COMMUNION Gathered Artists and Visionaries at Serpentine Pavilion For Evening of Lectures and Performances Exploring How Art and Community Supports Mental Well-Being
Last night, marking the opening of Frieze London, the Serpentine Pavilion and Therme Art hosted the transdisciplinary collaboration COMMUNION, drawing together leading voices from across the fields of art, architecture, fashion, music, and technology in a multi-disciplinary event exploring the importance of gathering and creative production on mental wellbeing. Designed this year by the Johannesburg-based practice Counterspace, the Serpentine Pavilion served as the centrestage and catalyst for the event, which featured performances and talks throughout the evening by musicians including Tinie Tempah and Enny, architect Sumayya Vally, artist Torkwase Dyson, and fashion designer Priya Ahluwalia. COMMUNION was presented by the Serpentine and Therme Art, in partnership with MYTH, and supported by MYND.
“Today more than ever, it is critical that the architectural community propose creative solutions that can adapt to the needs of diverse communities. Counterspace’s vision for the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion this year does just that, and we are proud to partner with the Serpentine in support of this inspiring multidisciplinary programme that brings artists and creatives together to reflect upon the importance of gathering and interdisciplinary discussion on their creative production and mental wellbeing in our communities,” stated Mikolaj Sekutowicz, CEO and Co-Founder of Therme Art.
“We are so excited that tonight’s event at Sumayya Vally’s 20th Serpentine Pavilion is all about communion with and in our environment. This evening demonstrates how architecture, art and culture can break and proliferate into our cities and reach communities that have found difficulty in accessing these projects for generations now,” remarked Hans Ulrich Obrist, Creative Director of Serpentine.
Highlights of the evening included the release of a new track by rapper and singer Tinie Tempah and ENNY’s performance of her iconic hit song “Peng Black Girls,” which transformed Counterspace’s Pavilion into a stage that radiated themes of identity, empowerment, community, belonging, and gathering.
Panel discussions hosted by Therme Art, as part of their ongoing Wellbeing Culture Forum talks, included a conversation with Counterspace Co-Founder and architect Sumayya Vally, artist Torkwase Dyson, and Serpentine curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, moderated by journalist Yomi Adegoke, that illuminated the influences and creative processes of the design of the 2021 Serpentine Pavilion and its sound piece. The conversation also invited participants and audience alike to meditate on the possibilities of architecture that is conceived to amplify the presence of multiplicity and migration in London and beyond.
Adegoke also moderated a discussion with ENNY, fashion designer Priya Ahluwalia, and Vally, who shared stories from past and present histories, addressing subjects that ranged from diaspora, migration, and intergenerationally, to gentrification and identity, and that paid homage to the strength and beauty of Black existence.
In between the Wellbeing Culture Forum talks, curator and art critic Daniel Birnbaum and Hans Ulrich Obrist introduced artist Carsten Höller’s digital extension of his most recent monographic exhibition at the MAAT Museum, DAY. The digital work, produced and displayed by Acute Art via their App, titled 7.8 (Reduced Reality App), augments and reduces reality through the flickering of screens at 7.8 Hz, a frequency that stimulates brain wave frequencies and may induce hallucinatory effects. Gathered at the Pavilion, guests experienced Höller’s work together as a shared art experience.
The 2021 edition of the Serpentine Pavilion opened to the public on June 11 in Kensington Gardens, with smaller fragments presented across the city of London, illustrating the power of architecture to inspire a sense of community, identity, belonging, and gathering back into our lives. The Pavilion’s abstract, superimposing and interlaced sculptural elements reference the architecture of local restaurants, markets, bookshops, and cultural institutions that played a significant role in the vitalisation of cross-cultural communities during their migration into neighborhoods such as Brixton, Hoxton, Hackney, Peckham, and Notting Hill, among others.
Sumayya Vally stated: “It has been an incredible journey to see such a diversity of uses and voices giving life to and shaping the life of the Pavilion. I am so honored to have been a part of this journey, and I’m excited to continue to work on growing and developing the work and engagements that the Pavilion has seeded.”
Since first launching in 2000, the Serpentine Pavilion has become an emblem of belonging and community engagement in the buzzing heart of metropolitan London, providing people with an inspiring and creative space to congregate and share creatively with one another. Therme Art has served as the lead support of the Serpentine’s annual architectural commissions programme for three consecutive editions.
COMMUNION is part of a series of collaborations initiated by MYND and Therme Mind, a mental health and wellbeing initiative first launched at Design Miami/Basel 2021, as it supported the transdisciplinary installation Shy Synchrony by DRIFT, presented by Superblue. MYND makes pioneering neuroscience technology and findings available to leading artists for the realisation of art and cultural production encouraging mental health and wellbeing.
Therme Art GmbH
A Johannesburg-based collaborative architectural studio led by Sumayya Vally, Counterspace is inspired by its location – Johannesburg – and is committed to developing design expression particularly for the continent through design research, publishing, pedagogy, built things, buildings, and other forms of architecture. The studio occupies a space between the functional and the speculative; pedagogy and praxis; simultaneously describing cities, and their histories and futures, and imagining them. An exploration into evolving methods of collaborative practice and research, it operates adjacent to the academy, with Sumayya leading Unit 12 of the Graduate School of Architecture Johannesburg and collaborations on several research projects with the city. Counterspace also runs Counterparts, an interdisciplinary space, residency, and dialogue and publishing platform, with an interest in tracing, seeding, and carving collaborative ways of working. Further information: www.counterspace-studio.com
Championing new ideas in contemporary art since 1970, the Serpentine has presented pioneering exhibitions for half a century, from a wide range of emerging practitioners to the most internationally recognised artists of our time. Across two sites only 5 minutes apart, in London’s Kensington Gardens, the Serpentine presents a year-round, free programme of exhibitions, education, live events, and technological innovation, in the park and beyond. Proud to maintain free access for all visitors, thanks to its unique location the Serpentine reaches an exceptionally broad audience and maintains a deep connection with its local community. Further information: www.serpentinegalleries.org
MYTH is a company created to make positive cultural and commercial change through entertainment, talent, and brand partnerships. By bringing new audiences to Arts and Culture, MYTH is focused on creating a more diverse, equitable, and meaningful world. Further information: www.mythldn.com
Therme Group is a leading global wellbeing provider designing, constructing, and operating the world’s largest wellbeing facilities. Its contemporary urban development proposition incorporates environmental concepts to re-integrate nature into everyday life. Therme Group’s facilities combine its innovative sustainable technologies with human-oriented design. Drawing upon the tradition of ancient thermal baths, which were designed to be healing, social, and egalitarian settings, Therme Group builds environments that nurture the mind and body for visitors of all ages and demographics, creating healthy and resilient communities. Further information: www.thermegroup.com
Therme Art is the cultural incubator of Therme Group. Responsible for the outreach to the creative communities, it curates forums between culture, science and society and works with internationally renowned artists and architects, as well as emerging talents, to commission and develop site-specific artistic projects that challenge the limitations of conventional exhibition spaces and redefine contemporary art viewing. Therme Art provides the resources and means required to fulfil artists’ visions which cannot be realised in galleries or museums, regardless of their complexity, production, installation, and long-term maintenance. Further information: www.therme.art
Therme Mind is a joint venture between wellbeing leader Therme Group and neuroscience pioneer MindMaze. Therme Mind integrates MindMaze’s groundbreaking neuroscience technology into Therme’s holistic approach to wellbeing, to methodically redefine the role of preventive health in our culture and society. Under its initiative MYND, Therme Mind adapts MindMaze’s medical-grade neurotechnology for application in architecture, design, and arts projects, to create digital, multi-sensorial solutions that promote mental and physical wellbeing. Through biofeedback-based experiences that interact with users’ mind-body functions, MYND invites selected artists to create interactive artworks, addressing questions of mental health and wellbeing. Further information: www.thermemind.one
MindMaze is a global leader in brain technology with a mission to accelerate humanity's ability to recover, learn and adapt. With over a decade of work at the intersection of neuroscience, medicine, and engineering powered by artificial intelligence, the company strives to create the universal platform of brain health and performance. Through its products the company is addressing some of the most challenging problems in neurology, including stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. MindMaze Labs is the company's R&D division tasked with bringing ground-breaking neuroscience to everyday life. Founded in 2012 by Tej Tadi, Ph.D., MindMaze's Chief Executive Officer, the Company has offices in Lausanne, Baltimore, London, Paris and Mumbai. Further information: www.mindmaze.com
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