At the start of the evening, artists, attendees and the supporting team were offered acupuncture by artist and acupuncturist Mary Feliciano*. Yoga mats were arranged in a circular formation, heads pointed towards the inner part of the circle. A typically one-on-one experience became collective, expanding degrees of publicness yet still intimate. Mary, who trained as a dancer as well as an acupuncturist, sees these different practices on a continuum. This continuum becomes a way of mentally bridging the meridians of Chinese medicine through which energies flow and the cartographic meridian that runs through Greenwich which sets the so-called Universal Coordinated Time (UTC).
Around midnight, I sat outside Somerset House on Waterloo Bridge Road, having attended the long night (29.10.22), a curated performance event to mark the closing of SERAFINE1369’s installation, We can no longer deny ourselves (2022). This moment was a break between 2 three-hour cycles of the event that featured interventions from Antonija Livingstone*, tyroneisaacstuart*, Nissa Nishikawa* and SERAFINE1369* & Steph McMann*. As some departed, others came through. On the adjacent table I recognised the event’s photographer, smoking a cigarette, who had spent the last three hours stalking the performances and their elusive movement across the interlinking spaces: the Crystal Room, the Pendulum Room and the Bell Room. There were herbal drinks to be self-prepared for you to make your own brew. Antonija reflects on it being the first time their performance has begun with a performance at a cellular level, a nervous system stimulated by needles, preceding the performance we can see. It is Halloween weekend and all manner of drunken ghouls, misstepping ghosts and disorientated vampires stagger across the bridge.
Antonija Livingstone animates and is animated by a thick rope, a rope they refer to as a companion material. Definitely not a prop, as in property, but a material that has its own agencies that they can be attentive towards and guided by. Tyrone hovers in the Pendulum Room. Antonija describes this material as a ghost of itself. The rope extends across the room as it is unfurled; it is a fantasy spine, turning in more-than-human ways. Shifting from metaphorical exoskeleton to an extension of their body. The uncoiling is an act of undoing. A ghost of itself, as their movement quotes from other bodies of their work, so this rope is a stand-in too (for a mooring rope of the queer community shipping vessel, The Polar Star). Beckoning us to sea, Antonija remains purposefully grounded with the rope. It is taken to a fireplace, pulled towards the chimney as though it might go through the wall itself. I imagine it moving continuously through different spaces over the course of the night, circling of its own accord between the elements of the exhibition. As Antonija’s turn draws to an end, they arrange four handbells on the ground.
Tyrone and Antonija chime the bells in and out of sync, the sound resonates across the bare walls. Their movement and sound is entangled. These smaller hand bells resonate with the larger static bell in the exhibition itself. As so often through the night, the moment splits and so does our gaze. Antonija moves in one direction, Tyrone continues to ring the bells, foreshadowing SERAFINE1369 and Steph’s later performance. Beyond the event itself there is no centre, no singular line to give our attention. Their interaction is also a question: How do you transition into someone else’s work? Which itself occurs within someone else’s work? Tyrone talks of his transition being informed by Jamila’s recorded voice, a ‘speaking clock’ spoken by Jamila theirself, it has played continuously during the exhibition installation and throughout the evening, constantly modulated by sound designer Josh Anio Grigg*.
Tyrone leads us into the ‘Crystal Room’. A darky clad figure with a pointed silhouette occupies a corner like a bat. The majority of us line the walls, sit on the ground, or hear the songs play from the other zones. Antonija lounges at the invisible border between the rooms, in a concentrated mode of study. Tyrone crouches at a loop pedal moving between two songs he has composed, Quad Vessel and HAI. The polyphonics Antonija and Tyrone generated with the hand bells recur in Tyrone’s re-construction of his songs. In the Crystal Room we witness their layering, from drum machine to chords to lyrics, running on the spot on a flagstone. The entire night is an asymmetric shimmering loop - that wobbles and refuses to programmatically repeat itself. Each act functions like a microcosm of aspects of the entire structure.
The night before the long night Nissa Nishikawa had burned materials in her garden; a series of prayers and intentions. This ash was brought into the exhibition space, resting in one of the original fireplaces in the room, they were poured to the ground. Nissa’s presence in the long night could be understood as a chain and accumulation of material and spatial transformations: black crystals crushed and ingested, the incantation of a chant, her body entering a black pool. These acts syncretise evocations of cinematic portrayals of witchery with the Japanese aesthetic and ethos of yūgen. We witness her embrace of darkness, leaning towards the borders of visibility, as we collectively enter darkness.
The long night was a night-of-return, Nissa shared how the lava rock she removed from the pool is a companion object, entity, from the foothills of Mount Fuji. She felt it called to be present in the evening. This was apt for an artist for whom water is memory. The night at large was also a return to Baroque and Gothic sensibilities that have been expunged from so many post-minimalist and contemporary practices. At 2am the morning of the long night the clocks fell back, an hour also returned.
Bells return. They are heard before they are seen and heard after they are no longer seen. SERAFINE1369 and Steph McMann, resurrect (unarticulated architectures of) AMBIVALENT LONGING ; a duet that sees the pair wearing Swiss cow bells. Jittering through the space they generate their own mobile soundscape. One thinks of ‘witches’ brides’, the branks and buried forms of mediaeval shame-orientated scapegoating, or certain kinds of fetish gear, moving from humiliation to joy, or joy in humiliation. These associations are subverted by the agency of the artists. Sound emanates from the pair, but they also generate another force, an energy body between them, neither seen nor heard.
London is not yet a 24hr city, there is a normativity to when art events are presented with the exception of club culture, so any event that takes place at night, drawing us towards witching hour is already disruptive. It throws up questions as to how we absorb information at different times of day, what eminations are we receptive to at night, that we are not in daylight hours?
“The body keeps time, we see that through ageing. . . Will you take your time in? We’re taking time to be in dialogue with time, anyone in that space - is there for that conversation.” , tyronneissacstewart.
You cannot be unaware of the audience themselves, and by extension oneself, watching others watching the other performances. To see different heads turn, attentive to different moments, is to see one’s own mind split in multiple directions, trying to grasp the multiplicities in the room .
There are multiple kinds of tuning-in that the different artists employ and that the attendees are also invited into, the tuning-in between each other, the situation itself, between audience and performer and tuning into worlds not materially present.