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3AM – Wonder, Paranoia and the Restless Night…

Finally got round to seeing the 3AM exhibition at the Ferens. The blurb rings a bell: “It explores 3AM as a wretched hour, when we feel at our most vulnerable. Yet it’s also the hour when we take our chances – a time of creativity of freedom. And it’s when wild animals are at their most active, too.”

I’ve been around at 3AM for a variety of reasons. The work of the 22 artists that makes up this exhibition, curated by Angela Kingston, reflects all of that. There’s so much to relate to here and plenty more besides. Grabbing attention on entry are Sophy Rickett’s photographs of two smartly dressed women pissing, standing up, against walls. That sets the tone for what follows. Danny Treacy’s ‘Them’ series of self-portrait photographs, in which he poses dressed in soiled garments found in side streets, is the haunting, terrifying stuff of nightmares. Sandra Cinto’s starry and planetary fabric installation unrolls in the manner of those all-too brief revelatory moments on the streets when life, the universe and everything else make sense.

Some of the exhibition is fucking horribly seedy (who said we don’t have the grammar to discuss the visual arts round here?), other parts trippy and fantastical. Tom Wood’s images of the end of a night out on the Wirral display the youthful, energetic desperation to connect before daylight returns. Paul Rooney’s audio piece, in which a club cloakroom attendant bemoans her lot as the agony aunt for a succession of pissed up, fucked up punters, is the best monologue Alan Bennett never wrote. Fred Tomaselli’s starry work points out why we might be over-stimulated at this hour. Sleep Walkers, by Tonico Lemos Aud, is a big bunch of vertically dangling, white lace, nighty-clad lampshades that offer comfort and warmth amid the madness that surrounds them.

I am awake at 3AM far too often than is healthy. And no doubt these 22 sorts are too. Being a creature of the night feels right most of the time. At our best, it’s easy to start believing that we own the night, and the streets. It’s a good hour, mostly, when connections are made, broken, remade, and senses are sharpened, or dulled. It’s certainly not an hour without its issues. Or our issues, rather.

Anyway, one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen at the Ferens. Ever.

3AM runs until 14 December at the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.

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