NOCTURNAL CREATURES

Date: 2018 (first edition) & 2019 (second edition)
Client: City of London Corporation & Whitechapel Gallery
Location: Square Mile, City of London & East End, London

Scramble, 1967 by Reza Aramesh performed by Joshua Smith, Bury Court, Nocturnal Creatures (2019)

Guillaume Vandame Notice Me (LGBTQIA+ Walk) Aldgate Square, Nocturnal Creatures (2019)

Graeme Mille, On Air Broadcast, St Botolph’s without Aldgate, Nocturnal Creatures (2019)

Nocturnal Creatures is an annual free late-night contemporary art festival organised by the Whitechapel Gallery in partnership with Sculpture in the City. Cultural and historic venues, along with a variety of public spaces within the Whitechapel Gallery and Sculpture in the City area, are transformed for one night by spectacular artworks and events, attracting more than 8,000 visitors. The first edition launched on Saturday 21st July 2018, bringing together performance, video, sculpture and music, open to all.

For each edition of the festival, Sculpture in the City has delivered a programme of events by that year’s artists and project associates, all curated by Lacuna and including installations, talks, tours and performances. World-renowned violinist Midori Komachi performed at Undershaft, the very location that inspired her composition. Artist Reza Aramesh collaborated with dancer Joshua Smith for Scramble, 1967, a powerful dance piece inspired by the work of Merce Cunningham and the Vietnam War, which unfolded in the presence of Aramesh’s sculpture in Bury Court. Legendary DJ Mixmaster Morris took over the historic Leadenhall Market for a silent disco.

DJ Mixmaster Morris Silent Disco, Leadenhall Market, Nocturnal Creatures (2019)

Following the success of the first edition, the Sculpture in the City programme expanded for the second in 2019, with two new major art commissions. Guillaume Vandame’s Notice Me was a participatory artwork, a peaceful walk which invited members of the LGBTQIA+ community of all ages and backgrounds, as well as queer allies seeking to support their cause, to join a procession through the Sculpture in the City area, dressed in all the blazing colours of the rainbow. Graeme Miller’s On Air was a broadcast work staged between an aerial vantage point and an audience at ground level. St Botolph-without-Aldgate was activated as an auditorium, with the commentators at the top of a nearby building translating the landscape into words for those below – an act of faith between listeners and speakers.

As well as allowing Sculpture in the City artists to engage audiences directly and provide more context to their works, Nocturnal Creatures energises the area at large, allowing a wider audience to share in artistic and cultural experiences.

Nocturnal Creatures created a wonderful community spirit where we could spot fellow art explorers through the map in their hands, with everyone helping each other locate the art installations and making recommendations. The volunteers were all welcoming and friendly. The installations that worked best were those that were specific to the space, especially Emma Smith’s ‘Calling Time’ at Whitechapel Bell Foundry and Graeme Miller’s ‘On Air’ in St Botolph-without-Aldgate.

Tabish Khan, Art Critic & Visual Arts editor, Londonist