Critics’ Picks

Tarek Lakhrissi, Out of the Blue, 2019, video, color, sound, 13 minutes.

Tarek Lakhrissi, Out of the Blue, 2019, video, color, sound, 13 minutes.


“The Voices of a Tempest”

Somerset House Studios
Strand WC2R 1LA
December 2, 2022–March 19, 2023

Among the achievements of Une tempête (1969), Aimé Césaire’s transposition of Shakespeare’s late romance onto the imaginative landscape of 1960s anticolonialism, is its sensitivity to how language and translation have the capacity to make and unmake worlds. That sensitivity, and the Martinican’s later writings more generally, provides conceptual scaffolding for a group exhibition in which the construction of elaborate fictions, drawing on the residuum of struggles past, is a strategy both of translation (of one epoch, medium, or cultural milieu to another) and survival. Emphasized are the sardonic rebuttals of the minoritized and dispossessed to the restrictive orthodoxies of their lived environments; the fake blood splattered across the exhibition’s walls and floorboards sets the tone.

Tarek Lakhrissi’s video Out of the Blue, 2019, fashions a sly commentary on the French right’s embrace of grand remplacement mythologies. The city through which our protagonist dazedly wanders becomes the site of an alien invasion, depicted as a queer and immigrant uprising in which CEOs are held hostage and “the explosion of capitalism” gleefully enacted. Both satirical and sincere, oscillating between high camp and moments of startling quietude, the video deftly navigates seemingly incongruous registers to consider, with great nuance and humor, what comes after revolt.

Culture-war stand-offs and genre tropes recur in Babeworld x utopian_realism’s video installation Derby Day, 2022, which parodies the coded cruelty of contemporary liberalism, particularly as pertains to the hypocrisies of the UK’s arts sector. The narrator, seeking funding for “a horror film, basically, about race and ‘struggling,’” gradually blurs the lines between performance and reality—and brutalities fantasized and actualized. (Bloodstained football jerseys on the wall provide a kind of spoiler alert.) Her refusal to succumb to the logic of those invested in her dehumanization recalls a line uttered by Césaire’s revolutionary Caliban to the white slaver Prospero in Une tempête’s final scene: “You know very well that I’m not interested in peace; I’m interested in being free!”