Photography: Nykeith Lee / @nykeith_lee_visuals
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  • Annexe The Moon
  • Breakwave
  • Daniel Ruane
  • Nanna Koekoek
Tate Liverpool 12/4/19

Art360: After Dark sees the entire Tate gallery space open after hours, for a one-off immersive art and sound experience. Through the use of headphones and specially commissioned sound and visual work, we are invited to engage with the art in new ways. Art which, perhaps, we may know or have already seen in the almost silent hours of daytime, now taking on new meanings when the senses are stimulated, and in the context of night.

Everyone – and we are many – is given a set of headphones on arrival at the gallery, each set with three channels from which to choose. Each channel covers a separate section of the gallery, corresponding to the guest musicians and visual artists who played sets on the night as well as having contributed pieces specifically for the event. Each area’s soundtrack is supplemented by the use of 3D headphones allowing the ambient external sound to mix with the headphones output.

Set headphones to Red. Wirral band ANNEXE THE MOON hold court in the foyer of the gallery with their own brand of sweet melodic psych pop. Life on the peninsula has brought them an appreciation of the waters which surround us, giving their stories a maritime sense, borne of their environment. All swirling organ riffs, and sunbaked vocals, they could just as easily fit onto the Postcard Records roster of the 80s as they could Skeleton Key. The headphones bring animation to the conversations of new arrivals in the foyer, which actually just served as a distraction.

Onwards, up the stairs. Set headphones to Yellow. One of the focusses of Art360 is the use of sound design to enhance the viewing of the Op Art In Focus exhibition. To the soundtrack of a piece entitled Pub Carpet Sounds by local award-winning composer and sound designer PHIL CHANNELL, we wander through rooms of dizzying, disorientation. A dynamic soundscape of samples, quotes and thoughts on how we react with reverberation, and of how music, as vibration, changes our environment. While the experience of viewing art alone is common, without any discussion or reflection with others feels insular at times, though the headphone accompaniment does feel most suited to the rooms of the Op Art show.

Art 360: After Dark Image 5

Op Art, an assault on the senses, a visual stress, playing with the concepts of space and light. Of lines and shape. Visually discordant tricks, warping what we see. Do we see what we see? Our eyes lead us to believe we see movement in stillness, and shapes that don’t exist. Beautiful trickery with perception as its currency.

A product of the global upheaval and uncertainty of the 60s, and with an eye to Dada and Cubism, Op Art was a playful and vibrant movement rich in technical precision. There is a disarming challenge in the monochrome geometric lines of Bridget Riley, and a cool, reflective calm in Damien Hirst’s pale pastels, here in one of his renowned Spot Paintings, while the Technicolor psychedelic floorscape of Jim Lambie’s Zobop 1999. Its surging, flowing lines of primary colours swirl and gyrate around our feet. It references Op Art, Pop Art, the hyper reality of childhood, the DIY ethics of punk and the chemical joy of acid house and rave culture. A celebratory piece – thanks to his artwork for pensive Scottish indie popsters Superstar – and a much-favoured artist of ours.

Set headphones to Green. The top floor at Tate Liverpool is completely clear, a wide plain, and liberating space, dimly lit in colour. At its centre, an enclosed darkness. Lit at first only by the glowing green lights on the headphones of the crowd, here to witness the DJ creations of DANIEL RUANE and BREAKWAVE. With projection screens showing the scratched and anxious visuals of NANNA KOEKOEK in a piece called Carpet Visuals, the DJs bring harsh, angular rhythms, a soundscape of dark, discordant tones, deep and unsettling and more than a little oppressive. But in a good and captivating way. Like the space had been in some way claimed. Populated with ideas and thought. It reminded us of the clubs and performance you could happen across in Berlin at the end of the 90s before the rebuild had really taken hold, and coupled with the baking temperature in the space, it actually made the perfect end to our nocturnal journey up and through the Tate’s spaces.

The Tate late is a wonderful thing, and should be used more often after dark, when more people can make the effort to engage with the art, and come together in numbers to celebrate the unity art can bring.

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