Kaleidoscope: Identity and immigration in Britain

Somerset House

Explore Kaleidoscope - a photography exhibition at Somerset House, exploring identity and immigration in modern Britain

The Jump (Film still), Hetain Patel, 2015/2015, From the collection of: Somerset House

Featuring stills and moving image, Kaleidoscope showcases the works of ten photographers born or based in Britain, many with family origins abroad including Hong Kong, India, Jamaica and Russia, and explores what it means and how it feels to live as an immigrant, or a descendant of immigrants, in Britain today.

Co-curated by writer Ekow Eshun and Creative Director Darrell Vydelingum, the exhibition forms a celebration of immigration in everyday life. Reflecting the multiplicity of voices that together form modern Britain, the exhibition takes individual and often intensely personal experiences to encourage a wider appreciation of the nation’s multiculturalism. The significance of immigrant communities forms a key focus, particularly how they influence the country’s identity, challenged now more than ever.

Untitled 5 - Heartbeat, Seba Kurtis, 2012/2012, From the collection of: Somerset House
Seba Kurtis – Heartbeat
Informed by his own history as an illegal immigrant, Seba Kurtis presents Heartbeat, a series of portraits of migrants held at UK detention centres, inspired by the British police’s use of heartbeat detectors to locate people hiding amongst cargo.
Heartbeat - as part of Kaleidoscope, Seba Kurtis, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

Seba Kurtis grew up in Argentina and lived in Spain as an illegal immigrant for over five years.

His work explores the dynamics behind irregular migration and the resulting impact on culture, society and the individual.

Heartbeat is inspired by the UK Border Police’s use of human heartbeat detection systems. The devices scan lorries entering UK ports and are sensitive enough to identify a human heartbeat within 30 seconds.

Kurtis’s subjects in this series are people being held at detention centres, their barely visible images a reminder of their tentative status in Britain and the sophisticated technology arrayed against illicit border crossings.

Heartbeat - as part of Kaleidoscope, Seba Kurtis, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
The New Londoners, Chris Steele Perkins, From the collection of: Somerset House
Chris Steele-Perkins – The New Londoners
Chris Steele-Perkins’ large-scale The New Londoners studies families from each of the 200 UN-recognised countries of the world now living in London; the stories of their origins, and the reasons why they chose to settle in the city.
The New Londoners - as part of Kaleidoscope, Chris Steele-Perkins, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

In The New Londoners, Chris Steele Perkins seeks to photograph a family living in London from every country in the world.

The project is intended as a homage to diversity and a reminder of the significant role that immigration has played in the evolving identity of the city and the country as a whole.

For Steele-Perkins it is: "a record of a new London, a new Britain and a celebration of the fabulous cultural richness of London."

The New Londoners, Chris Steele Perkins, From the collection of: Somerset House
The New Londoners - as part of Kaleidoscope, Chris Steele-Perkins, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
Yellow Chalk #1&2 - Dalston Anatomy, Lorenzo Vitturi, 2013/2013, From the collection of: Somerset House
Lorenzo Vitturi – Dalston Anatomy
In Dalston Anatomy, Lorenzo Vitturi captures the energy in the convergence of different cultures at Ridley Road Market in East London. Combining portrait photography with abstract sculpture comprised of objects collected from the market, Vitturi reflects on the cultural evolution of Ridley Road and its unique combination of international influences.
Dalston Anatomy - as part of Kaleidoscope, Lorenzo Vitturi, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

Dalston Anatomy is described by the artist as a ‘visual celebration’ of Ridley Road Market in East London.

A long-time resident of the area, Vitturi regards the market as a unique place where ‘different cultures merge together in a celebration of life, diversity and unstoppable energy’.

Aware too that the local community and its economy are rapidly changing around him, Vitturi has striven to capture the area by picturing people and objects he encountered at the market, creating composite images from portraits and discarded goods that reflect the impermanent nature of a neighbourhood in transformation.

Haji Mohammad Baksha - from The Quiet Town of Tipton, Mahtab Hussain, 2013/2015, From the collection of: Somerset House
Mahtab Hussain – The Quiet Town of Tipton
For The Quiet Town of Tipton, Mahtab Hussain collaborates with the local South Asian community to capture life in the Sandwell borough following a racist attack on the Kanzul Iman mosque in 2013, offering a voice to those othered by xenophobic attitudes.
Friends and skull caps - from The Quiet Town of Tipton, Mahtab Hussain, 2013/2015, From the collection of: Somerset House

Mahtab Hussain’s work explores the relationship between identity, heritage and displacement.

His themes develop through long-term research, articulating a visual language that challenges prevailing concepts of multiculturalism.

In The Quiet Town of Tipton he explores the aftermath of a nail bomb attack that sought to maim and kill Friday worshipers at a mosque in Tipton, West Midlands.

His photographs offer a portrait of an Asian community that first arrived from Pakistan in the 1950s and 60s in search of work, eventually settling, raising families and becoming in Hussain’s words, "truly part of British society".

Kaleidoscope, Somerset House, Photography: Tim Bowditch, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
Elephant - as part of Kaleidoscope, Teresa Eng, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
Teresa Eng – Elephant
Teresa Eng explores the theme of belonging by documenting the people and places in Elephant & Castle, her home borough in London, offering a first-hand perspective of how second and third generation families view their local community.
Elephant, Teresa Eng, 2018/2018, From the collection of: Somerset House

Teresa Eng’s work deals with transition and change. She commonly works on projects across an extended period of time, revisiting a place over several months to a few years.

Elephant explores the people and
places of Elephant and Castle, South London, a neighbourhood characterised by immigration and ethnic diversity.

Eng is an outsider to the area, having moved to London after growing up in Canada. Despite this she rejects the distanced objectivity of documentary photography, offering instead a more empathic connection with her subjects.

Elephant - as part of Kaleidoscope, Teresa Eng, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
Aberdeen - from The Queen, The Chairman and I, Kurt Tong, 2009/2013, From the collection of: Somerset House
Kurt Tong – The Queen, The Chairman and I
Kurt Tong’s photo series The Queen, The Chairman and I is a personal documentation of his family’s journey from Hong Kong to the UK over the last 100 years.
The Queen, The Chairman and I - as part of Kaleidoscope, Kurt Tong, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

The Queen, The Chairman and I, is a multilayered narrative that traces the path of Kurt Tong’s family from China, to Hong Kong, to the UK.

Combining new photographs, found images and family album photos, Tong seeks to reconnect with the Hong Kong of the past, humanizing the political and social upheavals that brought his family there and eventually to Britain, and revealing the impact of the British Empire and Chinese Communism on his life.

Having grown up between three different cultures, Tong views the project as a means to address a powerful, personal question:
‘Who am I?’

Shook Ying Matchmaking - from The Queen, The Chairman and I, Kurt Tong, 2009/2013, From the collection of: Somerset House
The Queen, The Chairman and I - as part of Kaleidoscope, Kurt Tong, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
Many Rivers to Cross, Rhianne Clarke, From the collection of: Somerset House
Rhianne Clarke – Many Rivers to Cross
Rhianne Clarke’s Many Rivers to Cross forms a retrospective of her father’s photography of his Caribbean community in 1970s-80s London, discovered only following his death in 2014.
Many Rivers to Cross - as part of Kaleidoscope, Rhianne Clarke, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

In the summer of 2014, Rhianne Clarke lost her father, Michael Robert Clarke, to cancer.

A year after his death, her mother found a collection of 450 undeveloped negatives taken by him during the 1970s and 80s.

Although he was untrained in photography, the pictures nevertheless show a strong aesthetic sensibility and speak poignantly of his life in Britain as a member of an immigrant family from the Caribbean.

For Clarke, Many Rivers to Cross is a collaborative project with her father that points towards the process of discovery and consolation attainable through engaging with a family archive.

The Jump (Film still), Hetain Patel, 2015/2015, From the collection of: Somerset House
Hetain Patel – The Jump
Hetain Patel brings a playful touch to immigration discourse in his film work, The Jump, by gathering 17 British Indian family members in his grandmother’s home in Bolton, where he and his relatives have lived since 1967.
The Jump - as part of Kaleidoscope, Hetain Patel, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

Hetain Patel works in visual art and performance, often using humour and the language of popular culture to explore questions of culture and identity.

The Jump - as part of Kaleidoscope, Hetain Patel, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
The Jump - as part of Kaleidoscope, Hetain Patel, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

Featuring Patel’s homemade replica Spider-Man costume, The Jump ties together the fantasy imagery of Hollywood superhero movies with the domestic setting of the artist’s British Indian family home in the UK.

The Jump - as part of Kaleidoscope, Hetain Patel, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
The Jump - as part of Kaleidoscope, Hetain Patel, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

Featuring 17 of his family members, the film is shot in his grandmother’s home.

This is the house that Patel and all of his immigrant relatives have lived in at various points since 1967.

Real...Times, Liz Johnson Artur, From the collection of: Somerset House
Liz Johnson Artur – Real...Times
Photographer Liz Johnson Artur focuses on the capital in Real…Times, which premiered at the 10th Berlin Biennale 2018, weaving narratives from London’s African diaspora, from the Black Lives Matter activist rallies to sequences from Black female collective, Born N Bread.
Real...Times - as part of Kaleidoscope, Liz Johnson Artur, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

For the last three decades, Liz Johnson Artur has been working on a photographic representation of people of African descent from around the world.

Real...Times features scenes of black life in London, filmed by Johnson Artur during the summer of 2018: from a boisterous DJ session with the all-women Born N Bread collective, to a crowd gathered to both celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Windrush generation and protest at the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy for immigrants.

Real...Times - as part of Kaleidoscope, Liz Johnson Artur, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
Year Zero: Black Country, Billy Dosanjh, From the collection of: Somerset House
Billy Dosanjh – Year Zero: Black Country
Billy Dosanjh’s Year Zero: Black Country transports viewers to 1960s West Midlands. His video work compiles archive newsreel footage with personal testimonies from economic migrants in his hometown of Smethwick, forming a platform for a community underrepresented in mainstream culture.
Kaleidoscope, Somerset House, Photography: Tim Bowditch, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

The work of visual artist and filmmaker Billy Dosanjh investigates race and the working class South Asian diasporas around Smethwick in the West Midlands, the de-industrialised factory town where he grew up.

His essay film Year Zero: Black Country uses found footage, recorded anecdotes, fictional diaries and offcuts from newsreel archive to evoke the 60s in the Black Country, when thousands of economic migrants arrived from the former colonies in search of a promised land.

In 1965, Dosanjh uses home Super 8 footage shot both in the Punjab, India and in the Black Country to chronicle the journey of one family to England.

Kaleidoscope, Somerset House, Photography: Tim Bowditch, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House
Kaleidoscope, Somerset House, Photography: Tim Bowditch, 2019/2019, From the collection of: Somerset House

Kaleidoscope, Somerset House
12 June - 8 September 2019

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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