Arrivals + Departures is an interactive installation exploring birth, death and the journey in between by artist duo YARA + DAVINA. Taking the recognisable form of a station or airport arrivals and departures board, the artwork invites visitors to share the names of people who have arrived and departed as a way to celebrate a birth or commemorate a death. As the effects of Covid-19, racial injustice and the environmental crisis continue to disrupt communities across the world, this artwork offers a timely platform to engage with birth, life, death, loss and collective grief, through the act of naming.
Capturing the joy and sadness of any arrival or departure lounge, these nostalgic analogue display boards reflect the magnitude of sharing a name. By recording birth and death, the work marks the ebb and flow of life offering moments to welcome new life, honour the living and bring attention to death, acknowledging grief and loss.
For 134 years, Somerset House was home to the General Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, holding the first comprehensive record of life events for the whole of the population. Located in the central courtyard, surrounded by the buildings that once housed 8.5 miles of records, the large display boards of Arrivals + Departures are accessible to passers-by as well as regular visitors. The public is being invited to submit names to the boards online at www.arrivalsanddepartures.net
- either from their phone or with assistance from a steward live on site or from home anywhere in the world. Each name is given a presence as it appears on the mechanical flip dot screens a stark contrast to the fleeting nature of digital LED signs and the instant nature of social media.
Responsive to all Covid-19 restrictions, a public programme features both live (open air) and online activity including Birth and Death Cafés and live drawing sessions by a professional artist who will create portraits of people whose names have been submitted to the boards. In a series of weekly board take-overs, a special guest will be invited to submit names in response to specific themes or causes ranging from Women & Feminism to Environmental and Social Justice. In these instances, the act of including diverse names that may often be excluded can be a radical act in and of itself, openly encouraging participants to respond to the boards in expansive ways.
YARA + DAVINA are artists whose playful and profound work uses accessible formats to engage the public with a broad spectrum of issues. Their powerful artworks are rooted within the everyday, subverting popular culture to explore issues that touch on the human condition.
The artists said: "We are creating space for naming someone as an acknowledgement, a public moment of reflection, marking people in your life. When we asked our friends and family to start submitting names, we found the simple act of asking them to submit invited them to think about the now, who guides and shapes us? Who has profound effects on us and our own lives? Interestingly these ranged from people naming their children, to old teachers, dead socialists, environmental activists, grannies and people who have died through acts of social injustice. Who knows what the public will submit?