Interview with Fatos Ustek, Curator of Art Night 2017

Art Night is a free, contemporary art festival that stages events in extraordinary locations around London for one night a year. It is the perfect way to experience London out of hours.

And for 2017, Art Night is coming to transform London’s East End! The night’s main programme features 13 projects and 11 artists across 13 venues.

The programme ranges from a large-scale dance performance in Exchange Square to meditative sessions in a cavernous space under Tower Bridge. To close it all off, the festival features a club event at Village Underground.

The night is being held in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery, and features a huge extended programme of associate events, bringing the total number of free events in East London to over 60.

We interviewed the curator of Art Night 2017, Fatos Ustek, to ask her more about how she put this year’s event together.

Art Night has been described as London’s only arts festival of its kind. Tell us a little bit about what makes the event unique.

The event is only one night long, being inspired by Nuit Blanche in Paris. Something that makes it really stand out is that it explores non-art venues. We take historic sights and iconic buildings, that have had various uses, and commission artists for them. One thing I am very proud of is that we don’t only show existing work, but commission new work too, In-fact 80% of the exhibitions are brand new.

Last year’s Art Night did extremely well, attracting over 30,000 visitors. How has this year built on the last?

Although I am only the curator for this year, I can tell you the program has been extended dramatically. There will be 59 additional projects happening on the night alongside the main ones. These will vary from free film screenings to galleries open until midnight. As part of the Art Night Legacy Scheme, some collections will have a life beyond the night itself. A mural has been commissioned to be installed permanently on Middlesex Street Estate, where local residents were able to give input on what they would like to see.

This is such a large-scale festival. East London is so rich in culture and history. How has it been working with East London as a location and incorporating the things we love about it into Art Night?

It has been such an inspiration, really, I can’t tell you enough just how lucky I feel to be working in East London. The location has played such a huge role in my devising of the programme. It is an area where people from different cultural backgrounds co-exist, and its architectural profile is in constant flux.

There is a theme that runs through every project this year, the ‘Fusion of Horizons.’ This is about how we all, as individuals, have a horizon line that stands for the limit of our aspirations, dreams, desires and knowledge. And when we converse, we understand each other from the perspective of our own backgrounds, which is a very positive thing. I feel that especially with the dawn of Brexit and rise of right wing, it is important acknowledge that monoculture is an impossibility. London’s East End flourishes from the existence of everybody’s different horizons, and Art Night is all about exploring the continuous transformation of these horizons.

Tell us a bit more about some of the exciting projects.

The venue underneath Tower Bridge, the Bascule Chamber, is very old but we are using it in a new way. It has never been used for art before. Iain Chambers will invite audiences down into the chamber to teach them how to become invisible using light components. The chamber is the elbow of Tower Bridge, and the space literally disappears when the bridge opens.

We are also using a recently developed office space for a new location. The White Chapel Building will feature Lawrence Lek’s virtual reality project, imagining a future where there’s no work, only play. His project ‘Playstation’ encourages those to play in a reality of sheer speculation.

And Korean artist Do Ho Suh will produce an instillation using concepts of identity, belonging and the idea of home at Christ Church, Spitalfields. This is especially interesting when looking into the wide variety of migration East London has seen. His video instillation explores how the architecture we live in, right down to our own room, reflects our identity.

And what have you enjoyed the most about working on Art Night as an entire project?

This is a beautiful question. It’s quite amazing to work for audiences who may be experiencing art in extraordinary locations or intriguing venues for the fist time in their lives. I wanted this festival not to be static but moving. Professional dance groups will be moving from one location to another, bringing the streets to life. These may cross-over with different events, passing on the rhythms of the people. I love the spontaneity of it all. You could have no idea about Art Night and come across these projects. They could then trigger a curiosity in that person and cause them follow and explore everything the night has to offer.

The biggest joy was taking on this whole challenge and making it meaningful. It wasn’t just about bringing in something new, but also making visible what was already there. More than anything, it was about celebrating and doing justice to London’s East End.

Alva Noto x Boiler Room at Village Underground

Art Night will run for one night only, on Saturday 1st July 2017 from 6pm – 4am

The projects begin at Tower Bridge and the walk through them all ends at Shoreditch High Street. It’s about a half an hour walk but stopping at each event along the way is the perfect way to spend the evening and night.

Keep updated with Art Night at their official website and their Facebook page.