Spells and Sadness

London Contemporary Music Festival

  • New LCMF image for Whitechapel

Past Event

This event was on Thursday 10 December, 7pm


What are text scores but spells? Works that ‘unmake the world around them so that it might be remade anew’, to quote Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamas’s ‘Spells: 21st-Century Occult Poetry’ (Ignota Books).

This premise – which lay at the heart of London Contemporary Music Festival’s ‘Witchy Methodologies’ extravaganza of 2019 – was also the impetus behind a series of new commissions, linking the text score to the talismanic world of mantras, recipes and guides to awakening and conjuring. Two will materialise in sound and visuals for the first time for this online event.

Vocalist, composer and artist, Elaine Mitchener gives shape to her new text score ‘SKIP, BARK I + II & WALK’, alongside a screening of three of her own film shorts, originally commissioned by the Holland Festival earlier this year.

Christopher Kirubi, an artist and poet – a key part of the LCMF 2016 Julius Eastman retrospective – reads and performs a selection of recent work for spoken word, sound and film.

Further performances include Whitechapel Gallery Writer in Residence Himali Singh Soin with David Soin Tappeser joining us with a sonic ritual from the ruins of Pompeii; composer Oliver Leith presenting a melty work for solo harp; and electronic producer and artist Elvin Brandhi yowling the night out with a signature slice of unruly wild pop.

We are also joined for a discussion with the artistic directors of LCMF, Igor Toronyi-Lalic and Jack Sheen, to introduce the assorted cast of exhausted ‘sadbois’ and ‘sadgurls’ that will make up the 2021 festival, looking to the creative possibilities of ruination, melancholy and hysteria.

In partnership with London Contemporary Music Festival.


19.00   Christopher Kirubi – Part One
The artist and poet shares a selection of recent work featuring personal reflections on everyday intimacies from the experience of the natural world in the city to love and desire, read over footage collected on their phone. Poems: we play music; untitled; untitled; hug; southwark park; elsewhere; weight

19.09   Elaine Mitchener – Memory Says (After Sun Ra); Mysterie Play; TT+TN=NT; SKIP, BARK I + II & WALK
The vocalist, composer and artist gives shape a new text score – SKIP, BARK I + II & WALK – alongside a screening of three film shorts, originally commissioned by the Holland Festival, Colour out of Space and Ruhrtriennale Festival earlier this year.

19.30   Christopher Kirubi – Part Two
The artist and poet shares a selection of recent work featuring personal reflections on everyday intimacies from the experience of the natural world in the city to love and desire, read over footage collected on their phone. Poems: butterfly; birthday ; margate; untitled; untitled; untitled; untitled; for jon; oranges; untitled

19.35   Conversation: Igor Toronyi-Lalic and Jack Sheen with Jane Scarth
The Curator of Public Programmes at Whitechapel Gallery is in conversation with the Artistic Directors of LCMF about their new text score commissions and their plans for the 2021 festival.

19.55   Hylozoic/Desires (Himali Singh Soin & David Soin Tappeser) –
in the spirit of the fountain

‘We carry our Nagada drums along a seismic line, from a nuclear mountain in the Himalayas across the world to the volcanic remnants of Pompeii. On the way, they accumulate the tremors and mythologies of the places they encounter. By listening, 
we call upon the spirits of place to lift us from the weight of generations past and heal us in the contemporary crisis of lost presence’   

Whitechapel Gallery’s current Writer in Residence and her collaborator join us with a sonic ritual inspired by the Himalayan jagar, a ritual in which ancestors are woken up to address their kin, performed at Casa Della Fontana (the House of the Large Fountain) in the ruins on Pompeii.

20.15   Oliver Leith – pushing my thumb through a plate
This melty score for solo harp is about movement, fluctuation, and what the instrument is capable of. The choreography of the score requires a different approach to the harp, where the right hand plays with tuning keys, not strings.

20.25   FRIDjE_zz X Hereo (Elvin Brandhi and Rhéa Dally) –
Recurser – in vitro in vivo

‘Between screen and body exists the mutual extraction of self-possessed interfaces into real-physical time as a means of calibrating disintegrated cells onto a fluid mass of moving anti-matter. Reality/Virtuality. The recursive loops of interface, user conversion. Cyber-spiritual twists in narrative reality. ‘

This work uses sound and image as a hybrid, anti-syntactic vernacular capable of translating the interactions between the psycho-nervous frequencies of screen-body transmission, It depicts perspective of the user mapping their fractal corpus onto a particular social landscape via interfaces of semiotic regurgitation.  It is connected to an ongoing research project entitled User Syndrome developed during a residency at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, as part of the Smashing Wor(l)ds programme.

About the Artists

Christopher Kirubi is a London-based poet and artist who uses the mutability and promiscuity of images, objects and text to negotiate the limits of sexuality, gender, race and desire.

Elaine Mitchener is an experimental vocalist, movement artist and composer, whose work encompasses improvisation, contemporary music theatre and performance art.

Hylozoic/Desires (Himali Singh Soin & David Soin Tappeser) is a multi-media performance duo whose work combines experimental poetry and improvisational percussion in order to imagine entangled, speculative otherverses and multiverses.

Oliver Leith is a London based composer making acoustic music, electronic music and video. His work focuses on text, image, video, theatre, pathos and the everyday.

Elvin Brandhi is an improvising lyricist, sound, visual and performance artist originally from Bridgend, Wales. Her creative momentum is primed by an unfolding nomadic diligence. She builds aberrant beats from field recordings, tape, vinyl, instrument and voice.

Rhéa Dally is interested in the potential for sound to become a political language beyond borders. She creates circuit bending instruments, incorporating a variety of disciplines, genres and environments into her work.

Access Information

The Whitechapel Gallery is committed to making all of our events as accessible as possible for every audience member. Please contact publicprogrammes@whitechapelgallery.org if you would like to discuss a particular request and we will gladly discuss with you the best way to accommodate it.  Further information about access at the Gallery is available here.

About This Event 

  • This event takes place online only.
  • Click here to view an easy read guide.
  • You can access this event for free through this web page and also on the Whitechapel Gallery’s YouTube Channel, here. 
  • This event is suitable for those over the age of 16. 
  • We are unable to provide British Sign Language interpretation for this event. 
  • The live content will be captioned, however this is provided by artificially intelligent software. As a result some of the captions may not be perfectly accurate. The captioning will be visible to all viewers during these parts.
  • Pre-recorded content will not be captioned, but transcripts will be available in some instances.
  • As the event is being live streamed, you can access it from your home if you have access to an internet connection.
  • A recording of the event will be available to re-watch until Thursday 17 December.

This information will be updated where required.