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In a time when ads about yoga and fitness attack us constantly and gyms are more crowded than any other place, we should stop and wonder: is this type of wellbeing really what ‘well-being’ means? Until the 9th of February, Somerset House Studios presents Hyper Functional, Ultra Healthy, a programme of six newly commissioned artworks framed within the 24/7 exhibition held at the London-based institution.

Six artists from different backgrounds and working on various disciplines ranging from performance to sound art and sculpture have been invited to reflect on the concept of ‘well-being’. Described as the optimization of mental and physical wellbeing, Somerset House explains, “wellness and its marketisation imposes upon us an imperative to be healthy, happy and productive members of society.” And as many have been wondering lately, is there room for negative feelings and non-normative bodies? They continue: “Creating the ideal body and state of mind is the responsibility of the individual, leading to a culture of self-obsession and egoism that disdains those who do not or cannot conform to the demands of wellness.”

As January is the month when everyone – yes, you too – promises to quit smoking, exercise and eat greener, Somerset hosts a programme questioning all this. On January 16, Vivienne Griffin – an artist currently focussing on the problematics of hyperindividualism through the use of sound, silence, meditation, podcasts and more –, hosts the group workshop Un-Wow, where “voices are digitally modified in unison to explore dissonance, vocal fry, polyphonic harmonies, speaking in tones, drone, noise and fake laughter.” Two weeks later, on January 30, Florence Peake will do an intimate performance related to space, love and time. In February, don’t miss Leah Clements’ Hyperbaric, a performance that considers the psychology of spaces of care through a hyperbaric chamber; or Rowdy SS’ piece in collaboration with Rebecca Bellantoni, which is presented as “an intimate sound and text experience performed inside their sound installation that synthesises the ceaseless urban noise of London to create a new soundscape of refuge and respite.”

David Valero

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