Research Projects & Networks

Hew Locke’s The Procession

“A colossal collage”; “An epic poem”; “A sort of puzzle”: Hew Locke’s own descriptions of his work The Procession, Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries Commission for 2022, provide an eloquent indication of the installation’s complexity, scale and ambition. Locke’s monumental creation – made up of scores of life-sized, handmade figures, clothed in a kaleidoscopic array of multicoloured garments, carrying a series of spectacular flags – are arranged as if moving forward in a great carnivalesque cavalcade.

Allied to its sheer visual power, The Procession claims sustained attention thanks to its multifaceted references to a wide range of highly charged topics, histories and themes. These include the narratives of carnival, post-colonial trade, slavery, environmental disaster, empire and revolution. The work is also open to being read in relation to the work of other modern and contemporary artists, to Locke’s own earlier practice and to the longstanding artistic tropes of monumental sculpture, history painting and collage. As a Duveen commission, it also consciously operated in active, critical dialogue with the spaces, collections and histories of the Tate itself.

The Procession generated an extraordinary amount of critical praise on its unveiling in March 2022, and stunned and intrigued visitors for many months afterwards. The work was subsequently redisplayed at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead between February and June 2023, where it continued to inspire interest and analysis. Responding to Locke’s remarkable installation, the Paul Mellon Centre commissioned the film-maker Jérome Monnot to collaborate with nine scholars and curators, and with the artist himself, to make a series of short films about The Procession. Each of these individually authored films approaches Locke’s work from a different perspective, and focuses on a distinctive topic or theme. Featuring extensive footage of the work in situ at the Duveen Galleries, and a wide range of comparative images, these films can be enjoyed both on their own and in combination. We encourage viewers to begin by watching the film made with Hew Locke himself, by way of an introduction. The rest of the films can be watched in any order.

Together, these ten short films aim to provide an exploration of The Procession that approaches the richness, complexity and ambition of the installation itself and will provide access to the work after its deinstallation.