Somerset House’s Gripping New Exhibition Will Focus On The Perils Of Modern Life

Alex Landon Alex Landon - Editor


Our permanently switched-on culture goes under the microscope in 24/7.

Modern life, am I right? You’re tired, I’m tired, the world is literally on fire, and smartphone dependency is slowly turning us into zombies (you’re probably reading this on a phone screen right now, you filthy little addict!). Luckily, Somerset House are sallying forth to rescue us with 24/7, a landmark exhibition that will explore and eviscerate our non-stop consumer culture when it opens on October 31st.

Adam Chodzko, Sleepers.

A timely, fascinating examination of the pressure to be constantly switched on, 24/7 is grandly billed as “a wake-up call for our non-stop world”. Inspired by Jonathan Crary’s book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (sleep! do any of us remember that?), the exhibition will bring together more than 50 multi-disciplinary works which interrogate our need to be constantly entertained, even as we work more and sleep less. Visitors will be taken on a 24-hour cycle from dawn to dusk and back, exploring interactive installations across five zones.

Tatsuo Miyajima, Life Palace (tea room).

For instance, Tatsuo Miyajima has contributed a meditative isolation chamber called Life Palace (tea room), essentially a big red chamber in which you can conceal yourself and hide from the outside world. The smartphone-dependent amongst us are advised to avoid Catherine Richards’ Shroud/Chrysalis I, a copper blanket which completely blocks electro-magnetic signals.

Catherine Richards, Shroud/Chrysalis I.

Amongst the truly concerning works are Alice Vandeleur-Boorer’s Jet Slag, which follows the artist through a haunting sleep deprivation study, and Hasan Elahi’s Tracking Transience, which overwhelms the viewer with seemingly mundane information, the weight of which forces us to confront the personal data we constantly create.

Douglas Coupland, Slogans for the 21st century.

Artworks go as far back as the 1790s, and extend to 2019 (Douglas Coupland thought-provoking Slogans for the 21st century). With systems of technology, wealth, and entertainment constantly competing for our attention, ruining sleep, and undermining our ability to connect, the chance to pause and think about our place in the modern world could prove vital indeed.

Alan Warburton, Sprites I.

It’s not all doom and gloom though: 24/7 is a great excuse for Somerset House to host an epic 24-hour skating session on their outdoor rink, for which we are fully prepared to sacrifice sleep!

Find 24/7 at the Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, from October 31st 2019 to February 23rd 2020. Tickets cost £14 for adults – find out more and book them here.

Also published on Medium.