Sonia Boyce, Yes, I Hear You

Serpentine North Gallery Offsite 2019 - 2021 Free


On view at Serpentine (31 March – 29 May 2022) and Barking Town Hall and Learning Centre (2-17 April 2o22), Radio Ballads presents new film commissions alongside paintings, drawings and contextual materials that share each project’s collaborative research process. Learn more here.


Only by listening to the stories of those who have experienced domestic abuse can we achieve change in how those affected are heard and supported. Sonia Boyce’s Yes, I Hear You is underpinned by processes of sharing testimony and engaging in deep listening, asking how different people and systems witness complexity in interpersonal relationships. Presented as a four-channel video installation accompanied by eight digital prints and wallpaper, Yes, I Hear You is the culmination of two years of research involving interviews, workshops, reviews, and performative sessions with people who identify as survivors of domestic abuse; those who have perpetrated harm; and care workers, harm reduction facilitators, and therapists who support people directly affected by domestic abuse.

An essential part of Sonia Boyce’s artistic process is gathering a variety of people to help conjure something tangible out of the immateriality of a conversation. The framework of the project was informed, as it evolved, by careful reflection on complex issues involving relationship dynamics, trauma, accountability, and the systems that perpetuate harm.

For Yes, I Hear You, Boyce invited groups of people, from social workers to academics, to listen to anonymised transcripts of people who had shared their experiences of coercive behaviour and abuse with the artist. Boyce later invited the four film performers to interpret these transcripts as well, connecting with their own responses. Throughout the project, Boyce and her collaborators asked who we listen as and who are we listening to, and what happens to stories of harm through acts of collective voicing, recording, and embodiment.

As the performers stand on stage in the film, Yes, I Hear You, the juxtaposition of their smiling veneer with the spoken stories that we hear underscores the discrepancies between public and private in cases of abuse. The work emphasises the impact of speaking out and asks viewers to listen deeply and become witnesses.

Film performers are Michelle Hamilton, Luke Christian, Jasmine Butterfly, and Amelia Grant.

Project partners are LBBD Domestic Abuse Commission and Survivors Panel, LBBD Social Care Services, and Clean Break.

Thanks to all project collaborators: Kat Acevedo, Cllr Samia Ashraf, Sammy Holcombe, Anna Graham, Nathan Roser, Kayleigh Tumber, Zahra Ibrahim, Ain Bailey, Sarah Boosey, Susan Cade, Georgia Scotland, Petra Prince, Maria Cripps, Florence Henry, Anna Herrmann, Rachel Hughes, Claire Pounder, Gail Lewis, Róisín McBrinn, Michelle Hamilton, Luke Christian, Jasmine Butterfly, Amelia Grant, Adam Young, Joseph Karanja, Christine McGeary, Maria Clerkin, Tolu Williams, Dana Janes, Diane Calverly, Cranstoun, Latifat Afolabi, Polly Neate, Cllr Maureen Worby, Hazel North Stephens, Faye Gayle, Niamh Sullivan, We Rise Hub and Excel Women’s Centre.

Sonia Boyce

Sonia Boyce (OBE, RA). Amongst numerous solo and group exhibitions, both internationally and in the UK, Boyce’s recent solo shows have included Manchester Art Gallery (2018),ICA, London (2017), Villa Arson, Nice (2016), and group exhibitions including Prospect 4, New Orleans (2017), and Okwui Enwezor’s All the World’s Futures, for the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2015). Her current solo exhibition, In the Castle of My Skin, at Eastside Projects, Birmingham will travel to Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art later this year. 2020 also sees the completion of a significant public art commission by Boyce for the Elizabeth Line, Crossrail project, London. Boyce is currently a Professor at University of the Arts London, where she holds the inaugural Chair in Black Art; Design. Sonia will represent the UK at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia with a major new exhibition for the British Pavilion in 2022.

New Town Culture

Radio Ballads is part of New Town Culture – a pioneering programme of artistic and cultural activity taking place in adult and children’s social care across the entire borough. This is a Cultural Impact Award winning project, part of London Borough of Culture, a Mayor of London initiative. New Town Culture responds to the incredible stories, knowledge and skills of the residents of Barking and Dagenham, delivering a programme of workshops, exhibitions, radio broadcasts, live performances and courses targeted at people using social care services in our borough. Working closely with social care professionals and artists, the project hopes to unlock the value of art and culture for all our communities. Its ambition is to support social workers and carers to try out new ways of working to enhance the brilliant work they already do.


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