3AM: Wonder, Paranoia and the Restless Night – The Bluecoat (Liverpool).

This article was written at 3AM in the morning on the 28th of October.

It’s dark outside. A few hours ago I was at an exhibition with a running theme of ideas that manifest at 3AM in the morning. Strangely, the solitude of writing at 3AM isn’t something new but the exhibition at Bluecoat aims to provoke such thoughts that occur during this time. Of course the solitude isn’t the only aspect of early morning illusions but it is the dominant one at the show as the people from the arts industries enjoyed their wine and wandered casually between thoughts and walls.

A room smelled like cinnamon. I asked the attendant but apparently its lavender. Shapes that resemble stars and snowflakes are spread across fabric and paraphernalia over a night-blue range (Sandra Cinto). We wondered together whether the work does evoke the sky or whether it’s something else. The shapes cover over children’s toys, those spinning tops. Childhood is hiding behind a vast infinity of space but it is a caricature; a dark and more morbid one when ignoring the quaintness of the work and considering that their status as stars means they have been dead long since the viewer has seen their light.

It’s strange to feel the need to describe the event of the exhibition opening but it is perhaps one of the effects of being awake at this time of night. It feels like there is a clawing need to define when other people existed as the time gives way to minor illusions of utopian loneliness and isolation. Even here though, the exhibition found a new avenue to show the vitality of other life in the early hours. The photographs of Dornith Doherty capture brief moments of animal life in the dead of night. They are blurred and distorted, seeming to be taken off the cuff. The animals are looking at the camera, it could be a fox, it could be a daemon. They seem perturbed by the artist’s presence and therefore ours as well. Perhaps people are not meant to awaken naturally at 3AM: It is the time of other things.

Other works show how animalistic and distanced people who find themselves awake at this hour can be. Danny Treacy’s work shows humanoid forms seeming to be hidden by clothing and costume that evoke the metamorphosis into more obscure creatures. One has a leg akin to a werewolf. The picture is unnerving though not as much as the adjacent art critic’s loud and confident critique of the work. At the time this over coated bore was as tiresome as the hours upon my eyes now, yet my ears currently crave for such a convoluted voice if only to break the current, opaque silence.

More than animals, the video pieces showed people to become paranoid and uncomfortable. Jordan Baseman’s 16mm video work stood out. The cityscape it presented was a blur, only coming forth in the memory when the narrator dared to relate the night where he was raped. The people witnessing the work seemed unfocussed and casual, more concerned with not falling over in the dark. Even the viewer’s of the piece exhibited different behaviour when the light went out.

The bright lights of the normal venue space that shone vividly when coming out of dark seemed instantly blinding. The possibility of such a bright light seems almost impossible to conceive now at 3AM. Despite this, many of the works do seem bright and vivid, playing on the ideas that, even if most sane people are asleep in their own 3AM time zones, life thrives and haunts away the night without the popular majority aware enough to sit up and take note.

Other works seem a cacophony of medias in the memory of a few hours ago but their genuine loyalty to the theme makes them seem far more of a collective than a group of individuals. Maybe people form gestalts at this ungodly hour? Images of women pissing on walls and spooky, child-like drawings of houses flash on the memory but the ideas blur. There’s a strange feeling of kinship rising between myself and the work. Not the more twisted ends but the more distanced places that it ventured to. Shadows can only be formed with light so their presence does indicate a light at the end of the 3AM tunnel.

The time is now passed that magical hour though very little of the otherworldly has occurred. Instead feelings have formed, parallels have defined their bias and the exhibition seems at once a microcosm of problems and ideas that can arise; sometimes on the outside but predominantly on the inside of people trapped in a state of insomnia. The night begins to fade out of a reality, essences of some of the work enshrines the yellow light coming into my bedroom window from the streetlight outside. 3AM is distant and, as my eyelids begin to finally give in to the self-inflicted punishment of this experiment, I briefly understand the wonder of our nightly, utopian world.

3AM is on at The Bluecoat until the 24th of November.

Adam Scovell

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