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What do you get up to at 3am?

Bluecoat show shines torch on the witching hour

Published on September 26th 2013.

What do you get up to at 3am?

3AM - it has evoked song titles, folklore and is even the name of a gossip column in the Mirror.

Now 3am is the subject of a new national exhibition, opening at the Bluecoat this weekend.

This darkest hour just before dawn (depending on what time of year it is, obviously) is also known in catholic traditition as the witching hour. If things are going to go bump in the night, it's likely they'll happen around then.

Independent curator Angela Kingston was invited by the Bluecoat to curate 3am: Wonder, Paranoia and the Restless Night. 

She said: “3am belongs, too, to nature and nocturnal creatures – and to sexual encounters and death. Also, it’s a time of lawlessness and abjection, and the dark realm of ghouls and witchery."

The show demonstrates how this particular nocturnal hour has captured the imagination of artists. Thus, bleary-eyed sleepers were woken up to be photographed, prowling coyotes were caught on specialist digital cameras and a helicopter spotlight searches the night time waters for a missing person.

 3am features 22 UK and international artists, including Francis Alÿs, Sophy Rickett, and Fred Tomaselli, and includes paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and video, some made especially for the show.


They explore various themes – psychological, sociological, natural and astronomical – to capture something of the strangeness of the night and the extraordinary range of emotions, states and experiences it witnesses.

Artworks show teenagers running wild and free, a woman’s rapture at the cosmos, a man quite alone and afraid, the steely imaginings of a frightened child, and an emboldened fox.

Other highlights include: Photographs from Tom Wood’s The Chelsea Reach series, which show revellers at the New Brighton club of the same name.

Sophy Rickett’s photographic series of smartly dressed women urinating while standing up in the most unlikely of locations.

The song of a nightclub cloakroom attendant in Liverpool artist Paul Rooney’s sound piece, Lights Go On.

Frances Alÿs’ film, The Nightwatch, in which a wild fox, let loose in the National Portrait Gallery, was recorded by surveillance cameras.

Disturbing life size images by Danny Treacy of himself dressed in discarded clothes he finds in the street in the dead of night.

Michael Palm & Willi Dorner’s film documenting young people reclaiming deserted, late-night city streets through ingenious performance actions.

Kingston added: “3am could be seen as a metaphor for our current situation: we have reached the nadir, are in a very dark place, with only the hope of imagination and daring. The exhibition, with an associated series of nocturnally themed events, comes therefore at an opportune time.”

*3am: wonder, paranoia and the restless night is showing at the Bluecoat, Liverpool, from 28 Sept - 24 Nov 2013 and tours until Nov 2014 to Chapter (Cardiff), The Exchange (Penzance) and Ferens Art Gallery (Hull).

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