The fourth installation of London’s largest free all-night contemporary art festival is back June 22nd. On display will be twelve artist projects curated by the Artistic Director Helen Nisbet and over 40 independent site-specific curated projects for the Art Night Open Program.
Art Night London is founded by Ksenia Zemtsova and Philippine Nguyen, two ambitious women who are breaking ground by challenging traditional practices of art viewership. In doing so, they cast aside white-walled gallery spaces opting instead to promote those that are interactive, easily accessible and socially integrative. This would in effect widen the audience for contemporary art while celebrating the cultural wealth that exists outside of zone 1, the centermost part of the city of London. Inspired by the lyrics from the London pop group East 17’s hit song It’s Alright (1993), the evening will kick off at 5pm in King’s Cross and 7pm in Walthamstow.
This festival uniquely calls for collaborations between internationally renowned artists and local communities and charities to celebrate art and culture while bringing people together for a single night. With no predetermined theme, artists were asked to respond to the song It’s Alright and to reflect on the concepts of love, solidarity and the future, words that still hold a sense of purity and innocence even today’s climate of political uncertainty. Supported by the auction house Phillips, this festival shines a light on London’s first cultural borough, Waltham Forest, where selected artists respond to and utilise everyday spaces including markets, shopping centres, libraries and community centres as the base for their works and performances.
This year, the curated programme features a plethora of established and emerging female artists with names such as Barbara Kruger, Zadie Xa and Julie Cunningham attracting even more visitors than ever before.
Here are the female artists to look out for:
Barbara Kruger’s large-scale installation will be exhibited in the Walthamstow Town Square and will respond to the growing issue of consumerism and commercialisation. Also a commentary on the politics and structure of power, this work acts as a conduit for Kruger’s ominous visions. Situated in close proximity to the main tube station, the central bus station, the Mall and the market, this work will be on display for all to see. It will integrate itself into the minds of the passersby and in the daily rituals that take place in the square. This will be Kruger’s first major commission in the United Kingdom for over 15 years. With most of the works at the festival falling under the category of ephemeral art, Kruger’s work will remain available to the public even after the festival gets concluded.
“Come in … make yourself comfortable … relax … spread yourself out”: these are the words that will welcome you as you enter the reading room-turned-auditorium at the Walthamstow library, where Zadie Xa’s multimedia installation is set to play. Viewers will find themselves transported to dream-like yet digitally manipulated world where they will be surrounded by images and scenes of subaquatic marine life. They will be lulled into a trance as the spoken word and impactful sound system combine to produce an unparalleled full-body experience. This screening will be accompanied by live performances focused on Korean folklore myths with a twist. Xa chose to approach these myths by centering them on women and the ancestral knowledge typically passed down from mother to daughter.
Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings
Viewers will also get to experience a spectacle-like performance by artists Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings which will respond to the politics and aesthetics of queer space and culture and will involve an LGBTQ and Pride float. For this performance, which is scheduled to begin at 7pm, the float will travel up the Walthamstow Market and arrive at the main town square where viewers can expect live performances. In addition to the parade, Quinlan and Hastings will screen a new video-based work with a musical score that introduces a queer music history.
Julie Cunningham, the Doc Martens wearing award-winning dancer and choreographer, whose work attempts to understand gestures and the body will also be performing. Once a dancer for the companies Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Michael Clark Company, Cunningham now seeks to understand what a queer body is and how gender, identity, the body and its emotional states are connected. Cunningham was inspired by the life and works of Gertrude Stein, an influential American modernist, art collector and literary pioneer. Cunningham’s dance piece will also explore the idea of public and private performance and the seen and unseen acts that take place on stage. The performance will be held at the Community Centre, a multipurpose centre opened to all. She will also be collaborating with JD Samson, who is notable for being a member of the bands Le Tigre and MEN. There will be four installments of Cunningham’s work, the first of which will begin at 8pm.
With a name that has been floating around in the art world for a while, Emma Talbot will be exhibiting her silk paintings at two locations in Walthamstow. Talbot is known for her ability to capture the spiritual and intangible creating a rich and powerful visual narrative that reflects her innermost feelings, experiences and psychological visions. These works, often thought of as a form of visual autobiography, also represent Talbot’s quest to understand what it means to be alive. A faceless female figure features heavily in her work as she hopes that others can also relate to her personal experiences.
Join the groups of people that will be riding the Victoria line together to and from King’s Cross St. Pancras and Walthamstow Central. This will be a night to remember.
Featured Image: Barbara Kruger, ‘Your Body is a Battleground.’
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Lia de Souza Sanchez holds a B.A. in the History of Art with Material Studies from UCL in London. She is interested in writing about modern and contemporary art and emerging female artists. Born in Spain but raised in India, her cultural background inspires her writing. She is currently studying Arts Administration at Columbia University, New York City.