Serena Lee: Second Tongues

second tongues


Preview Thursday 13 June 6.30–8.30pm
14 June–14 July 2019
Open: Wed–Sun 12–6PM


Let’s imagine the future of language; not simply the languages that we hear most often and take up the most space today, nor those that experts predict will survive and those that will not, but every single possible future for all languages that have ever existed, and for everyone to whom they belong, and those that come to belong.

Second Tongues is the title of a speculative fiction narrative developed by Toronto-based artist Serena Lee, developed collectively with others and exhibited in multiple parts for Cubitt’s ongoing Structures That Cooperate Programme.

The project departs from a premise where in the future, we all speak a second language not of our choosing. Second Tongues becomes a speculative fiction world-building framework for critically engaging with experiences of nationhood, kinship, market-driven globalisation as they relate to histories and practices of language. Second Tongues is a proposition for reimagining futures decentered and reorganised.

The exhibited elements of Second Tongues have been developed through conversations with London-based language education organisations, migrant worker and newcomer community services, socio-linguistic researchers and public audiences. In addition the artist has collaborated with Black Shuck, a London-based co-operative to develop and present an augmented reality layer to the exhibition space for further speculation and translation.

The narrative plays out as fragments of conversation with the Second Tongues collaborators across a 3-channel video installation (duration 11-minutes), and a constellation of augmented reality aspects.

The installation continues to use and adapt Clemence Seilles’ ongoing scenography for the Structures That Cooperate programme. The foam slabs, previously used as a sound insulating flooring for Ain bailey’s exhibition have been rolled to reference cylinder seals, an ancient form of communicating narrative. Salt dough magnets were produced with members of The Voice of Domestic Workers during a language discussion workshop; wall texts contain questions derived from conversations with Second Tongues collaborators. Second Tongues is an ongoing project that also lives online at:

Read Persilia Caton’s review for Canadian Art online here


Thurs 4 July | 7-8.30pm Self does not understand: A film screening event organised by Erik Martinson
Free, no booking required
Read more here

The Sounds of what we’ve always known: a song-writing workshop with The Voice of Domestic Workers.
Free, no booking required
Details to follow

Serena Lee is a Canadian artist whose practice stems from a fascination with polyphony – a musical term for multiple, simultaneous melodies – and its radical potential. Serena’s art work integrates a broad range of media: for example, current projects involve elements of VR, textile-based sculpture, public conversation, and tai chi.  More broadly, she incorporates cinema, performance, voice, image and text, and references classical piano performance and musical theory.

Her work has been presented across Canada and internationally in Europe, the UK, the USA, Indonesia and China; she is a member of the feminist art collective, Read-in, based mainly in the Netherlands, which explores the embodied, situated, and political aspects of collective reading aloud. Serena also collaborates with artist Christina Battle as SHATTERED MOON ALLIANCE, to unpack narratives of time travel through a series of participatory workshops and transmedia publication.
Serena holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam (NL)  and an Associate Diploma in piano performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music (CA). She is an active member of the creative community in Toronto as an artist, educator, and in artist-run-centre governance. .

Ongoing and off-site collaborations include working with Clemence Seilles on the scenography of the gallery space, The Voice of Domestic Workers in residence, Schooling & Culture working at Arts and Media School Islington and research with W.A.G.E.

This is exhibition is supported by Canada House, Canada Council for the Arts, Arts Council England and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.










Cubitt Gallery is part of an artist-led organisation based in Islington, London. We promote innovative curatorial practice with an 18-month Bursary, supporting curators at the beginning of their careers.

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