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Divine Southgate-Smith, “Take A Second to Breathe” (2021)
Divine Southgate-Smith, “Take A Second to Breathe” (2021)Courtesy of the artist and Browns East

Divine Southgate-Smith explores Black joy as a political ideology

Take A Second to Breathe is an immersive video installation inviting you on a journey through seductive utopian landscapes

Most known for her mesmerising architectural renderings, Divine Southgate-Smith’s monolithic columns and archways are at once classical and futuristic; crumbling, abandoned civilizations and utopias of dreamlike configurations, composed of colour, light, and form. 

As a multidisciplinary artist, Southgate-Smith uses film, text, spoken word, performance, sound, installation, and sculpture to interrogate articulations of Black, queer, and female experience. Her latest work, “Take A Second to Breathe” (2021), which was made in collaboration with Jawara Alleyne, Bad With Phones, and Brandon Saunders, invites us on a winding journey through her imaged spaces and into an exploration of Black joy and creativity. 

Now showing at the Immersive Room in Browns East, this sonic and visual experience moves through original and archival material, before drawing us into the world of Southgate-Smith’s pink landscape, where we float through sculptural columns and beneath suspended spheres as a dreamer levitates through a dreamscape. “‘Take A Second to Breathe’ started with a series of simple ideas,” she explained to Browns. “I wanted to see my architectural prints in moving images, I wanted to create a piece that celebrated Black joy, and I wanted to create a bridge between my films and 3D renders.” 

Given a brief with the theme ‘seduction’, her entry point was exploring ideas that she herself found seductive, as well as examining seduction through the ideology and architecture. “The film was made during very uncertain times, and my community was once again under the spotlight for a fight that seems consistently silenced – a moment of rupture was overdue,” she continues. “These were stressful times and I wanted to create something that didn’t trigger me but provided release and comfort. Black joy as a political ideology. I wanted to obliterate the idea that we as individuals cannot have a social impact.” 

The hypnotic soundscape on “Take A Second to Breathe” features an extract of an interview with civil rights activist, songwriter, and singer Abbey Lincoln, which recurs, mantra-like, throughout the film. Southgate-Smith recalls encountering Lincoln’s interview for the first time. “When I heard her words: ‘We are the African Gods, you and me’, I knew how I could conceptualise all my concerns and feelings. Feeling the cultural and historical weight of these words, they had such a resonance with my 3D prints.”

Visit the gallery above for a glimpse of stills from the film while, below, view Southgate-Smith’s “Take A Second to Breathe”.

Take A Second to Breathe” by Divine Southgate-Smith will be showing at Browns East until July 13