With The Vigil, Joanne Leighton explores the limits of duration. Is it possible to maintain this human chain intact for a year, overcoming the problems of alarms that don't work, unforeseen delays, daily misfortunes or the extreme weather conditions? The word is out in the town, there’s a challenge, and a rite, created by this ambitious project !


The Vigil is part of Joanne Leighton’s repertoire running in parallel with performances such as Made In...Series, created for 99 participants in public space, presenting the idea of performance on a large scale, both in situ and over time with an unconventionally long duration. These public works are not made on the scale of a stage, street or a museum or gallery, but rather on that of an entire town or city. Joanne Leighton considers that the movements associated with The Vigil each morning and evening are both a ritual and a choreography around a well-established rhythm: The Vigil joins The Companion at a defined meeting point, they climb to The Shelter where The Vigil remains standing in stillness for an hour. After the photos and a moment to take down the impressions of The Vigil, the two people descend to return to their work, their home, by their own methods of transport, and in doing so, mark another trace of movement in the town.


The repetition by a single individual of the same solitary movements, presented as part of a personal undertaking, belonging to a human chain, created by the collective and part of a group which flows from it, is an activity that becomes a rite. The Vigil is part of a community of people who he/she has never met, but the feedback, the discussions in the town, evoke the sentiment of belonging to a group.

As described above, the aspects of the performance are chosen in detail by the choreographer and supported as much as possible by the team behind the project, as well as the Companions, the indispensable volunteers who morning and night accompany each watcher. These aspects include timing precision, the work in the preparatory workshops on the notion of presence and watching, the design by Tovo&Jamil which highlights The Vigil in The Shelter. However, chance plays a central role, both accepted and desired in this performance: the sounds of nature or produced by the town below, the sounds of The Shelter, the variation in the natural light and the climatic conditions generally all shape each individual performance.

Photo © Christian Pogo Zach