Subject to Change: New Horizons

A multidisciplinary group of Barbican Young Creatives produce new, artistic work that explores the uncertain times we're living in.

Lead photo credits: Oliver Cross (Oliver Cross), Destiny Adeyemi (Jolade Olusanya), Gabriel Jones (Cesare De Giglio), Jeremiah Brown (Catarina Rodrigues), Hector Dyer (Emily Demetriou), Annie Fan (Christy Ku), Timalka Kalubowila (Timalka Kalubowila), Esme Allman (Caleb Azumah Nelson), Leo Long (Nigel Barrett Photography), Georgia Morgan Turner (Georgia Morgan Turner), Remi Graves (Hayley Madden), Tice Cin (Eric Aydin-Barberini), Mandisa Apena (Mandisa Apena), Cia Mangat (Christy Ku), Natasia Patel (Natasia Patel)

Lead photo credits: Oliver Cross (Oliver Cross), Destiny Adeyemi (Jolade Olusanya), Gabriel Jones (Cesare De Giglio), Jeremiah Brown (Catarina Rodrigues), Hector Dyer (Emily Demetriou), Annie Fan (Christy Ku), Timalka Kalubowila (Timalka Kalubowila), Esme Allman (Caleb Azumah Nelson), Leo Long (Nigel Barrett Photography), Georgia Morgan Turner (Georgia Morgan Turner), Remi Graves (Hayley Madden), Tice Cin (Eric Aydin-Barberini), Mandisa Apena (Mandisa Apena), Cia Mangat (Christy Ku), Natasia Patel (Natasia Patel)

Each month for a year, Young Creatives will be commissioned to produce new and powerful artistic work responding to the uncertain times we are living in.

From July 2020, one creative response – ranging from poetry and music to visual arts and moving image – will be published each month on Barbican’s digital and social media platforms, chronicling the next twelve months.

The Young Creatives are:

Remi Graves
Oliver Cross
Destiny Adeyemi
Jeremiah Brown & Gabriel Jones
Timalka Kalubowila
Georgia Morgan Turner
Mandisa Apena & Tice Cin
Esme Allman
Leo Long
Annie Fan & Cia Mangat
Natasia Patel
Hector Dyer

You can view each Young Creative's piece of work, as and when it's published, by clicking on their name above

Making Subject to Change: New Horizons

Each individual or collaborating pair of Young Creatives is matched with an Artist Mentor – an artist who supports the Young Creatives in realising and developing their pieces through 1:1 feedback sessions and conversations. Find out more about the Artist Mentors involved here

Remi Graves

July 2020

On Breathing

I held mine, at a cash point
by the police station
when I saw her kneel to speak
on his level, a mother telling
her not yet three year old son you don’t
need to be scared, we’ve done nothing
wrong, him nodding like he could see
the shape of her lie, like life had taught
him already that fear is for surviving
and in his innocence the boy brought
me to the tight of my chest at the sight
of the men in bullet proof vests by their
hi vis van, I felt for the phone in my pocket
heavy as untaught history where there on a timeline
a man in Ohio can’t decide if a mask
is more dangerous than his own face—
   I want to live
   but I also want to live

—I’m trying to take one here to get a grip
on what I mean but it's everywhere and
messy, while my friend wastes his in polite
debate with a man who can’t fathom
a life without his invisible upper hand
and a few months before this, when I refused
to watch that video, I gasped for mine
between guttural sobs on the sofa and
a man in Hackney gasped for his on the hospital
bed when the doctor tried to switch him off,
saying he’d been on for too long, saying
the ventilator needed to go to someone
who had a chance at life, his wife fought
to her last for his, wouldn’t leave the bedside
until he could inhale without coughing
and lord knows it's hard to speak when
you’re trying to catch yours, and how is it that
we’ve been running out of ours and not stopped
running, we’ve been chasing ours and it seems
the world wants to knock the wind out of us and
as I write this now, with another tab open on
respiration and stress relief, two men hover
in the sycamore outside my window, paid to cut
down the thing that’s been quietly, unequivocally
helping me inhale/exhale, this ordinary act
made sacred under the impossible weight
of a world that won’t tend to its wounds and
what becomes of a poem that’s run out of air
but refuses to end?

Photo: Hayley Madden

What inspired your creative piece this month?
This piece was inspired by the disproportionate amount of deaths of black people during the Covid-19 pandemic in the USA and UK, and the recent, yet brief media resurgence of interest in systemic racism and police brutality. I was struck by the fact that black people worldwide are consistently and systematically not afforded the right to breathe. I wanted to explore these various scenarios of daily life where our breathing is compromised, restricted, taken out of our control. I also wanted the form of the poem to tap into some of the overwhelm that I have been feeling, or avoiding feeling.

Who or what inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired by artists who speak in a voice distinctly their own. Poets like Victoria-Anne Bulley and Aracelis Girmay inspire me to keep pushing my craft, to keep searching for a voice that feels like mine, however fluid that voice may be. I’m usually inspired by the poetry of daily life, the way people speak to each other, the way nature moves. More recently however, I’ve also been taken by concepts of change and control. Trying to trace the sometimes imperceptible way that things and people shift, and how little we actually know about how anything may turn out.

'Whilst I look to art to archive personal truths and imagine alternative ways of living, it's also a crucial space to contemplate peace and beauty'


Why do you think the arts are a good way to talk about the times we’re living in now?
I think the arts have always been crucial, as a way to question norms and offer alternative ways of thinking and seeing. At this specific time where the air is overrun with the dust of different opinions, histories that people are suddenly wanting to discuss, art also feels like a slightly less didactic way to explore the emotional weight of these ideas. Art has also offered me respite in what's been a turbulent few months. Whilst I look to art to archive personal truths and imagine alternative ways of living, it's also a crucial space to contemplate peace and beauty.

How have the arts changed your life?
Since quitting teaching almost 5 years ago to the day, the arts have not only changed my life but become my life. As a drummer and poet, the arts have become my livelihood, allowed me to travel the world, meet and forge a community with other artists, work with children in various communities. I’m also grateful for the way the music and writing have allowed me to find myself, or rather create myself, in more expansive ways than I ever thought I was allowed to imagine. Also being an artist has allowed me to enjoy my job, a lot!

Oliver Cross

August 2020

Watch the audio-described version of Oliver's film

What inspired your creative piece this month?

As a young disabled neurodivergent artist I am still confined to my home despite the easing of lockdown. This is primarily because if I were to end up in hospital with Covid-19, I would have to be there on my own and I’m not confident that I’d be able to advocate for myself. I’ve never had much faith in non-disabled society consistently taking the needs of disabled people into account. With discussion in the media about Do Not Resuscitate orders being given out to disabled and neuro-divergent people in the Covid-19 outbreak, my confidence in being treated fairly is low. There are large discrepancies between the advice of scientists and the advice of the government on managing staying safe in the pandemic. As a result, safe social distancing and mask wearing are inconsistent. This has made me anxious about going out. It’s easier and safer for me to stay in. When I started making my piece, after the initial lockdown period, the Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed in the UK. At the time of my piece being published in August, restrictions are about to be re-imposed in Preston, the city I live in.

I’m lucky that I like where I live; it’s a safe space for me. At the moment I can only really stay in the house, go in my garden or to a beach which is quite isolated and where I won’t get close to anyone. It was this set of circumstances that led me to the idea of finding a way to literally translate the views I was limited to into a piece of music. I’d learned of a method where a grid was placed over an image, the main lines of the image were mapped out, and the tracing was converted to notes on a scale. I then wrote the composition using the resulting motifs. The film evolved around this using footage and images I have taken since lockdown.

'Studying the arts was my gateway to the political and social discourses surrounding identity and disability'

Who or what inspires you as an artist?

I trained as a photographer at Cambridge School of Art and was inspired by the work of photographers Jim Mortram in ‘Small Town Inertia’ and Paul Graham in ‘The Great North Road’ for this piece. Musically, I took influence from Steve Reich and my own exploration of analogue synthesizers. This is very odd because I’m not listening to any of that at the moment, but this sound is appropriate for these images and how I feel.

Oliver Cross (photo by Oliver Cross)

Oliver Cross (photo by Oliver Cross)

Why do you think the arts are a good way to talk about the times we’re living in now?

I have some serious trust issues with the messaging coming out of government and official channels at the moment. As a freelancer I’ve lost a lot of work this summer because of Covid-19 and I’ve had a lot of anxiety and worry. Fortunately, I still have photography and music as the best way to express myself and tell my truth. Most of my friends are in the arts world and they have suffered because the pandemic has hit the arts world hard. This is particularly true of disability arts.

Most people have watched a lot of films, TV, plays on the internet, listened to music or read books to keep them going during the lockdown. Without the arts none of this would be available. I don’t think our government gets this, or maybe they have a vested interest in silencing dissenting artistic voices.

How have the arts changed your life?

The arts gave me a voice, a way of expressing myself. When I trained in photography at Cambridge School of Art it was the beginning of my study of discourse and representation combined with my emerging identity as a young disabled artist. I was able to discuss the arts with much more awareness of my identity and the wider society around me. Studying the arts was my gateway to the political and social discourses surrounding identity and disability. Being a part of the National Open Youth Orchestra has really helped me to develop my skills and practice and was my first link with the Barbican. It has introduced me to some good friends and has increased my network of fellow disabled and non-disabled artists and performers. 

Destiny Adeyemi

September 2020

Watch the audio-described version of Destiny's film

What inspired your creative piece this month?

I wanted to write a piece about fatphobia for a long time. Boris Johnson's new anti-obesity scheme, Better Health, came out in July but I started to see more ads for it in September. I didn’t like this scheme because it feeds into the wider perception of fatness as inherently unhealthy, and something that therefore warrants fixing, through paternalistic policies. It also functions as a distraction for the government’s mismanagement of the pandemic.

This formed my initial inspiration to write the piece for this month. I wanted to write this piece from my own perspective: a fat Black person who has been subjected to a lot of bullying, unsolicited advice/comments and sexualisation from a young age because of how my body is perceived.

I'd also started reading more around fat politics specifically through writers such as Da'Shaun Harrison on Wear Your Voice, Hunger by Roxane Gay, and following plus-size influencers like Stephanie Yeboah.

Giving myself the space to learn and to continue to learn what informs the demands people (and society) make of my body has helped me in learning to reject these expectations for what they are: white supremacist, racist and fatphobic.

Destiny Adeyemi. Photo: Jolade Olusanya

Destiny Adeyemi. Photo: Jolade Olusanya

Who or what inspires you as an artist?

My everyday life experiences, my politics, the random things people say in conversations, jokes my partner makes, and reading about similar experiences from other creatives as it proves to me that my story is worthy of being told.

Poets such as Belinda Zhawi, Staceyann Chin, Wystan Auden, Rives, Joelle Taylor, Gboyega Odubanjo, Maya Angelou, and Audre Lorde to name a few.

Why do you think the arts are a good way to talk about the times we’re living in now?

I often enjoyed poetry as a way of expressing myself because it didn't feel like therapy, like “hard work”, and I didn't feel pressured to analyse how I was feeling in that moment. It gave me time and space; I feel like in the current times there is a lot of misinformation and having the arts to provide a space to talk about things is really helpful. Also, as a place of expression and celebration for marginalised people it is vital.

Healing is intrinsically linked to my writing and my connection with the arts.

How have the arts changed your life?

The community I've fostered through sharing my work has been amazing. I would say the arts have shaped my life greatly, I can't remember a time when I wasn't journaling or writing short stories or poems for myself. Throughout the most traumatic and stressful periods of my life writing was a necessity as an outpouring of all of my emotions. I functioned around toughing it out and having my regular cry and journaling sessions. So for me, healing is intrinsically linked to my writing and my connection with the arts.

Jeremiah ‘Sugar J’ Brown and Gabriel ‘Bump Kin’ Jones

October 2020

Watch the audio-described version of Jeremiah 'Sugar J' Brown and Gabriel 'Bump Kin' Jones' film

What inspired your creative piece this month?

Jeremiah 'Sugar J' Brown: Being in a pandemic for so long inspired the piece for me. Lockdown measures were loosened but, coming into this month, their retightening seemed inevitable. Every time I engaged with the news or things going on in the world it was never good, it was always tragic or people on some nonsense. Amidst all that I was still asked when I was going to find a wife. It made me look around and think, 'Are you not seeing this? Face your own future.'

Gabriel 'Bump Kin' Jones: Trying to capture the atmosphere of lockdown/half-lockdown and being in an indefinite liminal space with a fluctuating emotional response. My starting point for the sound was Jeremiah sending me an audio clip from The Wire (TV series); a section where ‘Pandemic’ is being shouted out from several street corners as slang for heroin, which became the backbone of the second beat. Equally with both the sound and video I was inspired by Boris’ speeches of assurance that have done the exact opposite, and how disconnected and of-a-different-age the language and tone seems, in the face of an urgent need for empathetic, wise humans.

Who or what inspires you as an artist?

JB: Life and what comes with having to live it inspires me. Everything that is going on in the world is an inspiration. Sometimes just going on Twitter inspires me, but that’s a trap because Twitter likes to remind me how depressing the world is. My people have been a big inspiration to me during this lockdown. My friend who keeps submitting work even though she’s had a bunch of rejections. My other friend who’s taken up running, setting himself goals even though he’s not been active for years. All my friends and peers, to be honest, for enduring.

My people have been a big inspiration to me during this lockdown.
Jeremiah 'Sugar J' Brown

GJ: Currently: Ross Sutherland. Lex Amor. Terence Calvert. Caleb Femi. Learning about chord progressions. Kareem Parkins-Brown. Plantheela. The intricacy and clarity of Sugar J’s writing. Cecilia Knapp’s lockdown workshops. Michelle Tiwo. Bad Betty press. Byron Katie. Tyler the Creator. Dabbla. Marc Rebillet. O the ghost.

Why do you think the arts are a good way to talk about the times we’re living in now?

JB: The arts is a way of churning up the world and then giving it back to us so we can see it a little better. I think we’re clearly not seeing a lot of things as a society and as people, so the arts is a good way to talk about the times because we need to be told that we’re moving mad.

I feel the act of writing/ collaborating and making music all require presence, listening and focus.
Gabriel Jones

GJ: I feel the act of writing/ collaborating and making music all require presence, listening and focus. They require less demand to make linear sense outside of the moment. I experience this as empowering in that it confirms that play, love, excitement are hugely valuable and important. They feel good like forces of movement. Therefore any commentary that art tries to make hopefully carries some of that play and freedom (even if the subject matter is heavy) and can communicate and put forward other aspects of the human experience aside from efficiency and productivity.

L: Jeremiah Brown (Catarina Rodrigues)  R: Gabriel Jones (Cesare De Giglio)

L: Jeremiah Brown (Catarina Rodrigues)  R: Gabriel Jones (Cesare De Giglio)

How have the arts changed your life?

JB: I’ve met some of the people I love the most through the arts. Those people have changed my life. I’ve wanted to abandon my art but it doesn’t let me. That lack of choice has also changed my life.

GJ: I spend more time than I want to on Instagram. I have found myself in a network of the smartest most inspiring humans, and I am very grateful.