You have three hours to see it, and then it will be gone. Endless Séance, a one-day art show by Hi-Lo Press, releases directions to the secret venue somewhere in Atlanta mere hours before the event. The instructions from Instagram tell you to park at New Schools at Carver, formerly George Washington Carver High School. The school has been a part of the neighborhood since 1922 as part of the campus of Clark University, before becoming the Black high school in 1941.
I walked beyond the baseball diamond up to the abandoned South Fulton Health Center, chained off from entry. Past that is a slim trail through some trees and overgrown ivy where a teal staircase leads down a gravel path. Along the trail, I started to hear voices from a large stone tunnel. As runners jogged out of the exhibit, I realized I was on nearly the most southern tip of the Atlanta Beltline, just west of Peoplestown.
The way to the art is through darkness, the path lit by candles, as if a vigil is being held. Plastered on either side of the of the tunnel’s entrance is an anonymous text that is also printed on the show’s program. It is dialogue from an imagined play between two characters, Plaster and Drywall. The text is both lyrical and absurd. In the scene, Plaster searches, without guidance, to find wherever it is being summoned by the “séance”, which happens to be the very tunnel you are standing in. “No, no, you can’t come,” Plaster says to lonely Drywall. “The whole point of a séance is to access what isn’t already available and, my dear, you are merely the top sheet of a pile of dozens.”
It is impossible to get up close to the art without sinking into the mud. The edges of the path are flooded from the rain, keeping you from seeing, completely, any one piece in the show. There are no labels or titles, not usual signifiers of an art gallery to aid in your viewing experience. Instead, the pieces work collaboratively to inspire movement. The displays are like memorials. Canvases and sculpture are stilted on bricks, easels and stands like little wooden altars.
With roughly a dozen artists represented, the unity of the show is tonal. Ato Ribeiro’s What A Preventor of Life-Loss is a meticulously crafted box made from refurbished wood, resembling a cryptic puzzle that’s been long abandoned. Dorothy Stucki’s The Sword is a flaming glass mosaic reminiscent of a dungeons-and-dragons item, appropriate in this stoic setting. There is almost a cave painting feel to David Onri Anderon’s The River, made from Tennessee dirt on canvas, further removed from its origins in this new, strange environment. Lina Tharsing’s Portal/Goal is an oil painting on panel of a simple soccer goal on the edge of a forest. The image speaks to the show’s overall feeling of being at a precipice of mundane activity and mystic possibility.
While specific themes are hard to articulate here, the moodiness of the arrangements and the earthy air of the tunnel gives the show its cohesion through a stirring sensory experience. With so much information withheld, the point of the show seems more about the experience than the physical objects in front of me. The act of gathering into an unassuming space to witness art and community is the focus.
If the purpose of the séance is to revive the spirit, you can see it happening in the people around you, the artists and viewers standing with you in a damp chilly trail. As the city changes, it feels good to know that a community can assemble in whatever crevice, hole, or alleyway needed, in order to create meaningful experiences, however brief.