In less than a month, on 8 June 2021, the 20th Pavilion of the Serpentine Gallery in London will open with a work by Counterspace studio, directed by Sumayya Vally, a young artist based in Johannesburg. The Serpentine is a London gallery in the heart of Kensington Gardens, which has always focused on contemporary art and the latest creative languages.
This year’s Pavilion emerges from the research by the Counterspace studio which was founded in Johannesburg in 2015 and aims at a transdisciplinary approach driven by a strong interest in community and urban research, often interwoven with other disciplines. “My practice, and this Pavilion, “ says Sumayya Vally, “ is centred around amplifying and collaborating with multiple and diverse voices from many different histories; with an interest in themes of identity, community, belonging and gathering”.
In this spirit, the Pavilion draws on past and present models of traditional London meeting places – markets, restaurants, bookshops and cultural institutions – that have been particularly important for migrant communities in neighbourhoods such as Brixton, Hoxton, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Edgware Road, Barking and Dagenham, Peckham and Notting Hill. The design draws on, overlaps or fragments the architectural elements of these specific locations in the London urban landscape. Several parts of the Pavilion will be installed in various neighbourhoods throughout the summer, translating this growing need for osmotic coexistence between universal and local geographies to decentralise, as well as refocus our attention on the roots of each territory. The project is combined with a sound programme commissioned specifically for the Pavilion by artists such as Ain Bailey and Jay Barnard, designed to connect the visitor with London’s lost spaces.
Architecture has always represented a very important social language and tool. The Pavilion that emerges every year in the park next to the gallery is created from an experimental transdisciplinary urge to express a condition and create a situation that takes shape from a historical moment. And if the commission turned to established architects in the international scene for many years, recently it has begun to invest in emerging, young talented artists.
Right from the beginning, this young studio appeared to embody the urgency of the moment: the need to restructure human relations by planting new roots which will then spread throughout the individual territories of countries, regions, cities and neighbourhoods. We will understand more about what it means to inhabit and ‘experience’ this architecture over the coming summer.
images: (cover 1) Serpentine Pavilion 2021 designed by Counterspace, Design Render, Interior View © Counterspace e @SerpentineUK (2) Sumayya Vally of Counterspace. Photographed by Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020. © Counterspace @SerpentineUK