I could hear a church with hot pink doors purring as I walked towards it through the ‘wrong side of town’ in Gainsborough, East Midlands. So it was these pulsating vibrations that introduced me to the latest exhibition, End of Ends, at x-church – a deconsecrated church built in 1882 and transformed into a dedicated exhibition space in 2006.
x-church folds into the surrounding suburban streets of Gainsborough, a town whose ‘regeneration’ catch cry has weakened under recent economic hardships. The town is sleepy and dusty. A passer by, straining in the hot sun with too many shopping bags, glances up at the church. He too has heard the pulsating vibrations. He reads the exhibition title then walks on. For Marcus Hammond, owner of x-church, you get the feeling that even such a small acknowledgement is enough – the ability to pierce a man’s day with something to think about as he walks home through one of the county’s most underprivileged areas. Achieving this seems to satisfy Marcus’s passion for making art accessible.
Before visiting End of Ends – An Arts Council funded project exploring the idea of endings by University of Lincoln artist/academic Professor Steve Dutton in collaboration with artist Neil Webb and supported by artist Kate Buckley – I had viewed its online existence at www.endofends.co.uk. The site encourages visitors to submit up to six words describing something that ends. The result is a potentially never-ending list of endings, submitted by anonymous people from around the world that flash past on the screen faster than your eyes can focus on any one sentence. In this form, the work is unsettling. Your eyes and brain battle for comprehension as words like love, clock, nothing, privacy, and tears jump out from their carefully formed sentences for recognition. If you stay on the page for more than a minute or two however, your desire for a sensory reaction or comprehension is cracked and you’re able to let the words and incessant clicking wash over you until you become aware that you’re watching something universal and bigger than your own existence. Something forever changing, forever moving and forever growing.
End of Ends in its non-digital form however, gave me something else. Text, sound, shadows and space wrapped me in a feeling instead of a thought. The space had been stripped bare for the work, and this absence not only focused my attention on the two flat screens flashing descriptions of ends at the front and back of the church, but also made the screens look both reverend and humbled as they sat on the floor between huge stone pillars. Their delicate presence drew me in like they had a secret. I stood between them and slowly turned my head from one screen to the other, tuning in and out of the incessant list of ends as my brain got used to the idea of not comprehending what they said, but simply feeling. A switch helped by the hypnotic, meditative soundtrack bouncing from the huge stone pillars and the beauty of shadows dispersing across the bare church floor.
I began to feel the words flashing on the screen. I felt them attach to memories and float by like driftwood…love, clock, nothing, privacy, and tear… I felt them detach from meaning until the flashing words were not part of someone else’s comprehension of an end, but part of a feeling I owned. An odd feeling of calm, and a sense of belonging. Not belonging to a time, memory or place, but a sense of belonging to the collective consciousness of humanity.
Fittingly, Steve Dutton hopes End of Ends will continue to grow and be exhibited long after it has left x-church. “As long as you are writing a list of ends you are not ending.?We are creating a potentially never ending list of endings, the list of endings has to keep growing, and if it doesn’t then things (things being things in human consciousness) will have ended. In other words as long as we are imagining ends ‘we’ are not ending.”
For more information about x-church go to: https://www.slumgothic.co.uk
For more information about End of Ends go to: https://www.endofends.co.uk/