• Black Light Theater / The Takeover III

    by Anticlone Gallery in partnership with Mandrake for Frieze Art Week London.

A week-long programme of events showcasing multidisciplinary artists specialising in sound, performance, moving image and interactive installations curated by Sade English and Maria Abramenko, located at The Mandrake Hotel in London.

As you make your way to the theatre below the tone is set by a protruding mirror on the wall  that reflects as normal, then flexes in on itself to  distort the beholder. As if compressed in a black hole – “It reflects reality by distorting it”. This portal is Edoardo Dionea Cicconi’s “Xyzt”. This blurring of self is also mirrored in Josh Woolford’s shadowed forms of “Avoiding it”. Parma Ham’s latex sculptures then add to this feeling of distortion with their grand unconventional folds. Further complemented by some of Sade’s highly textured paintings and Lulu Wang’s “Umi” with its intricate indents.

Heading further in, a low ominous chant reverberates against the sounds of a distant hammering noise. A figure emerges with a bare torso fixing a red apron and black gloves. Surrounding him is a circle of candles around a series of logs with nails of varying lengths protruding. He kneels on a red cushion. Selects a hammer, then a nail and proceeds to hammer gently into the log in front of him. Mesmeric. He continues. Presiding over the ceremony. The ritual of it all is trance like and leaves the audience rapt, with many questions. It finishes and the spell is broken. I wonder why he taps so gently and why the nails often fall out just as much as they go in. Is it about Sisyphus and the futility of trying?

Talons of Creed is the brainchild of Alban Adam. He confirms afterwards that it is about losing yourself in repetition – derived from pagan beliefs and rituals around surrendering to the void. The nail tree had a strong presence in the lore of the middle-ages that is now lost to the modern world. A modern audience can attach their own meaning and learn from the catharsis of the repetitive act at its centre. It allows personal meaning to intersect with the Pagan, superstition and religion too. The immersive sound work is by Samuel Accecedo.

The night before, there is a projector screen of plastic film showing a mysterious vintage Japanese movie. A figure peers out from behind the plastic in stark white make up and bouffant cream dress. They breathe and gently ripple the screen. As the music swells, they breathe in the screen as if about to asphyxiate on it before finally puncturing it. What happens next feels like a birth – an emergence. The figure ventures out into the audience. Fixing them with their gaze and venturing out curiously. Making  their way to a chair facing a mirror. A microphone dangles from the ceiling and they gasp “I am that”, repeating it, growing stronger and more forceful:

“We are who we are”. The dress that is shed; leaving them almost naked. A piano piece begins. The heavy make up is wiped off as they press against the mirror. A beautiful rebirth.

This was Chadd Curry’s “I am that I am”. Described by them as: “A baptism into otherness. A ballad of rebirth, transformation and self-acceptance. Marking the perpetual stages of surrender and blossoming.” The haunting piano from the end: “Larkspur and Lazarus” by Current 93. A piece that Chadd describes as being so perfect that it required no alteration: “I would unmake my past and rise like Lazarus”. It feeds  Chadd’s point that create ourselves anew every day. This theme is mirrored in their alias (Dhac Dermur VIII): their name + murder backwards. You can’t have rebirth without  death. The movie projected over the performance “Funeral Parade of Roses” feeds this as it follows transgender women in 1969 Tokyo. It explores how individuals wear masks in order to avoid loneliness. For an artist synonymous with the application of their face armour. The removal of this at the end of the piece marks their rebirth into honesty.

The themes explored above also resonate with the artists from the other nights. Othello De Souza Hartley’s “What is the reflection you want to get back to?” centres around self reflection and how we are perceived in by others in relationships and the challenges that it presents. Krissie Marie Heliodore uses an installation with fabric to represent inter generational trauma and the mental health problems this poses in “Her Body without Bounds”. Tia Yoon explores post humanism and challenges society by collating voices from the Asian queer community in “But I know what you mean: I wish I don’t”. Naleh’s “Creature Beggard Kin” also looks forward to a future where identity is more fluid. Plus there is an immersive closing set from Gaika.

Alban puts it perfectly: “Whoever proclaims the lack of subculture only asserts his blindness to their new forms”. The guiding force of the Takeover is expression that is untethered to established values. You can see the love that the curators have for this concept and the artists who embody it. The Anticlone concept is at the forefront. Maria and Sade have crafted a world down here at the theatre that is valuable to self-expression and the honesty it requires, both curators are not just part of the subculture, they fight for representation in all forms, and feed it.

Black Light Theater


Curators: Sade English / @sadeenglish
Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Words: Jamie Bryden / @jamiemacleodbryden
Venue: Mandrake Hotel / @themandrakehotel

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