It is not often, as adults, that we get the chance to simply play: to explore spontaneously a relationship between self, others and our environment. Play can be seen as a casual, infantile activity, that is easily dismissed as unproductive. For artist Sonia Boyce, play and improvisation – with others – takes her into the realm of disrupted expectations and unguarded reverie where one action encourages another without apparent purpose.
Over the past twenty-odd years, Boyce has been involving other people in the production of her artworks as collaborators and participants. What interests her in these encounters are how, seemingly, divergent people and histories intersect. She is fascinated by what occurs when participants, often led by performers, allow themselves to veer into the unexpected.
Boyce’s keynote lecture for the Saastamoinen Foundation will discuss the process of her social art practice and the resulting artworks.
Sonia Boyce OBE RA was born in London, UK, in 1962, where she continues to live and work. In 2019, the artist received an OBE for services to art in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art. In 2016, Boyce was elected a Royal Academician, and received a Paul Hamlyn Artist Award. Between 2012 and 2017, Boyce was Professor of Fine Art at Middlesex University, and since 2014 she has been Professor at the University of the Arts London as the inaugural Chair of Black Art & Design, where she directed a three-year research project into Black Artists & Modernism, which resulted in a BBC documentary: Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? Britain’s Hidden Art History (2018).
Recent solo exhibitions include: Feeling Her Way, British Pavilion, 59th International Art Exhibition-La Biennale di Venezia 2022 – winner of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation (2022); In the Castle of My Skin, Eastside Projects, Birmingham, UK (2020) and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), Middlesbrough, UK (2021); Sonia Boyce, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK (2018); Sonia Boyce – We move in her way, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK (2017); and, Paper Tiger Whisky Soap Theatre (Dada Nice), Villa Arson, Nice, France (2016).
The lecture series features eminent international artists and experts
Boyce’s visit is part of the fine arts internationalisation programme launched by the Academy of Fine Arts and the Saastamoinen Foundation in 2014, which, in addition to lectures, includes international mentoring and residency activities for master’s students and alumni of the academy.
The lecture by Boyce will be the sixth Keynote lecture organised by Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts and the Saastamoinen Foundation. Speakers at the annual lecture event are internationally important figures in the arts.
The series was opened in January 2016 by Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst in Munich and the curator of the 2015 Venice Biennale. In 2017, the lecture was given by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, curators of the 2017 Istanbul Biennale. In 2018, the guest lecturer was Adam Szymczyk, who has worked, for example, as the artistic director of Documenta 14. The 2019 lecture was held by Martha Rosler, a US-born pioneer in feminist art, and the 2020 lecture was given by Andrea Giunta, an esteemed expert in Latin American art and the chief curator of the Mercosul biennial in 2020.