Susan Hughes

The Dark Had Come Again

If you crane your gaze up beyond the lighting rigs in Studio 1, Susan Hughes’s EYES LIKE CATS brings a shock of pink to proceedings. Overlooking the studio from the UTV Green Room, it references a Donegal man’s description of people’s ability to see in the dark before the urban spread of light pollution and their sensitivity to bioluminescence in the bog lands and sea. On the red part of the colour spectrum, Hughes’s chosen shade positioned high above could also put us in mind of ‘recording in progress’ signs.

The Dark invites us to notice the spectral traces of removed light boxes over the studio doors, to think about cities before and after neon, and to consider archives and what they hold. Itself a replica of a light box that had featured in a restaurant window on the Ormeau Road in the 1970s, The Dark shares neon’s history of light-based siren calls for venues. Like the themes in Hughes’s work, much of the footage screened in Bending Glass is itself lost and not lost, here and not here, as is Havelock House and its prior functions. We still have them, but they are not as they were, and never can be again. The line of text, ‘THE DARK HAD COME AGAIN’ in capitalised bold sans serif against the yellow light inside a translucent red-orange box on the floor, reminds us of the inevitability that what is light will become dark time and again. It is a poignant reminder that the studio lights in Havelock House went out for the last time in 2018 as UTV moved to Clarendon Docks in the reindustrialised Titanic Quarter and the building’s function once again changed, this time with a precarious future. The dark had come before in Havelock House, and now we wait to see if it will come for the final time.

Text adapted from the essay Welcome to Havelock House by P.E.A. Blair

Eyes Like Cats (2022) pink perspex light box and The Dark (2021) orange perspex light box.

Susan Hughes, from Belfast, graduated with an MFA in 2021 from the University of Ulster receiving graduate awards from CCA and Platform. She has completed many artist residencies in Ireland and Scandinavia where she has used her traditional fiddle playing as a bartering tool to gain access to local stories.

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