This exhibition leaves you feeling as if you’ve been punched in the stomach. The magenta colour of the animation of choppy waves which runs unbroken around three walls of the inside creates a sense of dread: it looks extremely chilly. You feel a bit smug knowing that you are not about to be tipped into them. Which of course was exactly what happened to the ‘cargo’ of slaves in the Turner painting which is the direct source of the imagery.
In the inner room of the gallery are two workstations which incorporate gym machines. The irony of these expensive products of western capitalism ( which we are invited to use) seems especially vivid in the case of the rowing machine. Unlike the captives on the Slave Ship, our hard labour is voluntary. The monitors in front show a whole range of imagery, including an avatar and Eartha Kitt singing ‘I want to be evil’.
Sondra Perry’s focus on black experience is becoming increasingly combative and it is her remarkable formal accomplishment which gives the extra blast to her material. Most of us would pay lip service to the sentiment that the legacy of slavery will never fade but her work brings you hard up against this horrible fact.
Sondra Perry, ‘Typhoon coming on’ is at the Serpentine Sackler Galleries until 20 May