A procession is part of life; people gather and move together to celebrate, worship, protest, mourn, escape, or call for change. These expressions are all at the heart of The Procession, an ambitious installation first commissioned by Tate Britain, UK, and making its North American debut at the ICA Watershed.   

Through his multivalent practice, Hew Locke OBE RA (born 1959 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; lives and works in London) explores individual and collective relationships to power, cultural memory, and migration. The artist spent his formative years in the then newly independent country of Guyana, a former British colony, where he became fascinated by the symbols through which individuals and groups assert their identities. His work has touched on a wide array of subjects, from British colonialism and Caribbean carnival to political iconographies and public monuments. He investigates these ideas through materials such as cardboard, costume jewelry, and repurposed emblems of British identity, creating elaborate artworks with layered and expansive meanings that engage with the histories and contemporary legacies of colonialism and empire. 

Drawing upon a series of motifs and concerns that have occupied the artist over decades, The Procession is a colorful gathering of approximately 140 life-size sculptures of masked figures of all ages and abilities adorned in printed fabrics and embroideries—Caribbean carnival queens, dancers, refugees, horseback-mounted military figures, fishers, laborers, pregnant women, children, drummers, and flag bearers. The forward-facing figures carry props or wear costumes that reproduce imagery from historical paintings, advertisements, share certificates, maps, and photographs, including reproductions of the artist’s own work. Poetic and powerful, this installation draws on the metaphor of the voyage to, in the artist’s words, “reflect on the cycles of history, and the ebb and flow of cultures, people, finance, and power.” Seen within the harborside setting of the ICA Watershed in East Boston, The Procession is a compelling and immersive invitation for visitors to cross historical and narrative time in an experience that delights the eyes and expands the mind.  

A older person with curly dark hair and white beard stands in front of sculptures out of focus

Audio Series: Hew Locke and Curator Ruth Erickson on The Procession

Listen as artist Hew Locke and Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, unravel the references, inspirations, and thinking behind Locke’s monumental and multifaceted work.

Listen now on the ICA Digital Guide
A procession of sculpted figures with colorful clothing, flags, and masks.

Video Series: Hew Locke’s The Procession

The Paul Mellon Centre, part of Yale University, has commissioned the filmmaker Jérome Monnot to collaborate with nine scholars and curators, and with the artist himself, to make a series of short films about The Procession. Featuring extensive footage of the work in situ at the Tate, each of the films approaches Locke’s work from a different perspective, and focuses on a distinctive topic or theme.

Watch the films