I ask you this can you imagine a world without a night. What kind of world would that be? One where time has no hold on its inhabitants, do they toil under eternal sunshine. Would they be happy with enough hours in the day to get things done, or would a world without a night means a world without the space to dream, without the need to invent demons or the gods that protect us through the night. What I think I’m trying to get at is that the night is an indelible part of life. A liminal part of everybody’s existence, part of our society, and part of what it means to be human. The time spent, thanks to gravity’s pull, out of the influence of the sun has inspired artists, poets, lover and thefts alike. Probably before we had the terms ‘day’ or ‘night’
So when the current exhibition 3AM : Wonder, paranoia and the restless night poses the question do the still quiet hours of the night reflect the zeitgeist, it seems that the answer would be yes. The answer is of course more complex than that, one that forms part a continuum of culture and reflects individual responses. To paraphrase that famous Nietzsche quote ‘Stare in the night and the night stares into you’
There is something about the night that reconfigures the normal modes of human activity, free from the distractions of routine the mind at night will wander through aspirations, guilt, resentments all from the supposed comfort and security of your bed. If you’re in bed at all maybe you’re taking advantage of the cover of dark to create a set of new rules and behaviour like the figures in Sophey Rickett’s – Pissing Women or Palm and Darner’s film of teenagers taking hold of the night by using their bodies to fill in the spaces left by daylight pedestrians. Not unlike the mysterious figures in Anthony Goicolea’s Code shining torches in patterns unknown to daywalkers the people in these works have the night to create their own nocturnal language.
The night has a power to make things uncanny, to transform familiar landscapes and objects and behaviour into something else. Something strange emerges from the dark even commonplace things like clothes can appear hostile as the figures in Danny Treacy’s Them. Treacy’s figure tap into something that is at once ancient and contemporary they could be figures that haunted the medieval mind, while they echo the image of a more modern idea horror of the slasher movie.
Not that the night is the sole reserve of ghost, goblins or weirdoes, the night has been marked for having a good and even sexual activity, apparently. Often the two coincide as in Tom Wood’s photographs of groping drunken teens receiving their reward after hours of behaving under the sunlight codes. I can leave anything about sex and the night to Wikipedia which says Night is also considered the best time for sexual intercourse. Though you don’t actually have to have sex you can be or most likely be thinking about it, thoughts of possible lovers, should have been lovers mingle together with other thoughts of bills and who played that guy in that thing. These shifting thoughts seem to have a physical presence in Rachel Kneebone’s sculptures which offer a blooming mix of shifting forms. It also reminds of a line from a song, by 13&God, which goes: you'd set your eyes off one the ceiling all night in the dark think of a song or maybe breasts or missing body parts
Do these works address the question about the wee dark hours being reflected of a zeitgeist? Well yes, I said that earlier, one of things this exhibition highlights is the fact that the world doesn’t stop when we go to bed. The world carries on when where not about, which is quite disquieting. This feeling is now expatiated by the existence of empty chain store car parks and the 24 hour communication system that is the internet. It can threaten to overwhelm us, gives us a sense of alienation in what could be termed a contemporary sublime
To stop falling into this pit of despair we can embrace this night taking the freedoms its alloes, to change, reconfigure and challenge our other illuminated selves. To carry on what we’ve been doing for millennia use the night as a space to be filled with ‘poetic imagination’ and continue to use the night as a dark mirror for our hopes, dreams and nightmares.