When doomscrolling becomes doomspiralling: Enter The Lightwell review
April 11th 2022
In 2020 I became obsessed with spirals. I hosted a spiral dinner where someone brought a premade filo spanakopita that was branded ‘Filosophy’. I began to think about what a ‘filosophy’ would look like — a theory guided by filo pastry sensibilities, that which consists of thin, flimsy sheets but collectively forms something amazing.
Ket Whiteley’s Enter the Lightwell at SCA’s BackSpace Gallery exhibited a kind of filosophy itself. The Ket Whiteley artist duo, Simon Harris and Felix Ashford, image-DJ’d sigils on their laptop and mobiles by layering image, over image, mashed, folded, rolled, stretched, and cut. Once the artists finished producing their sigils, they walked through a spiral jetty installation all the way to the centre of the spiral where at a small well they would upload their newly created images to Instagram.
Ket Whiteley’s installation references the infamous Robert Smithson earthwork Spiral Jetty constructed in 1970: an almost 500 metre long sculpture in Utah made entirely from mud, salt crystals, and basalt rocks. The replica that sprawls the floor at Enter the Lightwell is made from (presumably store bought) rocks, sand, and neon light which curls into a well of water and incense. Earthwork here becomes a new and expanded kind of earthwork — the layered, infrastrucutally, and technologically stacked kind.
I catch the last minutes of the artist talks. Felix offhandly says that their artistic practice is mostly them ‘going shopping’, which I’d stretch to say photoshopping, but also an urban dictionary entry for shopping; “the process by which individuals attempt to fill their spiritual and/or emotional emptiness through the acquisition and later consumption of material objects.”
For Ket Whitely, the Instagram feed is like a holy well, a site of gathering, but also of offerings that, guarded by algorithms, gather at the bottom of this place as relics of forgotten rituals. Instagram is the new age site of ritual. We feel it in the way we swipe our fingers across the glowing screen of our mobile, shaping images, brightening, sharpening, cropping, and then completing the ritual through posting – presenting our offering to the world. Enter the Lightwell makes this often unseen process tangible and visible. Instagram is the commune’s well and we’re all mining it, drinking from it, throwing money in it, or doomscrolling aka falling into the well.
I think there are some things to be learnt from both ‘Filosophy’ and Enter the Lightwell they both teach us what can be made from the infrastructurally layered, the collective, the expendable and delicate turned strong and significant. Ket Whiteley reminds us that while Instagram urges us to doomscroll, we can also spiral outwards, springing new life and imagery through collective sigils. On the opening performance night, the audience sent images to the Ket Whiteley instagram account to be live remixed, forming new poetic ones with jest. They’re dizzying – they’re sigils with intention, meaning, sincerity, or sometimes it’s the complete opposite. Eitherway, they’re unconditionally consumable.