Boiler Room and Somerset House Studios artist Gaika collaborate on ‘System’, a sound system culture installation. Marking 70 years of Windrush, the month long installation explores sound systems and Notting Hill Carnival’s heritage beyond the borders of West London at Somerset House
SYSTEM by musician and performance artist Gaika is an evocative art installation at Somerset House Studios telling the history of sound system culture in London commissioned by Boiler Room. SYSTEM challenges the media perception of Carnival by showcasing a fair representation of the stories, characters, statistics and under celebrated sound system culture at Carnival and beyond. It forms part of a wider campaign from Boiler Room to celebrate the positive cultural impact of migration.
The audio visual installation will be made up of curated archive material from institutions, such as Black Cultural Archives and the BFI. SYSTEM will open 1 August and run until 26 August.
For Somerset House Studios’ artist Gaika, Carnival and the fixed sound system are a bold demonstration of immigration, blackness and raw technical power. By creating SYSTEM, Boiler Room and Gaika invite guests to immerse themselves in a shared narrative, historical knowledge and interact with an overwhelming black architectural system. Visitors can interact at SYSTEM through a jack input, allowing one song per person which will then be recorded and fed into the archive.
The installation will serve as a real world architectural access point to the audio visual interpretation of Notting Hill Carnival archive source material. The installation is designed to be an interactive, functioning large scale audio visual sculpture at Somerset House into which visitors can plug in and play music.
Each Thursday during SYSTEM, Boiler Room, Gaika and Somerset House Studios will be hosting a number of events with King Tubbys, Channel One, Saxton Sound, Rap Attack plus more to be announced in the weeks building to Notting Hill Carnival. Featuring sound systems from the most cutting-edge creators in the industry, the series will give a platform to new talent inspired by sound system culture to perform alongside the original selectors, in events broadcast worldwide by Boiler Room and co-hosted by Gaika.
SYSTEM is part of a 360° campaign from Boiler Room designed to celebrate migration and the positive cultural impact it has on society. The campaign brings together a community of artists, activists, and families to tell their stories through installations, film, editorial, music and performance.
“I chose to work with Boiler Room because it represents what I love about London; it is diverse in its make up and forward thinking in its approach. I think it’s a great platform to tell important stories directly.
I’m proud to be an artist at Somerset House Studios. There’s somehow a quiet rebelliousness to the place which I fully rate. It’s a rare and vital space for experimentation in a city where the establishment is often at odds with the people.
I’m a second generation Caribbean immigrant, I grew up waiting on that day in summer when every tube train would be filled with faces like mine, eyes locked in silent acknowledgement, all heading to the same destination with the same purpose.
I first went as a small child with my father, who before becoming a scientist had been deeply involved with sound system culture on his arrival to Britain. I remember weaving through the crowds sat on his shoulders and the smile on his face as the music rumbled through our bodies as I looked on in awe of the spectacle. This time was ours to love each other amongst the concrete, brief emotional respite where we didn’t have to compute the grim reality of Thatcherite Britain as it was for black boys like me. I remember running for cover as the bottles flew over head, the police charged and the cameras rolled.
Notting Hill carnival is, in all its contradictions, a powerful expression of my immigrant culture. It is a political act of community congregation. This chaotic mass of wildly expressed emotion is a technologically advanced ritual that represents, at its core, a militant holding of space. Carnival simultaneously bucks and becomes the system with its defiance and pride and must never be moved.
I’m excited to be working on something that held so much sway in my childhood imagination, i hope in some small way my work can help protect and support its vitality.”