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Trump. When They Go Low, I Go High Art

18/11/2016 12:10 | Updated 18 November 2016

After nearly a week following the post U.S election analysis, I reeled with concern for what the result could mean for my bi-racial family, living in a white neighbourhood (the cultural affect of American politics soon presents it's horror show of ramifications here). I saw that my fears of increasing hate crimes were being realised, which led to a neurotic questioning of our communities. On a micro level, the parents at my kids' school were seemingly unaffected and unacknowledging of the brevity of world events, preferring to indulge in protracted conversations about their 'stressful' home decorating dramas.

In my work community however, both 'real' and online, I was plunged into a pool of post-election confusion. Most were questioning why this happened, what it could mean for women, for friends and family in the U.S and here. The incongruity between my two worlds was unsteadying. I was reassured that the work-related crowd were 'my people' along with friends and family of course, and together we held each other's reactions.

I couldn't help but roll my eyes at some Instagram posts, where 'public people' (i.e. those with a high public profile) donned their haberdashery (safety pins) in solidarity with minorities, as part of the #safetypinsolidarity campaign. I was also unsure as to what the cries of 'fighting back' and 'letters to my daughters' really meant for supporting those most vulnerable, and I don't know about you, but for me by the weekend it had all got a bit too much.

Then an invite arrived to Skate at Somerset House, which cue Oprah music, momentarily turned things around. Walking through the arches of the courtyard felt like entering a Christmas card scene. As a creative working from home, you can too easily drown in news reports and soul sapping social media posts. I quickly began to avoid them, and indulge in life affirming pleasures instead. Chocolate box environments are not my usual go-to places on sunny days off, but y'know we were there and the festivity clichés felt comforting.

Mum's tales of the war years came to mind. Her father was posted overseas as a naval officer, and my grandmother barely holding it together caring for three toddlers and her mother, also found comfort in traditional festivity rituals. The Band-Aids do sometimes work. Remembering also my recent visit to Frieze in October, Wolfgang Tillman's talked post-Brexit action, invigorating the arts audience to use their work as a tool for political change in divisive times. So on my usual beat, I headed for the art shows on at the venue, in the hope of gaining a sense of solidarity from the works. Although not political in message, the dipping into someone else's world, and experiencing their creative process, is for artists, a great distraction in uncertain times. For this reason I also warm to the generosity of Nick Knight OBE founder of the Showstudio website where they open up the creative process and invite you in.

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'Hair' exhibition Photo of Kate Moss by Nick Knight. Courtesy of Somerset House

Shonagh Marshall, curator at Somerset House, is one of Showstudio's regular contributors, and she has followed on from her success of this summer's Utopia exhibition by offering us 'Hair', a major exhibition celebrating Sam McKnight's remarkable 40-year career.

My family gorged on the fantasy and drama of the exhibition, which was such an invigorating departure from the loaded discussions around politics of late.

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Nuit de Noël (Happy Club), 1963 (c) Malick Sidibé Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris Courtesy of Somerset House

And the art kept giving. Upstairs in the Terrace Rooms, speakers billowed with Ali Farke Toure's 'Saygalare', part of the soundtrack curated by Rita Ray for the Malick Sidibe exhibition, sounds mirroring those Malick would have listened to during his photo-shoots, at the clubs depicted in many of his images. High Art indeed, I was giddy with the expressions of creativity and freedom in these cultural offerings.

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Photo by James Bryant Courtesy of Somerset House

Somerset House, with it's new Studio initiative, an experimental workspace supporting 300 artists, makers and thinkers, and The Courtauld Institute working to conserve and educate on art history (including fashion), is an enduring love; remaining a constant inspiration, and offering the perfect 'when they go low, go high' strength that we all needed this week.

Skate London Until 15th January 2017
Hair Sam McKnight exhibition Until 12th March 2017
Somerset House Studios Application deadline for artists 7th December 2016
Malick Sidibe 'The Eye of Modern Maii' Until 15th January 2017
Lou Mensah

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