Project O presents a recent video artwork considering Somerset House’s historical connection to the British Royal Navy. For eighty years from the end of the eighteenth century the Navy’s administrative offices occupied the building, a time when its activities were instrumental in the securing and ruling of an empire. In this new commission by Somerset House Studios, the first in a series of commissioned works exploring the subject, Project O asks questions of choice, inevitability, movement, defiance and surrender that arise in relation to thoughts about water - the waves will always rule us. The Navy Board, the administrative function of the Royal Navy was based in South Wing through most of the 19th century, helping secure one the largest empires the world has ever seen. In this period, the Navy played a significant (and contentious) role in the abolition of the slave trade. Until the Embankment was built, Somerset House was accessible directly by boat for naval personnel through what is now the Embankment arch. New Wing was an extension and remodelling by James Pennethorne of Admiralty residences, completed in 1856.
the waves will always rule us tides Moon internal landscapes desires for validation via dominion over that which is us be it land, sea, the bodies of others states of precarity...
Unravelling we occupy honour mourn the gaps we stand centre-screen. Body as portal-passage we stand centre-screen. We occupy honour mourn the gaps Unravelling states of precarity internal landscapes be it land, sea, the bodies of others...desires for validation via dominion over that which is us Moon tides the waves will always rule us
Image: Project O, Saved (2018). Photo by Jack Barraclough. Concept, choreography and performance by Project O (Alexandrina Hemsley & Jamila Johnson-Small). Camera by Katarzyna Perlak. Animation by Jack Barraclough. Sound by Verity Susman. Commissioned by Somerset House Studios, 2018.
Project O (the collaborative supernova between Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small) make work that aims to continually address, reevaluate, intervene, comment upon, resist and celebrate the fallout from being born black, mixed and female in 21st Century UK. As a starting point they shift as they look, converse and interrogate what they see and feel. Their work is driven by our engagement with dance practices but the creative outcome includes works ranging from shows for theatres to performance lectures, free schools and DJ sets. Project O experiment with alternative ways their bodies can be present and visible (on stage or off), and ways that they can be present and visible in our bodies for ourselves. One of their compositional enquiries is around inviting audiences to consider their own shifting positions and identities - an attempt to acknowledge that all are complicit in these systems of oppression.