London Art Spot: The Two Emilys

Newcomers to the city, Emily and Emily from the feminist art collective “The Two Emilys” are settling in to London life just fine (apart from all of those typical moving-to-London money woes we all experience for a while in the beginning). But they’re making themselves at home with £3 corner shop bottles of wine and taking advantage of London’s vast and varied free arts and culture scene. And in the meantime, they’re making videos about what it means to be a woman in the Western world today. 

Read on for their thoughts on London life, their double take on 50 Shades of Grey and have a look at their video toward the bottom of the post – “Validate My Life” (Note – if watching at work, contains bits of nudity).

LLO:So you recently moved to London. How does it feel? 
E&E: Good, exciting and at times pretty terrifying. I think we are both buzzing from the city atmosphere and that there is so much art and culture for free. It’s great to be part of the rat race, rushing to work, reading the metro; we’re finding that quite interesting.

LLO: Where are you from originally and what’s been your biggest challenge or surprise in London so far? 
E&E: We are both from Plymouth, and then we studied in Reading together. Budgeting has been our largest challenge – we are living in a house with no living room and cupboard doors which don’t fit as a consequence.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourselves as a “feminist art collective”. What does that mean exactly?
E&E: Our work is essentially a social documentary, focussing on how young women behave within society now and how this relates to the concept of feminism, post feminism and what these definitions mean.

LLO: How long have you been collaborating as a creative duo and how did you come together in the first place? 
E&E: Last summer we were really disillusioned with our degree programme and lives in general. Once again there was a serious lack of money, and we took to drinking excessively together. We moaned a lot. We noticed how we sounded, the nature of our conversation, and started filming ourselves. It was an effective way of recording how young women relate to each other, producing material which we began to create satirical scripts from.

LLO: How do you go about devising a skit? What’s your method of putting your ideas into their final format? 
E&E: We take conversations that we are having and write them into a script, which forms very naturally. Then we set up a tripod and a microphone, get all our props together (many fancy dress places have been visited) and experiment with the dialogue.

LLO: You say you create a commentary on modern femininity. How do you think the definition has changed over the years to reflect women now? 
E&E: There so many rules for women which are supposed to define femininity. Due to the feminist movements in the 60’s and 70’s, freedom for the female gender has increased in western society. This has produced a self-policing environment. Women have become a driving force in the fashion and beauty industry, creating their own restrictions which define what it is to be feminine and attractive.. Consumer culture has created a market for everyone. There is so much choice, and such a pressure to be flexible; a flexible career, a varied social life, a varied vibrator collection, a varied wardrobe… which results in this kind of voluntary neurotic behaviour amongst young women; we constantly need approval and are always partaking in extensive self analysis.

That’s what our films try and show. We are aware of our own voluntary exploitation into consumerism; it’s comfy, and it’s easier to think about buying shampoo than about genital mutilation.

Empowerment and repression are now blurring, everybody’s perspective on defining the two terms is different. Take 50 Shades Of Grey – is it a) ‘empowering’ to read porn in public as a woman, or b) encouraging ‘repressive’ relationships, as the storyline encourages the excitement of a relationship where the man has the majority of sexual power and control?

LLO: Can you tell us about any other Londoners you know who are talking about it publicly or places in London where there is an environment that caters to open conversation about what it means to be a woman today? 
E&E: We feel there has been a big feminist boom lately; Waterstones is a great environment which caters to open conversations about women. Caitlin Moran’s How to be A Woman is a bestseller. Living Dolls by Natasha Walter and One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power are also fantastic reads.

Sarah Maple is an artist working in London whose work we respect and find really interesting. She had a recent show at the Aubin Gallery.

LLO: Do you do live shows or focus more on videos? 
E&E: Videos. We have tried live performance a few times. When we film together we lose all of our inhibitions producing an edited video diary. This way we can produce a film which would have a higher impact than a live performance, which we feel can sometimes come across as insincere. However, we do like having a live audience to view our films.

LLO: What is your favourite piece so far and why? Share a clip with us?
E&E: Validated? As it seems like the final product of a lot of hard work.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery so far? 
E&E: The private view circuit and this evening it’s the 2.99 bottle of wine from the off license around the corner.

Thanks Emily and Emily!

You can also find The Two Emilys on their blog.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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