THE NIGHT WATCH, 2013

 

From a timeless office, a security guard is controlling a parallel operation on a surveillance monitor. Six cameras record the course of events from an unidentified site. What is he protecting? What are the cameras observing? Does the operation exist without the watch guard? The performance The Night Watch combines synchronous perception with uncanny staged events. The viewer is free to go straight through the rabbit hole into the experiment, and become a part of the simultaneous reality.

A night watchman leads the public in small groups into his office and locks the door behind them: a small classical sitting room with a bookshelf, a desk with a surveillance monitor and a crow, a window showing a backlight Swiss landscape.  From beyond the room, a beating heart, strange percussions and squeaky sounds can be heard creating a strange melodic rhythm that rises in a crescendo.

The guard sits down and watches the black surveillance screen, the crow slightly moves its head and wings. The public looks around the room, books on the shelves with titles dealing with perception, deception, life, the universe; a small hula dancer, a glass ball, an anonymous bust, binders and folders entitled “Night Watch”. On the walls, a print of a Turner painting, a painting of worms and a portrait of a man with a tattooed star on the back of his head (both by Laplante).  The guard sternly observes the public, making sure nothing is touched. Suddenly the sounds stop and something happens on the monitor. A changing coloured light floats around in the top part of the surveillance screen, then people at the bottom of the screen appear, seemingly trying to reach the light. They disappear. The clicking sound slowly starts again.

The guard goes to the bookcase, puts his finger in the bust's eye and the cabinet slides to the side, revealing a hidden passage. The public is invited to enter a white corridor with mint scented smoke, a blinking red light and a sign: “Caution: you are about to enter the experimental area”. A white curtain is pulled by a man in a white suit and a bubble helmet. The public now enters a totally different universe. The first object is a strange glowing crystal sculpture on a stainless steel table. Dimly lit white rooms are divided by white drapes which are constantly shifted by people in bubble helmets opening and closing the curtains and lighting objects to the sound of the heartbeat, as if part of a strange organism.

The various rooms host different elements: the glass sculpture like a crystal palace, a floating head on a cushion, round portholes with fleeting stars, another sculpture made of plastic dentures and skeletons, a person in a bubble helmet making popcorn and monitoring the sound with a microphone, a lost hero trying to fly, a hula dancer in a red wig and bubble helmet, scenes from an old sci-fi film on a monitor, a landscape made of chocolate and being altered by 2 other “scientists”. The public roams through the shifting rooms, sometimes being left alone in a space with the hula dancer, or in front of a window with swift flashing stars, rooms opening and closing in an uncanny disorienting way. Myriam Laplante, wearing glasses with holographic “love” on the lenses wanders through the space whispering paradoxes, absurd jokes and strange thoughts about perception to the public.

Slowly the clicking sound (made by the “bubble people”) intensifies and the squeaks begin to create an intense eerie melody. Then all goes silent. The space is now open and more curtains are shifted to reveal 3 black rooms yet unseen. In one room, Laplante dressed in black holds a changing colour light sphere against the black backdrop, moving from left to right. In other 2 spaces, people jump, reaching for nothing. The image is now seen simultaneously by 2 groups of viewers: a new group in the guard's office sees the whole image on the monitor and the group that has come down the rabbit hole sees it live but fragmented.

 

But you had to be there.

 

All photos by Tomas Gilljam

Lilith Performance Studio, Malmö, 21-23 March 2013