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Dusk at Abney Park Cemetery

[Around Town] Love and loss in a chapel installation

Summary: First, the backstory: Artist Lee Simmons and her then boyfriend were sweeping up a mess of powder paint and glitter from the site of a previous installation. Lee put on her camcorder to record their attempts to sort the mess out and soon enough, with music playing from their radio, they ended up jive dancing (as you do) around the studio to pass the time – all caught on camera.

Many months later, Lee met her boyfriend in Hackney’s Abney Park Cemetery, a meeting which ended in an amicable break up.

The story of their romance is told in Dusk – an installation at the disused chapel at Abney Park Cemetery, where a large, heart-shaped wooden sculpture has been covered in the blue powder paint and glitter she and her boyfriend had once been tidying up. The video of the couple dancing is projected onto the wooden sculpture, and visitors are admitted to the cemetery in groups just after closing time, to mourn the couple’s doomed love affair.

Highlights: It’s interesting to see how Lee Simmons has combined a number of chance events into an installation. For example, the only reason the couple met up in Abney Park Cemetery was because Lee got lost on her way to nearby Clissold Park. And Heart of Glass by Blondie is played over the projection, not only for its too obvious references, but because the song is exactly the same length as the video of the dancing couple.

The artist is present at viewings, and for those who are really curious, can point out the very bench where the couple decided to go their separate ways.

Low points: As the installation has been put together more through chance than design, it’s a bit rough around the edges. The paint and glitter on the wooden sculpture don’t easily accommodate the video projection, and viewing times are quite limited.

Artist’s comment: ‘I was here waiting to meet up with my boyfriend, and had the idea to do a big glass installation, reflecting the light, and talking about cycles of nature, the seasons, and death and decay. I spoke to Abney Park and we agreed to do it a year later. But a year later it seemed more appropriate to make this installation [instead] with the image of us dancing when we were very much in love, because we then broke up, and it just fits with the surroundings – the derelict chapel and the graves…’

Final word: The artist’s sense of fun is infectious and comes out in her installation. And for added drama, her ex-boyfriend has been invited and will be turning up at some point over the next few nights…

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