Writing by Rhiannon Auriol. Illustration by Miriam Craddock.
The afterlife is the after party: a choreography of mangled bodies - Billy-Ray Belcourt, ‘Towards a Theory of Decolonization’.
Perhaps you miss afters: the early morning comedown, post-event gathering of bodies and sensibilities and stimuli, sometimes with strangers, sometimes with friends, sometimes on the floor of kitchens, of bedrooms, once in a van, once on the beach, but always with the promise, soon, of pharmaceutical sleep.
Perhaps you miss art galleries: students with bad posture and tote bags, awkward couples on dates, that one person always making sketches, overpriced entry fees, degree shows, pop-ups, expensive (in)aesthetic bookstores, but always filled with light and a sense of peace.
The two concepts meet in the virtual exhibition Afters, as we are invited inside the flat/studio/gallery/e-salon of Alliyah, Maria, Gabriel and Miriam to see what each artist has been working on. Created in response to the current lack of studio and exhibition space, as well as a re-imagining of what creative spaces mean, Afters evokes a sense of virtual intimacy in the remembered outline of the 'house party', the sketched floor plan of the flat a strange yet familiar map. After entering the password theresalwaysanafters released to the internet wilds on the launch night in February, you can access the site and begin exploring. The role you occupy is an uncanny one between voyeur and visitor, as you wander through the rooms and corridors of this flat exhibition in a time when to do so physically has become transgressive. You exit the site with the impression of having haunted.
A couple of weeks after its launch I talked to the creators of Afters to learn more about both the collective process and individual works showcased:
Maria is the Afters website developer and creator of the live coding visuals for the exhibition launch’s DJ set by Alliyah (Iced Gem). Maria’s animations and charcoal drawings play with concepts of space and time, the idea of multiple selves, multiple temporalities existing alongside each other. Maria’s browser art ‘White Mountains’ and ‘Fake Memories’ similarly exist outside the realms of normative space-time. In her own words:
I have been building my browser work around explorations with the structure and presentation of prose, as well as unreliable narrators, storytelling, and the anonymous confessional space which the internet can take. In the work Fake Memories and White Mountains, the stories dance on the border between fact and fiction, self-mythologization and re-constructed memories.
White Mountains is an interactive pick-your-own-adventure-style cyber diary of a closeted queer teenage girl. Reflecting on the modularity of memories and unreliable narrators, the anonymous main character talks, confesses, and vents at the reader, while reminiscing over the nostalgia of past and future relations and events. The work takes around 15 minutes to read through and may contain flashing lights.
Miriam’s digital room is populated by fantastical, visually striking beings - from the ‘bizarre pink headed mushroom creatures’ of the film Scapegoat to the clay satyrs and melancholy characters of the mixed media pieces. Inspired in part by Ancient Greek ‘scapegoat’ rituals, there is a mysterious, occultist backdrop to the film, the sacrificial aesthetic made surreal through the over-performance of facial features such as the lips and eyelashes of the mushroom creatures, where an elusive grotesque comes up against the picturesque of the woodland setting and the vintage wedding dresses worn by the actors.
Miriam and the other artists talked about the creation of the film Scapegoat:
Miriam: [These characters] kept cropping up over and over again in my work and in the Vomiton collective. I always seem to use pink…I really like Philip Guston paintings…that fleshy kind of disgusting but also pretty colour.
I wanted a story to base work around and I found this Genesis 38 Bible story which is strange and weird and says a lot about human behaviours and motivations. I started thinking about scapegoats and reading more into scapegoats and there are just so many strange rituals in Ancient Greece and in the Bible… I saw how it related to what was happening at the moment - there are lots of scapegoats. There are scapegoats in every story basically.
Rhiannon: The theme of the scapegoat does seem very relevant at the moment - and particularly in the film when Tamar is being called a witch, and cast out... How was the filming process and how did you find acting in the film?
Alliyah: It was really fun…I think when you have a mask on as well you feel quite confident to really throw yourself into it. They used to use masks a lot in Ancient Greek plays so it fit with that theme - and it was such a beautiful day so seeing it in that context really elevated the work.
Maria: The lighting was so beautiful and it was just fun running around the forest in a wedding dress.
Gabriel: Although people didn't even react that much when they saw us…
Gemma: My favourite things in the video are when runners come through pretending not to notice anything happening.
Still from ‘Scapegoat’, video, 8:57 min, 2021.
Alliyah’s work flirts with all things experimental and multidisciplinary. Dynamic and with so many dimensions, it spans dance, sound, performance, poetry, photography and visual media; the ‘echo’ is explored as a unique unit of fragmentation, of praise - hymnal, ethereal.
Alliyah: All my interests are centred around making sound...bringing all these fragments of my practice together to embody this character that is Alliyah Enyo. And she was kind of found in drawing and then something clicked, and it felt really right to start worlding a space where all these elements could work together… I kind of see it like an ecosystem in that everything responds to each other.
A lot of it is about my emotional landscape but also my interest in choir, in Greek Mythology, in healing practices. I try to be a lot more well researched now because I don’t want to appropriate any spiritualities. Because I’m not able to DJ at the moment and that sort of loss is present it’s sad but it’s also a nice reaction to see what else I can make that’s still connected to music... Sound totally informs how I move. It’s a collaboration.
Alliyah’s Arrival*Enyo’s Ether, Oil and pencil on handmade paper, 210 x 148 mm, 2019.
Gabriel Levine Brislin
In Gabriel’s poetry, ‘images wade like sailors’ and pages are ‘sprung amphitheatres / of what is not seen, not heard, not touched’. Frequently there is weather, or water. The visual landscape of the word, and the poem as artistic object, is revealed as a ‘precarious surface’ - perhaps a window, perhaps a mirror, full of all ‘the aspirations and failures of glass’. This world is breakable, lyrical.
Gabriel: The artwork that I’ve always wanted to make has been installation based and sound is a key element of that - but I don’t like presenting work through headphones… I want to be able to set speakers up and have people able to walk around and use languages, scripts and poetry as a format throughout that.
So yeah I’ve found it hard to make material that could occupy a digital space this year. We’re so used to making everything for a gallery - everything’s made for the gallery eye and then converted into digital. I found I was focusing so much more on writing because I could be so much more ambitious with what I wanted to do… my ideas could be a lot freer. I haven’t stopped making ‘artwork’ I’ve just been writing a lot more, and trying to see the writing as a form of artwork.
Rhiannon: You have a lot of imagery of water, of music and sound in these poems. What has been the influence of music on your writing?
Gabriel: When I started writing poems for a website they were supplementary to art I was making last semester and I was really interested in the idea of music being a non-lyrical thing, its ability to convey meaning without words. And then with the writing I was trying to use words as the opposite - loose objects that can create an entire world.
Rhiannon: When did the idea for you all to exhibit together as a flat collaboration start forming?
Gabriel: We had a talk from an ex-ECA graduate called Adam Castle which was really good, and he had just made so much work in his time at ECA and he set up the Edinburgh International Film Festival and had put together all these incredible films, and the talk from him made us think we should do something...
Alliyah: We put it together really fast - we sat round the kitchen table to sketch the layout.
Maria: One of the key aspects we wanted to push forward was an online exhibition which would feel different from the otherwise at times limiting feeling which follows website templates or 3D galleries. We worked together to ensure that each page reflected our individual interests and style, leaving room for experimenting and being a bit silly too.
Rhiannon: Do you think you would ever do another exhibition together?
Alliyah: Yes, definitely. I think it worked because of the way we laid out the exhibition as a collaborative effort but each with distinct roles so we all felt we could fulfil our personal desires as an artist at the same time.
Maria: Now that the platform’s there we’re thinking of doing another one using the same basic structure, just updating it or adding bits.
Visit AFTERS and find links to further work by Alliyah, Gabriel, Maria and Miriam here.