24/7 – By @sammcollinss

By Sam Collins




On the weekend I paid a visit to Somerset House to see an exhibition entitled ’24/7’. The object of its focus was the non-stop nature of modern life. It featured an array of work by contributors exploring different aspects of how humans spend and manage their time in the modern day. From start to finish this was a really thought-provoking exhibition and it touched on several aspects of communication that chimed with the work we’re doing at SCA. Here are those provoked thoughts in a fairly rigid chronology.

The ads

I had been made aware of the exhibition via some striking online advertising and sponsored social media posts by Somerset House. Thanks to a cookie trail that must smell strongly of ‘mid-twenties-entitled-millennial’ or similarly crude categorisation, these ads followed me across browsers and platforms for days. They sparked my imagination with simple but powerful messaging. One on Instagram read simply:

“I miss my pre-internet brain.”

The internet

The line above really struck a chord with me. Throughout my adolescence, the internet migrated from the confines of a single, shared family computer to a persistent presence in my pocket. This has certainly come with its benefits; being able to Google impressive facts whilst your first date is in the bathroom is of course an absolute godsend. Overall though, I think the internet has made us worse people. And so I found myself thinking in response to this ad; “I do miss my pre-internet brain!” For I’ve certainly developed an impulsive, unconscious addiction to my phone and the internet. I noticed this most acutely when, some months ago after a morning on which my phone had died, I continued to mindlessly retrieve it from my pocket at regular intervals throughout the day to check it regardless. Each time I pulled it out, I’d thoughtlessly tap my home screen, expecting it to light up and let me know another 3 minuets of my day had elapsed. Of course, like Alfie Souter’s resting face, it stared blankly back at me. Silently I cursed myself for falling victim to this subconscious and involuntary compulsion. It seems that not for the first time in human history we have unwittingly conceded a fraction of our liberty to something that promised to set us free.

Many pieces in this exhibition centred around the struggle we face to wrestle back our time from inventions that were designed to make our lives easier. In one part of it, I was invited to lie down and be wrapped in a blanket made from copper. Supposedly this ‘cleanses’ your body from radio waves emitted by electronic devices. It smelled a bit funny because they can’t wash it and I don’t quite feel like one of mother nature’s newly born children, so I can’t say it’s had a physically lasting impact. It did however make me think carefully about the consequences of overusing electronics and how important it is that we are become more aware and responsible of our usage.


The prevalence of night shifts, the rise of the ‘gig’ economy and the increasingly blurred lines between work and leisure have all contributed to disruptions to our sleep cycles. Pieces of installation art demonstrated this fact here in a pretty disturbing way. For example, in a holographic image made up of 3D-scanned-self-portraits, Alan Warbuton captured the awkward positions in which he slept at or under his desk in a visual effects studio in Beijing. Roman Signer’s ‘Bett’ shows the artist attempting to sleep as a helicopter drone hovers precariously above his head. These pieces felt uncomfortable to look at. I can’t imagine how challenging they must have been to partake in. Again though, control came up as a theme and these pieces made me reconsider my relationship with sleep. Usually I’d fall asleep reading or with a podcast on next to my head. I thought about how I might improve my sleep hygiene, especially given the intensity of my working life at the moment.


Conscious I’m rapidly approaching the 1000 word mark and am reluctant to waste any more of your socially constructed time. So, the key takeaway from a piece that showed in a collage, the footage taken by the CIA of a man wrongly put on the ‘no fly list,’ is that if surveillance technology gets in to the wrong hands, boy are we in a world of shit.


The final installation was my favourite part of the exhibition; an octagonal room behind a curtain filled with a beautiful choral rendition of Leonard Cohen’s iconic ‘Hallelujah.’ This was not simply a pre-recorded version of the song though. Real time data of the locations in which people are streaming Hallelujah online is converted in to a virtual choir of humming harmonies that are ever-changing and hauntingly beautiful. Microphones hang from the ceiling to encourage participation, creating a real sense of unity across a world that has up until here felt disparate and disconnected.

As described by the interactive installation studio ‘Daily tous les jours’ that designed this piece, ’this scientific and spiritual experiment highlighted the metaphysical connection between people on a common wavelength.’ It was a beautiful example of how technology has the power to elevate existing works of art to become more, rather than less, personal and connective.

I’ll finish on the subject of one particular video in which a man’s finger appeared to be pushing the second hand of a watch round and round. This was meant to demonstrate the extent to which time is a figment of our shared imagination. Indeed having supposedly done this for 12 hours straight, the artist felt ‘as if he was in control of time.’ Now, whilst you’re free to think of time as an abstract social construct should you so wish, do be aware that if you do, you will almost certainly miss trains, be late for important family occasions and generally piss people off.

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