Deep in The Eye and The Belly (Part One) in San Mei Gallery

Deep in The Eye and The Belly (Part One) by Sam Williams is the new show at Brixton’s San Mei gallery.

Sam Williams works across various media to explore his interest in ecological systems, bodies-as-worlds and folk mythologies.

This show features a new moving image work entwining stories of large marine mammals which become shelters for humans who have returned to the oceans in the wake of climate collapse.

Part history, part speculation, Part One details stories of the deconstruction and reconstruction of whale bodies housed in museums in London and Gothenburg and hints at a crossing into a possible future where whale bodies become new worlds.

An unseen storyteller recounts the real-life tale of a young blue whale which beached on rocks not far from the city of Gothenburg in 1865. After being violently killed, the whale’s carcass was purchased and preserved for a dramatic museological display that saw it mounted with its jaw agape, allowing access inside the decorated body. Sometime in the 1930s a couple was found having sex inside the creature, and from then on, the museum decided to only open it up on special occasions, including mayoral speeches and elaborate meals for the wealthy.

From this and other museum artefacts, the film threads together other unlikely stories – for example a spa in which people find cures in the bodies of dead whales.

A mix of fantasy and fact, the serious and the comic, this exhibition combines art and science to explore “oceanic evolution” and the relationship between human beings and nature – often one of control and ownership. Deconstructing and reconstructing these vast bodies was itself an extraordinary activity. The paradox of destruction in order to preserve – a uniquely human impulse – is a theme in the “touring display of cadaverous conquest”.

This strange and compelling narrative, rolls forward rather gently in a soothing voice deliberately in contrast to the acts of violence being described. Visually fascinating, if a little macabre, you will be left wondering about our place in the world and how history unfolds.

Deep in The Eye and The Belly (Part One) runs until 8 April in San Mei Gallery, 39a Loughborough Road, SW9 7TB. 

Entry is free and the gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday 11am – 6pm.

Inspired by Deep in The Eye and The Belly (Part One), San Mei Gallery and AnnaPurna Cafe are hosting Shore Thing! An immersive Supper Club from chefs Alice Feaver and Brodie Williams inside the exhibition. Friday 24th March. Profits will support the gallery’s exhibition programme for research-led artists. More information and tickets.

For further information call 020 7095 9771 or visit