Encounter #1: February 24, 1:22pm
An obelisk made of metal, wires and static, Tyler Mellins’ Receiver (2022) was the first work I saw when I visited Site Gallery earlier this year for the Platform 22 group exhibition. The artist had erected a hollow tower within which he’d constructed three wooden shelves. Together they housed a total of seven slightly outmoded televisions with bulging backs, thick frames and convex screens. Metallic arms terminating in aerials, split off from each of the vertical bars supporting the structure. I stood in front of the work for some time, looking from screen to screen to screen. As the lines of buzzing grey slid down the face of each television, I wondered if I may have missed something that the aerials had picked up. I considered what might be lurking invisibly all around me. As I waited for the screens to convey some sort of message, my belief and curiosity intensified. Mellins, whose interest in magick and the occult informs his work, creates opportunities for audiences to test their belief through engagement and perseverance. Eventually, I decide that I need to try again with fresh eyes. What is meant to be seen will reveal itself to me.
I walked toward another of Mellins’ works on display, Sigils for Communication (2021). Three lightboxes illuminate black and white photographs of rooftops with aerials. Beside them, Mellins has included digital line drawings that distil the essence of each structure’s form. By doing this, the artist transforms them into sigils, a type of ancient visual spell. For the artist, these aerials, and their multitude of patterns punctuated the skyline with latent possibility. This work raises an awareness of the energy around us that remains unseen or unnoticed, yet charged with potential.
Encounter #2: February 24, 3:43pm
After a walk around Sheffield’s main streets, I reenter the gallery feeling reset. Although Receiver is in my direct line of sight, I veer to the left of it, toward another of Mellins’ works. A part of me figures that being a bit aloof with the object, might make it more forthcoming later on. Mellins’ third work in the show is called Breakthrough (2021). It features a portrait-oriented flatscreen monitor with two divergent white lines that narrow toward each other as they approach the bottom of the screen. Between them light flickers. Every few seconds this buffering gives way to a digitised vortex of smokey swirls that slither calmly and then jut sharply before disappearing. I put on the headphones beside the work, and realise that these movements align with changes in the accompanying sound. The audio sounds like listening to a radio tuner speed through stations, occasionally allowing snippets of coherent voices, or familiar sounds to peak through. I kept the headphones on for a while and try to see if I can make out a pattern or larger message, whether in the sound or visuals. Again, my belief is tested and my curiosity piqued. However, instead of waiting for evidence of a larger story, I am focused on discerning something from the information I have. Through the static I hear an exclamation somewhere in the room. I take them off, and I hear it again. I walk toward Receiver and I see an image cut through the static on one of the screens. A group of women sits together on a couch, and I can hear one of them saying, “Weird, weird, weird.” Each repetition is louder than the last until the scene suddenly disappears back into the static. I stand in front of the tower, hoping that my faith will be rewarded again.
Encounter #3: February 24, 4:21pm
Later, I join a tour led by gallery staff and some of the exhibiting artists, including Mellins. Near the end of the tour, we gather in front of Receiver. Mellins explains the background of the work and as he finishes, a stream of images pop up on the various screens. A woman in the group remarks that she’d walked past the work before and hadn’t seen anything but static. We fall silent and watch as a stream of clips pop from one screen to the next. I wonder if our shared belief had something to do with it.
Words by Salena Barry
Images: Documentation images from Dark Echoes. Photos by: Jules Lister Photography, 2023.
Platform is an established artistic development programme at Site Gallery which allows artists to explore new ideas in a public space, testing new thinking and research with engaged audiences. It is funded and supported by the Freelands Artist Programme, a five-year programme that supports emerging artists across the UK in partnership with g39, Cardiff, PS2, Belfast and Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh. For this edition, the exhibition was presented across Site Gallery, Yorkshire Artspace and Bloc Projects.