Now open at Tate Britain Let the sunshine in, is a new exhibition by artist Shawanda Corbett. Corbett’s multifaceted practice embraces ceramics, film, dance, and photography, to explore the notion of a ‘complete body’. Created especially for Tate Britain, Let the sunshine in features the artist’s first short film accompanied by a jazz score and presented alongside a set of new ceramic vessels. Woven together, these elements highlight how people interact with one another and the spaces they inhabit, offering a soulful reflection on the human experience. This is the latest in Tate Britain’s ongoing Art Now series of free exhibitions showcasing emerging talent and highlighting the latest developments in contemporary British art.
Informed by our shared experience of the pandemic when restrictions on live events were in place, Corbett came to rethink the traditional concept of performance and was inspired to create her first short film. Premiering at Tate Britain, Cyborg theory: the adequacy of tenderness to our antipathy uses dance and performance to explore concerns around access and availability. Influenced by her own lived experience, Corbett takes Cyborg Theory – a concept coined by writer Donna J. Haraway which considers how mechanical objects relate to human life – as a starting point to interrogate the similarities and differences between humans, animals, and cyborgs. The performance also questions the ethical nature of artificial intelligence, acknowledging the communities who are often overlooked as this scientific field develops.
The ceramic vessels showcase Corbett’s unique making-style and language, which draws upon West African and Japanese pottery techniques and is also inspired by the fluidity of jazz music. She allows each form to take on its own personality as the clay always ‘ends up doing its own thing’ during the making process. The artist describes how the vessels ‘act as a still life of the performance’, adopting the characters of the dancers in the film. The resulting dialogue between the two mediums references Corbett’s keen interest in Ancient Greek theatre, whereby ceramics were used to document performance. Building on this practice, Corbett’s ceramics not only depict but actively converse with her performance.
A jazz score written by the artist and inspired by Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders binds all the components of the display together. Collectively, the music, the dancers, the set design, the ceramic vessels and the exhibition space create an environment which invites viewers to question the links between animals and machines, and the culture that binds or differentiates us as beings. Corbett hopes this will encourage visitors from all backgrounds to be present in the space and to reflect on the human experience.
Since the 1990s, Art Now has recognised talent at its outset and provided a launching platform for artists who have gone on to become established figures on the international art scene. The series has recently showcased the work of Danielle Dean, SERAFINE1369, Cooking Sections, and Sophia Al-Maria.
Art Now: Shawanda Corbett is curated by Bilal Akkouche, Assistant Curator, Contemporary British Art with Hannah Marsh, Curatorial Assistant, Contemporary British Art. Art Now is supported by the Art Now Supporters Circle and Tate Americas Foundation.
ART NOW: SHAWANDA CORBETT 28th May – 4th September 2022
Free admission: Open daily 10.00 – 18.00 Tate Britain
About the artist
Shawanda Corbett (b. 1989, New York) currently lives and works in Oxford, UK, where she is studying for her doctoral degree in Fine Art at The Ruskin School of Art and Whadham College, University of Oxford. Corbett holds a BFA in ceramics and printmaking with a minor in theatre from Rochester Institute of Technology (2016) and a MFA from the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford (2017).
Corbett was awarded the Turner Bursary from Tate in 2021 and The Kleinwort Hambros Emerging Artist Prize in 2021, and her work is represented in the collections of The Fitzwilliam Museum, The Harris, and The Arts Council Collection. Recent solo exhibitions include “Neighbourhood Garden” at Corvi-Mora, London and “To the Fields of Lilac” at Salon 94, New York.