The Shows to See in London During Art Night

London’s biggest free contemporary art festival happens on Saturday in Walthamstow and King’s Cross 

The London Borough of Waltham Forest is the birthplace of 1990s British boy band East 17. Helen Nisbet, artistic director of the curated programme for this year’s Art Night, has turned to them for inspiration – specifically, their 1993 track ‘It’s Alright’ – to instil a sense of optimism in the 12 commissioned artists. In this age of political despair, she suggests, let’s take some reassurance from the lyrics: ‘Don’t you worry, cos it’s alright, don’t you worry, child of the night.’ While the curated section is unthemed, music remains a constant, with Nisbet advocating its democratic possibilities for broad audience engagement. Art Night is a peripatetic festival that links with a different organization each year to deliver two programmes, which unfold over the course of a single, ambitious evening. For 2019, Art Night has partnered with London Mayor Sadiq Kahn’s new Borough of Culture scheme, which was awarded for the first time to Waltham Forest. In addition to the curated section, a further 42 projects are happening as part of Art Night’s open programme.

Art Night

Julie Cunningham
Emma Talbot
Zadie Xa
Joe Namy
Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings 

Around Town

Liz Johnson Artur
‘My Head is a Haunted House’
‘Artists I Steal From’

Julie Cunningham, m:e, 2018, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist

Julie Cunningham, m:e, 2018, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist

Julie Cunningham
Art Night
Waltham Forest Community Hub, 19:00 – 00:00

In an active community centre, a short walk from Walthamstow’s main square, four dancers will enact structured moments of intimacy. Moving in circles, shifting between stances and gestures, they will use their individual and collective body to explore how the performance of queer relationships alters in public and private. In collaboration with musician JD Samson, choreographer Julie Cunningham’s compelling work draws influence from the writing and lesbian affairs of US author Gertrude Stein.

Emma Talbot, 21st Century Sleepwalk, 2018, installation view, Caustic Coastal, Salford. Courtesy: the artist, photograph: Dean Brierley

Emma Talbot, 21st Century Sleepwalk, 2018, installation view, Caustic Coastal, Salford. Courtesy: the artist, photograph: Dean Brierley

Emma Talbot
Art Night

William Morris Gallery, 19:00 – 00:00
Mirth, Marvel and Maud, 19:00 – 03:00

Emma Talbot’s intricate silk painting hangs like an enormous bright centrepiece above the interior staircase of bar and arts venue Mirth, Marvel and Maud. Talbot is a local artist whose works tap into a history of spiritualism via self-taught artist and medium Madge Gill. The dilapidated venue is where Alfred Hitchcock once screened his films and the inside remains unchanged, like an incredible relic to faded glamour, with peeling plaster, worn-out seats and dusty fixtures.

Zadie Xa, Child of Magohalmi and the Echos of Creation, 2019, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Zadie Xa, Child of Magohalmi and the Echos of Creation, 2019, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Zadie Xa  
Art Night

Walthamstow Library 19:00 – 03:00

With one of Art Night’s core aims being to embed itself fully in the local area, the festival offers the opportunity to experience work outside of a conventional gallery setting in libraries, breweries, cafes, car parks and on moving vehicles. In the historic reading room of Walthamstow Library, Zadie Xa presents a meticulously researched installation that builds on her investigation into Korean folklore and the transfer of ancestral knowledge through matrilineal social structures.

Joe Namy, Automobile, Beirut, 2013, variable channel sound performance for cars with super modified stereo systems. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Sara Nime

Joe Namy, Automobile, Beirut, 2013, variable channel sound performance for cars with super modified stereo systems. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Sara Nime

Joe Namy 
Art Night

Sainsbury’s Rooftop Car Park, 19:00 – 23:00
The Mall, Walthamstow, 00:00 – 03:00

Late at night, a group of modified cars and their owners will meet in the rooftop car park of a local supermarket – not an unusual occurrence in north-east London. However, this time it’s different: the cars will be connected to form a synchronized sound system in what will be the eighth iteration in Joe Namy’s ‘Automobile’ series (2012–ongoing). Over four hours, the collaborative soundscape will develop gradually, before going literally underground at midnight.

Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings, Something for the Boys, film still. Courtesy: Arcadia Missa, London

Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings, Something for the Boys, film still. Courtesy: Arcadia Missa, London

Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings 
Art Night

Walthamstow Market and Town Square, 19:00 – 00:00

Using the motif of a moving parade float that will journey through Walthamstow, Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings continue their investigation into the changing attitudes towards Pride. Their work often repurposes artefacts from LGBT+ histories in a way that expresses their ambivalent position towards the commercialisation of gay liberation causes. For Art Night, they are surveying a history of queer music, which will include a performance from Jesse Hultberg, a founding member of the cult 1980s New York group, 3 Teens Kill 4.

Around Town

Alongside Art Night’s full programme of events, be sure to catch frieze recommended shows across the capital.

 Liz Johnson Artur, Burgess Park, 2010, photograph. Courtesy: the artist

 Liz Johnson Artur, Burgess Park, 2010, photograph. Courtesy: the artist

Liz Johnson Artur
South London Gallery
13 June – 1 September

Tall bamboo structures support a multitude of analogue photographs printed at different sizes on cardboard, textile and tracing paper and spread throughout the gallery’s main space. Liz Johnson Artur has spent the last 27 years photographing people from the African diaspora in London, in venues ranging from queer dance parties to black-majority churches as well as on the streets. Collectively, her ‘Black Balloon Archive’ (1991–ongoing) constitutes an extensive and deeply personal exploration into the complexity and richness of Black British experience.

Alex Da Corte, Slow Graffiti, 2017, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

Alex Da Corte, Slow Graffiti, 2017, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London

‘My Head is a Haunted House’
Sadie Coles
5 June – 10 August

Frozen in a moment of surreal high drama, in a darkened room lit by deep green and purple neon lights, a giant swan mounts the back of a screeching fabric hyena. Writer Charlie Fox has curated a macabre collection of sculpture, installation and film by 20 artists – including Robert Gober, Mike Kelley and Marianna Simnett – creating the uneasy sensation of being inside a horror scene from a 1980s slasher movie.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (living room with Mama), 2004, acrylic on canvas, 67 x 78 cm. Courtesy: © Henry Taylor

Henry Taylor, Untitled (living room with Mama), 2004, acrylic on canvas, 67 x 78 cm. Courtesy: © Henry Taylor

‘Artists I Steal From’
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
5 June – 9 August

Curated by Alvaro Barrington and Julia Peyton-Jones, this extensive group exhibition – incorporating work by some of the 20th century’s leading practitioners – explores the concept of artistic theft. It probes the ways in which 49 contemporary and modern artists, including Louise Boureois, Denzil Forrester, Willem de Kooning, Issy Wood and Purvis Young have been both the product and source of creative inspiration.

Main image: Zadie Xa, Iridezcent Interludez, 2018, performance documentation, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Courtesy: the artist, photograph: Guillaume Lebrun

Sean Burns is an artist, writer and frieze publishing trainee based in London, UK.

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Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

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