22 May 2017

Interview with Emily Wardill

Matt Black and Rat. What does this title suggest?

A few things.

Matt Black and Rat is the name for when you have a vehicle and paint it matt black – sometimes just with house paint, because you want to rag it around. When you do this, it shows that you are not interested in the superficial covering for that vehicle but only the structural elements of it – engine size, speed, power, etc. My artistic inheritance is from stucturalist filmmakers so this emphasis on materiality appealed to me.

This specific matt black also looks like the car got burnt out and one of the films I am showing, No Trace of Accelerator, is about a series of fires.

On top of all this, I liked the way that the words sound – so separate and whole.

In the exhibition, I have been working on images that function like words and words that function like images – these words, too, seem to be so much like images.


What is the key idea of this exhibition?

I am showing different works. No Trace of Accelerator is a film I shot last summer based on a series of fires that broke out in the French Jura in the late 90s. The work is looking at fire through the perspective of a case study based on the social amplification of risk. Throughout the break out of these fires, the local population was sent awry – blaming them on electrical faults, then microwaves, seismic occurrences and finally, the supernatural – since no trace of accelerator could ever be found at the site of the fires – they ruled out the criminal context very early.

I also show a series of relief sculptures – that are white shirts looking like they are coming from the walls. These sculptures look like something between origami and a partial ghost.

There are rayograms – based on the title Matt Black and Rat and made with a lighter. And then, in the last room, I will show I gave my love a cherry that had no stone – a film that I shot in Gulbenkian – with the dancer David Marques.

I don’t know if I can say there is a “key” idea, but something I thought about a lot was one thing wanting to be another thing. The case study is a materiality that wants to be transparent – you are supposed to forget it once you got the message. The reliefs are like sculptures that want to be flat. The rayograms are words that want to be images and the film I gave my love… is a man who wants to be unreal.


What made you choose the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to film I gave my love a cherry that had no stone?

In that space there is the feeling that time points in two different directions. It looks like the past imagining the future. All the textures, the colours, the way it is lit – make it hover – you don’t know what era it is from, what time of day it is, if you are welcome or abandoned. It is like a classic horror space in that it feeds into our fear of the unknown. I had been thinking about horror as it relates to our relationship towards objects. The film follows a relationship between a camera and a person that is kind of equal – the camera is as much a character as the person and the person is like a technology.


Why did you decide to live in Portugal? 

I came to Lisbon to screen a film with Kunsthalle Lissabon a few years ago, and I got seduced by the music, the energy, the people, so close to the wild ocean… It feels like, without this beautiful powerful force running alongside the country, it would be a completely different place.


About the event