Ellie Harrison’s Unexpected Dark Days – Part II #guestblog

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After dinner it was time to make a consensus as a whole group on how to spend the evening together. Everyone brainstormed and ideas such as make something, music and dancing, write a manifesto, discuss the “Dark Days” topic, quiz night, games, no set plan, make a “tower of awesome” i.e. a chair tower, etc. were considered. Not the most conventional choices. Then you went to the group that you wanted to be involved in. I went to the ‘make something’ group. In our groups we brainstormed and it was interesting how the idea for our group evolved from making delicate origami birds to a fort made from sleeping bags, which would ultimately be supported through the very valuable and limited number of chairs. A spokescouncil was formed where each group would have a volunteered spoke who acted as a voice for the group they were representing. The spokes would discuss their individual group’s plan with the other spokes and if possible collaborations would need to occur between groups – for instance between the ‘make something’ group and the ‘tower of awesome’ group in order to build the sleeping bag fort. This all went very smoothly and a consensus was made in the whole group about how to spend the evening.

Beyond the spokescouncil meeting there was a more general meeting with the whole group about when the lights should go out. This proved to be more challenging to reach a consensus so also took away time from the rest of the evening. But then again is it not better to openly speak about concerns and disagreement and arrive at a consensus decision? Rather than taking a shorter period of time to make a decision, but that ultimately only the dominant and larger group of people’s voices are heard than everyone’s? Although it could be said that some of the decisions could have been made unanimously in a shorter period of time. Luckily, jazz hands were finally waving and a consensus was reached where it was agreed that lights should go out at three, but that things should start to wind down from two onwards. Also, it was approved that there should be a designated area for those that want to sleep earlier and that the lights should be lowered down in that area. Along with these decisions, came the idea of a welcome ceremony for the next part of the evening.

The second, slightly more unstructured section of the evening began with a welcome ceremony of all the participants creating a circle of chairs. We may not have been provided with enough chairs to sit on, but with a bit of creativity we were able to make chairs from ourselves. By squeezing tightly altogether, placing our hands on the person’s shoulders in front of us and all at the same time bending our knees we were able to then sit on the person behind us without much pain. After this we then lined up and in groups ran from one side of the beautiful great hall to the other and as we reached the end we turned around and felt the breeze that we created together. From this it led to the dispersal of the whole group where people either went off to crowd surf, make a fort, participate in murder games, write a manifesto and anything else that they fancied. The next few hours passed as a blur and before I knew it, it was nearing lights out and it was time to set up camp, change into our pyjamas (for the rebels amongst us since this was against the rules), brush our teeth and go to bed next to those that we had befriended. Before I drifted off into sleep and the lights had just been turned out – light poured onto the ceiling of gallery one from the street lights outside and created some of the most beautiful shadows on the neoclassical ceiling. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be spending a night at the GoMA and participating in Dark Days. Then of course came some snores…

The next morning we awoke to Pink Skyscraper by Normalities – which I previously found relaxing but will now forever remind me of morning time. The organisers nicely gave us one hour to wake up, sort ourselves out and drink some much needed tea and coffee at the welcome desk. Then at nine (so early!), we did some warming up exercises to liven us up. I have to admit that I was not properly functioning yet as it usually takes me some time in the morning so I don’t remember the exact exercises. But we formed different groups and in for instance a group of five people, you were only allowed two feet on the ground so you had to figure out how to do that, which definitely helped wake people up!

Afterwards, we all made final groups and in these discussed how we thought the evening had gone. We then transformed our experiences into performances for the rest of the group, which were all wonderful! There was a final group photograph including jazz hands and somehow the sixteen hours had passed us by and we found ourselves saying goodbye. I still feel in some way that I am processing the Dark Days event. For one night, almost one hundred participants formed a pop-up community. I found it startling the trust that was built so quickly between people that had never met one another. After the event, a family member asked me was it not ominous staying in the GoMA overnight and I have to say not one bit.

Rhona MacGuire
Modern & Contemporary Art: History, Curating & Criticism MSc at the University of Edinburgh

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