Marcus Coates in: 24/7: Somerset House

31 October 2019 - 23 February 2020 Museums & Institutions



Somerset House

Embankment Galleries, South Wing 

Strand, London, UK


An essential exhibition for today, exploring the non-stop nature of modern life through a series of immersive, playful works from some of today’s most exciting global artists.


Tracing the origins of our ‘always-on’ culture back to the Industrial Revolution, 24/7examines the blurred boundaries between day and night, work and leisure, human and machine, the individual and the collective. With every waking moment now an opportunity to work, tech companies tracking our facial expressions and our devices following our activity even while we sleep, how we cope with this accelerated pace of life is one of the most urgent contemporary issues affecting us all.

This major exhibition takes you on a multi-sensory journey from dawn to dusk through five themed zones. Over 50 multi-disciplinary works have been brought together, including interactive installations which hold a mirror up to a society where complex control systems play an ever larger role. The exhibition is inspired by the book of the same title by art critic and essayist Jonathan Crary (Verso, 2013).


Contributors include Marcus CoatesMat CollishawHarun FarockiPierre HuygheRut Blees LuxemburgKelly RichardsonPilvi TakalaAddie Wagenknecht, and ten artists and designers from Somerset House Studios, including Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard.

It is estimated that Britons worked 37 more hours in 2017 than in 2010 (the equivalent of one week’s extra work for many people), with 200,000 working days lost annually to insufficient sleep. Living in the glow of blue light, people in the UK now check their smartphones, on average, every 12 minutes, and half of all UK adults say their life would be boring if they could not get online access.

Curated by Somerset House and Sarah Cook, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey from the cold light of the moon to the fading warmth of the sunset through a series of interactive installations and interrogations of 24/7 life.


Installations include:

Tatsuo Miyajima’s meditative isolation chamber Life Palace (tea room), in which individuals can climb inside, shut the door and bathe in the blue glow of LED countdowns

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s new immersive orchestration of a machine generated dawn chorus, highlighting the impact of 24/7 urban lifestyles on bird populations

Daily tous les jours’ I heard there was a secret chord, where visitors can unite with listeners around the world to hum the chorus of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah at the end of the exhibition.

Other exhibition highlights include Nastja Säde Rönkkö’s project 6 months without, in which she spent 6 months living and working from Somerset House Studios without the internet; Roman Signer’s Bett, where the artist attempts to sleep with a drone helicopter hovering above his head; Thomson & Craighead’s Beacon, a railway flap sign continuously relaying live web searches as they are being made around the world; Tega Brain’s unfit bits, where the artist fools fitness tracking tools into thinking she is taking exercise, and Alan Warburton’s series of 3D-scanned self-portraits depicting his worktime naps in a visual effects studio in Beijing.