On 6 March, I attended the Dark Days Film Screening & Artist’s Talk, and the first thing I noticed when I walked into Gallery 2 at the GoMA were the lack of chairs available. Yes, maybe I should have gotten there earlier, but I didn’t know that “chairs” would be a recurring theme to the events after Dark Days. Is this what we are to expect in our future – a world without chairs?! Luckily, just as I was planning on setting up camp on the floor, some lovely GoMA staff came and brought chairs. Crisis averted – for now. Wait until the event on March 14th at Tramway.
At the Dark Days event Ellie remained quiet when people asked her about the work – I guess because she wanted to see how the event played out since no one really seemed to know what to expect, as well as trying to have as little influence over the evening as possible. How would almost a hundred people create a pop-up community in one night? The film screening and artist’s talk helped to clarify Ellie’s ideas behind the event and provided a much needed opportunity of reflection for many of the participants.
Ellie contextualised Dark Days within her broader spectrum of work. Her earlier work was more solitary where she documented her everyday routine in projects including Tea Blog , Eat 22 and Gold Card Adventures . Ellie began to move away from these more introspective projects in her art work to focus on broader social and political issues. One of the most potent parts of the talk for me was when Ellie discussed wanting to create some kind of positive change with art but was unsure of how to do that. Can art create change? For myself this is an ever recurring theme in my own research. Other works by Ellie include The Other Forecast where she parodies a weather forecast with the consequences that are arising from the unequal distribution of wealth around the planet under the capitalist system and its impending effects on the environment. Ellie has also exhibited work at the GoMA before with Early Warning Signs. In 2014 the GoMA adopted the green on black sign and this year have the blue on white sign for Glasgow’s Green Year 2015. The signs aim to highlight climate change by using the same techniques for advertising as many high-street vendors. The project comments on climate change resulting from the over-consumptive nature and use of non-renewable sources of energy by many countries in the West.
Then we finally came to Dark Days and its inception. Dark Days began with Ellie coming up to Katie Bruce, GoMA’s producer curator, at a conference and gleefully telling Katie about her idea to have a group of people sleep over at the GoMA and form a pop-up community. A great idea but would this be feasible? How many people would you want for the event? Ellie apparently randomly chose on the spot to have one hundred people, which GoMA agreed to and emphasised that no more people could come. Ironically now looking back, Ellie wondered how she would get one hundred people to attend but as we found out during the registration period, the event had no problem attracting people – over eight hundred people applied to participate in Dark Days.
Ellie discussed inspiration that she gained on how to plan the Dark Days event from her experiences at the ‘Reclaim the Power: Anti-Fracking Action Camp’ (). The event was very well organised, contained a number of house rules that need to be followed if you wanted to stay and was overall very inviting. All traits that she wanted to bring to Dark Days.
The film screening by Lock Up Your Daughters film collective was fantastic! They captured the whole event wonderfully, beginning with short interviews as participants entered Dark Days and asking about their expectations for the evening – which for all the interviewees seemed to be a unanimous “no expectations”. They documented the event step by step as we went from the ‘getting to know you exercises’ to the consensus decision making workshops to our own consensus decision on how we were going to spend the evening together. They got the overall feel of the evening – in one camera shot swinging from the more serious manifesto discussion to the free dancing people. They even managed to include the snoring that went on during the night!
After the film screening there was a question and answers opportunity. Anna McLauchlan asked Ellie to elaborate on a number of topics including the application process, the ephemeral nature of Dark Days and the continuing dependency on technology today. Regarding the application process and how Ellie selected the applicants, Ellie discussed that she aimed to get a great diversity of applicants including fifty female and fifty male participants. In the end there were forty-five female and forty-four male participants so this worked out very well. From my own experiences that evening I met so many different people, which without the event I probably would never meet in my everyday experiences as a student. It was wonderful how the event helped open up people’s horizons.
A question arose about the ephemeral nature of Dark Days and whether the art work becomes the documentary made by Lock up your Daughters or if they remain separate entities. In the art world there is an ever-increasing focus on the document as an art in itself or as a form of ephemeral art such as performance art or in this case Dark Days. From Ellie’s point of view the art work was what the participants experienced at the Dark Days event and the documentary of the event is not Ellie’s art work but Lock Up Your Daughters.
The discussion on the documentation of the event lead into a discussion on the increasing dependency of screen based technologies today and the continual archival of art works. Many of Ellie’s works are archived on the web, not encroaching on the limited space that we have on this planet but rather the infinite space of the internet. Yet, this process highlights Ellie’s own dependency on technology and brought up the question of what would she do if all her work was lost by technology? Ellie seemed fine her work being lost as we don’t need to be archiving everything. Many tangible art works such as paintings are often kept in storage depots for decades without having a single person from the public view the work. What is the point in archiving works of art if no one can ever see it? Then again, through archiving art you are still allowing an opportunity in the future to exhibit the work.
Dark Days provided insight into a utopian post-apocalyptic world without technology. Instead it offered the participants a chance to enjoy each other’s company without technological distractions and form a pop-up community with people that we might never otherwise have met.
Modern & Contemporary Art: History, Curating & Criticism MSc at the University of Edinburgh