Sonia Boyce: In the Castle of My Skin

Sonia Boyce, In the Castle of My Skin


With guest artists: Anna Barham, Kate Cooper, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Harold Offeh, Flora Parrott, Luc Pheles, Alberta Whittle, and work by Francis Alÿs, Lynn Chadwick, Lucy Harvey, Andrew Logan, Jaqueline Poncelet, Bridget Riley and Martin Smith from the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art collection.

In the Castle of My Skin is a solo show of new commissions and existing work by Sonia Boyce, with work by seven other artists co-curated with Boyce. The exhibition is built through improvisation techniques and riffs on ways of playing in urban space. It takes shape across a large new sculptural display system that houses works by Boyce and artists including Kate Cooper, Harold Offeh, Flora Parrott and Alberta Whittle alongside selected works from the Middlesbrough Collection. The sculpture is based on the crystalline form of the mineral pyrite, known as Fool’s Gold, and is clad in wallpapers made by Boyce since the early 1990s.

In the Castle of My Skin starts with the metaphor of skin as a covering, a surface, a barrier, a marker of identity and a connector between internal and external worlds. This builds on the intersection of diverse histories as a recurring theme in Boyce’s work. The sculpture and a newly-commissioned video expand Boyce’s thinking about the speculative nature of improvisation, social bonding, visual cultures and relationships to the built environment.

Boyce is fascinated by moments of serendipity that occur when people are brought together without a script. The new video comes out of the performative laboratory of two live, public events produced at Eastside Projects in 2017 in which local skate-boarders and skate-boarding ukulele players performed. This unlikely pairing is combined with footage of female skaters shot in Middlesbrough who play and improvise, uncovering knowledge of their bodies and the town’s urban architecture.

The title, In the Castle of My Skin, comes from an autobiographical novel by writer George Lamming, a study of colonial revolt that is seen as one of the great political novels in modern ‘colonial’ literature. Set in the 1930s in Barbados, where the author was born, the story follows a young boy’s life against the backdrop of major societal change. This reference builds on Boyce’s extensive work in re-evaluating modernism to incorporate a range of perspectives, journeys and voices.

In the summer of 2020, the exhibition will be reimagined and reconfigured at MIMA in Middlesbrough. MIMA holds one of Boyce’s key early works, She Ain’t Holding Them Up, She’s Holding On (Some English Rose), 1986 (acquired in 1987) and throughout 2019 the artist has collaborated with the institution and colleagues from the Black Artists & Modernism research project to audit the collection for contributions by black artists.

This exhibition is organised in partnership with MIMA, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. The new works are co-commissioned by Eastside Projects and MIMA, with support from The Henry Moore Foundation and The Elephant Trust.

Sonia Boyce, In the Castle of My Skin 
25 January – 11 April 2020
Public Launch 6–8pm Friday 24 January 2020

Eastside Projects
86 Heath Mill Lane
B9 4AR

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