Lonely Planet Writer

Stay late or go early for London's secret night exhibitions

They call it the witching hour, and not for nothing. Three am is an odd time of day, but to some its spookiness is an added boon. The Serpentine Gallery’s curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist, has joined a number of other curators in launching a series of nocturnal art exhibitions in London known as the Om3am Club.

Sarah Duffy's performance art last week in Greenwich's foot tunnel
Sarah Duffy’s performance art last week in Greenwich’s foot tunnel Image by Sarah Duffy/Om3am Club

The series is called Om3am and seeks to take advantage of the city’s public space at this moment of bewitched tranquility when everyone else is asleep. The meeting points and times are set specifically in public places across London at around 3am. People show up and are instructed by moderators or by written notes as to where to go. A recent Dazed&Confused article described one of the last Om3am performance art meetings. It described how it was set in one of Greenwich’s foot tunnels, where a woman wearing a ballgown was standing on a box in the middle of the tunnel. The sight alarmed more than just the audience, as the journalist describes, “Two women shrieked, their voices echoing around the tunnels. Apparently, they were not part of the performance – their belief that a ‘cultish ritual’ was being performed turned out to be sincere.”

Om3am is centred around the idea that the silence and uncrowded nature of the ‘dead’ of night provides a different way of appreciating art, interacting during a performance, and engaging with the dormant city. Obrist describes the exhibit’s as sounding so ridiculous that when they scheduled one for close to April Fool’s Day last year, people didn’t show up as they believed it to be a joke.

One of the people behind the Om3am Club, Hans Ulrich Obrist, collects post its on Instagram
One of the people behind the Om3am Club, Hans Ulrich Obrist, collects post its on Instagram Image by Hans Ulrich Obrist/Instagram

But Obrist is a real believer in the night-time exhibitions. “At 3am people are tired – or asleep – or drunk, waiting, jet lagged, desperate, or at work. At 3am space can be adjusted and certain permissions can be reordered, ” he said in a statement. “People rarely sit on the benches outside the Greenwich foot tunnel, but they make for the perfect forum.  Where we can find it, public space is gestural and it’s conditioned, but at 3am it can be brought to life, it can serve many purposes.”

More information can be found at the Serpentine Gallery which co-hosts the Om3am. Alternatively use the hashtag #om3am. The next one is believed to have a JG Ballard theme to it.

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