Radio Ballads

Sonia Boyce, Helen Cammock, Rory Pilgrim, Ilona Sagar

A 1950s and 60s BBC radio programme with the same name is the inspiration, but the updated version of Radio Ballads is an exhibition at Serpentine North, Kensington Gardens and Barking Town Hall, East London that explores the sounds of care.

Four artists present film work, sound installations, paintings and drawings that suffuse artistic processes into the structures of social care.

The poems, collective songs, and recorded voices present a new way of thinking and feeling about systemic approaches to care and community support and laid bare by testimonies and reflections.

The London Borough of Barkingham and Dagenham has London’s highest level of asbestos-related cancers because of the factory and dock industries it’s traditionally tied to. This we learn, even before viewing The Body Blow a two-channel video work by Ilona Sugar. I’m from the East End and keenly aware of its blue-collar heritage. So the personal accounts of these cancer sufferers stayed with me.

They were not at all harrowing or self-pitying but certainly excoriating. There’s a stark realisation that we can all suddenly find ourselves trapped in an uncompromising system. Some of them admitted they weren’t up to the task of tackling the bureaucracy that comes with their suffering and were indebted to the tireless work of their social workers and end-of-life carers. Visual art married with documentary. Come prepared to listen.

The Body Blow – artist Ilona Sagar

Sonia Boyce’s video work Yes, I Hear You also seeks to channel art practices into transformative vessels whose focus is civic and community concerns. Carers are key figures and relationship issues are explored. The four-channel work deals with domestic abuse and was produced after a series of workshops and interviews.

The testimonies are overheard – as one might listen in on a telephone call to a police officer dealing with a difficult and violent partner. It shines a light on support systems in the community. Again, you’re invited to listen deeply. Don’t be in a rush to move on to the next piece. And don’t overthink.

Yes, I Hear You – artist Sonia Boyce

WHAT? – Radio Ballads

WHERE? – Serpentine North, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA.

WHEN? – Until May 29

Published by Slipstream Media

Arts Media and Production Company