artist for Biennale Arte 2022.
This year the British Pavilion is made possible through the support of individuals, companies and foundations, including headline partner, Burberry.
Photo Credits: Cristiano Corte © British Council