Sonia Boyce: Retrospective

Manchester Art Gallery presents the first retrospective exhibition by artist Sonia Boyce.

Focusing on work from the mid-1990s to the present the exhibition will reflect Boyce’s move from her earlier drawing and collage which explored her own position as a black British woman, towards more improvised, collaborative ways of working. These unpredictable, open processes have been documented through a range of media including photography, film and wallpaper. The gallery has also commissioned Boyce to make a new collaborative live work for the exhibition.

New commission

Sonia Boyce is fascinated by ‘what people do when they come together’. She is currently working with the gallery team and invited collaborators, including Lasana Shabazz and drag artists from Family Gorgeous, to make a new work, Six Acts, a night-time group takeover of the gallery exploring ‘gender trouble’ among the gallery’s 19th century painting displays and wider culture. This new commission will be made into a film installation and shown for the first time in the exhibition.

Other works on display

For You, Only You, 2007 is a film of a collaboration between sound artist Mikhail Karikis and the early music group Alamire, exploring the relationship between early music and contemporary sound art.
Exquisite Cacophony, 2015 is a film of an improvised encounter between indie rapper Astronautalis and vocal artist Elaine Mitchener. Their spontaneous interplay explores tensions, slippages and revelations resulting from mixing sounds and words to produce a cacophony.
Crop Over, 2007 responds to the Crop Over festival in Barbados in relation to the history of Harewood House in Leeds, and its role in the Transatlantic slave trade, moving from contemplative mood to the world of masquerade and the carnivalesque.

The exhibition will also acknowledge the connections Boyce already has with Manchester and the North West, re-visiting earlier career developments in her practice and bringing these earlier works back into the public domain to be experienced and interpreted in a contemporary context. The Audition (1997) contains over 900 photographs of individuals invited to try on afro wigs and was made at Cornerhouse during Boyce’s residency at The University of Manchester in 1997-8. Devotional Collection is an archive of sound, ephemera and wallpaper relating to black British women in music and is an ongoing project which began at FACT, Liverpool in 1999.

Sonia Boyce: Retrospective
Friday 23 March 2018–Sunday 22 July 2018

Manchester Art Gallery
Mosley Street
Manchester UK M2 3JL
Tel: 0161 235 8888


Image: Sonia Boyce Crop Over, 2007, 15′, two-channel video (production still: Mother Sally), collection: Barbados Museum and Historical Society.

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