25 mai 2023
Société x LYL Radio, Brussels
Centre Vidéo de Bruxelles
Joachim Koester and Stefan A. Pedersen
Aho Ssan and Bertrand Cavalier
When night falls, the promises of an infinite imagination open up, even though everything is dark. Sleep, rest, dream, somnolence, somnambulism, these states are all explorations of nocturnal space-time that are conducive to creativity, even if unconscious. This is not the case with insomnia, the powerlessness of the mind over which man has no effective control, or as the author Marie Darrieussecq writes, ‘nothing prevents the insomniac from not sleeping’. A literary theme scoured for its fantastical potential for infinite creation, insomnia is a consequential evil in the society of fatigue described by the theorist Byung-Chul Han, a society where insatiable performativity exists well beyond the diurnal limit. Just as Rembrandt's 1642 Night watch is actually a daytime scene that is attributed to the night, contemporary insomnia is the intrusion of daytime mechanisms into the night. Since the domestication of electricity in the 19th century, the circadian rhythm has become relative. Today, light pollution is one of the reasons why the body resists the rest it needs, along with the unconscious fear of death or the interference of thoughts. Permanent exposure to the digital sphere and the extreme liberalisation of work often prevent sleep.
Taking insomnia as a condition for artistic creation, ‘The Night Watch’ is a cycle of radio creations proposed by Els Vermang of Société. Ten artists and theoreticians selected by curator Claire Contamine are invited to expose their universe as an escape from this physiological state in a programme broadcast on Lyl Radio, in the middle of the night.
Without wanting to add content to a digital (and mental) space that is already saturated with it, ‘The Night Watch’ offers the possibility of warding off the spell of mental agitation by leaving it to the care of art, which has the power to touch even when we don't expect it. Through various formats of interviews, playlists, sound creations and fictions, this programme is thought of as an auditory exhibition that builds up week after week like a curative treatment whose results are measured in time. The immaterial and infinite space-time of radio is explored as a tool for curatorial experimentation. The Night Watch also allows artists to reclaim the freedom and the unknown that night allows, to generate mental images at a time when the mind should no longer be confronted with the visual overproduction of our world but rather with its own dark chamber.