Endless Seance, installation view, 2021 [photo: Mo Costello; courtesy of Hi-Lo Press]

Endless Séance

“ … go to Carver High School/ the new schools at Carver. Park in the lot next to the baseball fields. Walk between the fields past the pond. You will come to the old South Fulton Health Center. Walk through the lot and you will see a teal/aqua railing for a stairway **there is poison ivy at the edges of the trail** walk down the stairs and you will see the tunnel to your right. About a 5 minute walk ….”

                                    — Instagram post by @hilopress

Something felt almost magical as I approached Hi-Lo Press’ Endless Séance. After walking into this tunnel beneath an overpass, dark and dank, muddy water of an indeterminate depth on either side, I saw people conversing, huddling toward the middle, drier parts of the path—a section of the Atlanta Beltline, a former railway corridor now in development as a network of pedestrian trails. Lingering amid a dreamy scene of lit candles reflecting off the water in which they were partly submerged, there was the distinct smell of incense cutting through the humid air. Works by 11 artists were presented propped on planks, or on pedestals of plywood and cinder blocks, nestled in the mud, surrounded by water, impossible to examine closely.

A black and white poster on a cobblestone wall reads

Endless Seance, installation view, 2021 [photo: Mo Costello; courtesy of Hi-Lo Press]

A canvas is propped up on a wooden frame which leans against the wall of a tunnel. The painting is lit from below by two votive candles. The wooden frame is stands in a muddy puddle.

Endless Seance, installation view, 2021 [photo: Mo Costello; courtesy of Hi-Lo Press]

The setting’s darkness obscured the works, rendering them spirit-like, ghosts of themselves, barely visible. All I really knew of them was what I could imagine them to be. In the glow of candlelight, they were kept apart from us. I tried to get close without falling into the water. Despite wearing appropriate footwear—as advised by the press release—my attempts were repeatedly frustrated. Not able to see the artworks, we talked instead of what they might be as we assembled in the dark.

Beyond literal obscurity, it was difficult to see a conceptual thread between the works. They did not appear to be unified by any particular factors except for their presence in the unique space and circumstance. It almost felt as if they were picked at random, or as if each work’s subject matter was unimportant, in service to the entirety of the experience. The accompanying text, a dialogue between imagined embodiments of Plaster and Drywall, was also riddling. Partially adhered to the uneven surface of a stone, its message was rendered barely legible.

A cracked piece of grey paper has a script including lines including:

Endless Seance, installation view, 2021 [photo: Mo Costello; courtesy of Hi-Lo Press]

Some artworks spoke to the space in ways that echoed back. The Sword, a stone tile mosaic by Dorothy Stucki, seemed in conversation with the surrounding old stone masonry. How hallowed and timeless, that something so simple as arrangements of rocks could speak, although in different dialects, about their formal and functional structures. Between Ally White and Parisa Ott’s delicate graphite and pastel drawings, abstractions of nature, an ethereal language was spoken. In that environment, they seemed like arcane candlelit artifacts. The drawings seemed to foretell a beginning and an end; some revelation just beyond our grasp.

It was as if there was a fluttering, flickering energy coming forth from the artworks and the environment, and it began to swell. How unexpectedly some things grow, emerging before you. You may not realize until it’s upon you that you’ve been fully enveloped by some spirit, another presence, spreading itself through everyone in attendance. Something you hadn’t noticed when you first walked in, but that pervades the space, a spirit of self-reverence, a muddy playground of artists turned into a ritual of the night.

A small painting of a green tree leans against a stone wall. The wall is gratified with white paint.

Endless Seance, installation view, 2021 [photo: Mo Costello; courtesy of Hi-Lo Press]

The lack of emphasis on the artworks accentuated the intrigue and excitement around certain moments throughout the event. My foot caught in the mud, sinking in, gave me a primordial and visceral feeling of panic, helplessness, and a sense of childishness. At one point the twanging of a string instrument, like a sitar or shamisen, rang out, reverberating throughout the space amid the attendees. A jogger passing through had one of his shoes pulled entirely off by the mud as “oohs” and “awws” erupted from the surrounding crowd.

Like a séance, the show sought a sort of intangible contact through communion between people. We, with all our thoughts and feelings, gathered in hopes of conjuring something more. This exhibition demonstrated that in the act of coming together we are confronted with something greater than ourselves, greater even than what we imagine togetherness to be. Through a covenant between space, time, art, and a collective consciousness, we extend an invitation to the unknown.

Noah Reyes is an artist and writer based in Atlanta. After receiving a BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Noah returned to his hometown of Atlanta to entrench himself in the arts and culture of this verdant city. Writing reviews and proposals for shows, Noah hopes to blur lines between artist, writer, and curator. He is interested in experimental curation and art experiences, in trying to illuminate spaces between cultures, and in exposing what grows from those cracks between art and society.