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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London Art Spot: Patricia Vidal Delgado

Photo of Patricia above is courtesy of professional photographer, Ambra Vernuccio.

Meet Patricia from Portugal who speaks five languages and learned to pole-dance especially for her art: film-making. She’s studied in London, Jerusalem and Lisbon. She’s interned in London, Lisbon and Rio de  Janeiro. She’s held a residency in Morocco and exhibited her work in Stuttgart, Budapest, Zürich and, of course, London and Lisbon. She can’t keep away from London and if you read on below, you’ll find out why.

Patricia’s work reaches an international audience, not just for its movement in the world, but because she explores important subjects that touch people around the world. For this week’s London Art Spot, Patricia delves into the topics that have inspired her film-making, tells us about a new double-screen projection she’s working on and shares a few video stills and clips that she’s made available just for us.

Soundbite – Click to download:  NESIA

LLO:You’re originally from Portugal but have spent quite a lot of time living, studying and working in London. Which aspects of life in this city most influence your creativity and in which way?
PVD: I think that living in London makes me more adventurous in my creative endeavours. You can do anything you want here. For example, when I wanted to learn how to pole-dance for my ‘Monument’ performance-piece, I found that there were over 100 pole-dancing class venues in Central London alone. When I started to become interested in the idea of real-time live animation, after some research I found several London-based artists’ organisations that work with this type of technology. I then liaised with Bruno Martelli at Igloo, in order to talk about possible configurations for an interactive video installation.

LLO: Briefly describe your approach to film – the most important subjects for you to capture, the progression of an idea, etc.
PVD: This depends… It depends on whether I already have an idea in mind before I start shooting, or if I don’t have a definite idea in mind and I’m just shooting for the joy of it. I’m certainly drawn to certain images but at the time that I’m shooting them I won’t know why I’m so attracted to them. I think that part of the process of making art is understanding why, as an artist, you’re so drawn to the images that you keep finding yourself gravitating towards.

LLO: Roland Barthes’ book, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments has influenced your work Black Sand. Are you often inspired by literature? If so, which other pieces have motivated you to create? What else inspires you?
PVD: I am often inspired by literature. Sometimes I’ll start working on a film and then I’ll read around the themes of the film in order to flesh out my ideas – which is what happened with ‘Black Sand’. Or sometimes I’ll read a book first and find myself profoundly shaken by it. The first time I experienced that was with Jorge Amado’s ‘Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos’ (English Title – Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands), when Vadinho says to Dona Flor:

‘Tua mãe é uma velha coroca, não sabe que na vida só vale o amor e a amizade. O resto é tudo pinóia, é tudo presunção, não paga a pena…’
‘Your mother is an old hag, she doesn’t know that love and friendship are the only things that matter in life. The rest is all worthless, its all vanity, its not worth it…’

And this statement really hit me on the head, and whenever I write or make work about love or relationships (i.e Black Sand) I’m torn apart by the hypothesis that, if it IS an absolute truth that love is the only thing that matters in life, then its also true that you can’t live on love alone and, therefore, no matter what choice you make regret is inevitable.

Music often inspires me as well – I’ll listen to a song and it’ll get under my skin and circulate in my blood and it won’t leave me alone until I’ve re-created it in my art. This happened with Clara Nunes’ ‘Ternura Antiga’, which tormented me until I used it in my sound-piece entitled ‘Mermaid’.

LLO: On your website, you write, “Girl with Gun developed from my interest in the psychological and archetypal aspects of the phallic female.” Can you elaborate on this statement and tell us a bit about this film?
PVD: I’ll start with the psychological aspects first – I first came across the figure of the phallic female in Freud’s writings, where he talks about the phallic mother. Prior to the traumatic realisation that sets off the castration complex in the young boy, the child assumes that everyone possesses a set of genitals like his own and so, by inference, believes his mother to possess a phallus as well. Therefore, the phallic female is a product of male fantasy that stems from the young boy’s blissful ignorance of sexual difference.

Lacan also refers to ‘phallic women’ as women that display masculine characteristics and/or behaviour. In Renata Salecl’s writings, she refers to a woman suffering from hysteria as a ‘phallic woman’, because the female hysteric will not accept the terms of her castration. This feeds into feminist theory because 1st wave feminism reclaimed the female hysteric as a figure of female resistance to the patriarchy, precisely because she does not perceive herself as castrated and therefore weak.

In terms of archetypal aspects, Marina Warner has hypothesized that the goddess Athena was the first phallic female, because she was “the defender of father-right (…) the upholder of patriarchy” and was born directly from Zeus’ head. She is a virgin goddess that channels the power of the Phallus, but as an asexual female eunuch she does not ‘desire’ the Phallus and therefore poses no threat of castration.

In ‘Girl with Gun’ I sought to embody the figure of the phallic female in order to play with the psychological signifiers and archetypal guises that make up the many layers of her persona. Ultimately I wanted to explode the dichotomy of the phallic aggressor and the castrated victim, in order to move beyond such insidious politics.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of at the moment and why?
PVD: The piece I’m most proud of is my video installation, ‘Coming to Term’. In this piece I talk about my father’s illness and death, and although I acknowledge that it is very raw, and somewhat relentless, and sometimes very cruel, I speak from experience when I say that watching a loved one die from cancer is also very cruel and there’s no other way to talk about that situation. The only way that I could accept that loss was to deal with it in my art, and I hope that it helps others that have lost family members to cancer.

LLO: You’ve mastered Portuguese, English, French and Spanish and are working on learning Hebrew as well. What are your thoughts on the effect of language on a film? Is the language it is presented in originally important or is your work easily translated?
PVD: I think that language certainly ‘flavours’ a film, in the sense that it constitutes a cultural signifier in itself, which in turn can convey exoticism or familiarity to the viewer. Exoticism can result in fascination or alienation, but what really interests me is the point where language is pushed beyond the point of signification, once we are in the realm of Julie Kristeva’s semiotic, and one can truly enjoy the jouissance of speech. When I use language in my sound-pieces I’m definitely experimenting with the different rhythms and phonemes particular to Hebrew, Portuguese or English.

I think in some cases, too much is lost in translation – for my film ‘Fonte da Saudade’ I asked a Brazilian actor to perform a voice-over, and the inherent warmth and sensual vowel-sounds of Brazilian Portuguese created the emotional atmosphere of the film. Needless to say, English is not as sexy!

LLO: Which stage of producing a film is usually the most enjoyable – from original idea through working toward a finished project to marketing and sharing your work?
PVD: The most enjoyable bit is when its just me and my camera, traveling and filming, shooting for sheer pleasure.

LLO: Is there a place or object or person specific to London that you would love to incorporate in a future project and why?
PVD: I’ve started collaborating with an artist called Philip Levine and we’re going to make a documentary together about his artistic practice for his upcoming solo show in Summer 2011. Phil is involved in a lot of different activities but his exhibition will focus on his head designs, which are amazing, anyone who is interested should check out his website: www.philsays.com

LLO: Other artists you admire?
PVD: While on residency in Morocco I met an Italian photographer called Ambra Vernuccio who takes the most stunning pictures. Whilst there I also met three highly talented illustrators: Seif Alhasani, Kiboko HachiYon and Raimund Wong. Seif is of Iraqi origin but grew up in Sweden and creates mostly hip, funky-fresh graphic design. Kiboko HachiYon is Kenyan and has his own artist-led collective called ifreecans and makes ultra-groovy designs for everything from murals to T-shirts. Raimund is from Hong Kong and makes beautiful prints from wood-cut blocks and also plays electric guitar in a band called Lord Magpie.

In terms of Slade colleagues, I’ve always admired the work of Michael C. Schuller who was in my year in the Fine Art Media area. Michael is from Nashville and his artistic practice includes photography, illustration, creative writing and book-making.

LLO: What are you working on now?
PVD: I shot two hours’ worth of footage in Morocco and I’m currently thinking about creating a double screen projection with the footage I’ve captured. One side of the screen will play a male voice-over and the other side will play a female voice-over. Its funny that you asked me how often literature inspires me, because I’m currently reading a seminal work in Portuguese feminist literature, ‘Novas Cartas Portuguesas’ (English Title – ‘The Three Marias’), and I’ve long wanted to make a work that deals with the female archetypes manifest in Portuguese culture…

Thanks Patricia!

Check out more of Patricia’s work here: http://www.pvdelgado.com/

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Events: Vagina Monologues 2010

Ah, vagina season: a time for moaning, teary-eyed laughter, self-reflection, awareness and, of course, chanting “cunt” at the top of your lungs as one with an audience in a crowded theatre. Each time I see Vagina Monologues – whether in New York where I saw my first production or in London where I’ve seen my last few – I adore it even more.

It’s real, emotional, passionate, sometimes in-your-face. It cradles you, speaks gently to you, makes you burst into fits of helpless laughter and makes you sad enough to cry for women around the world who have been victims of abuse. It makes you angry, curious and filled with wonder. It builds a sense of companionship with other women rather than one of competition. Mainly, it leaves you feeling empowered.

was invited to press night on Friday by Emma Jane Richards and Annie Saunders, the director and producer of V-Day London. The actresses were dynamic and enthusiastic. The show was hilarious. Last year’s tickets sold out and I have no doubt this year’s will do the same.

If you’re not familiar, Vagina Monologues is part of activist Eve Ensler’s V-Day movement, a global cooperation to raise awareness of violence against women. The proceeds of these yearly productions staged around the world go to a certain cause chosen by Eve. This year, they will help to open the City of Joy, a safe house in the Congo.

While the plight of abused women worldwide is the focus of V-Day as a whole, Vagina Monologues is by no means dry or fact-ridden, nor does it preach about its cause. On the contrary, it is a celebration of women, lifting away taboos and stigmas, filling the theatre with amusing antics on pubic hair, gynaecological “duck lips”, triple orgasmic moaning, experimental lesbianism, a vagina connoisseur called Bob and an old woman’s “down there”. It is meant to make you slightly uncomfortable in the beginning but by the end, you walk away more comfortable than you could have thought possible with all things to do with vaginas.

This year’s production is part of a brand new and exciting festival called See You Next Tuesday, with all events taking place at the New Player’s Theatre nestled in the arches beneath Charing Cross Station. I haven’t missed the chance to see this at least once every year for the last five years, so I would, of course, highly recommend it.

FYI – The audience was at least 30% male and the guys were loving it, so don’t think it’s just for the women!

Last year, I wrote an article on V-Day London 2009 for Seven Magazine and interviewed Emma Jane and Annie which will explain the concept in greater detail.

Venue: New Players Theatre, WC2
Dates of show: March 9th, 12th, 13th, 16th, and 19th at 8pm & March 20th at 2:30pm

For more info, see yesterday’s post on the See You Next Tuesday festival.

Graceless in Edinburgh

One of my articles was just published in Seven on a theatre production called Graceless which addresses Feminism and its meaning in 2009:

Womanhood means independence, love, nurture, office politics, impending wrinkles, wobbly bits to conceal and curves to flaunt. It makes us vulnerable to the lure of frilly knickers and inevitable blisters from staggeringly high heels that would make Carrie proud. Womanhood leads us on a journey of friendship, family and self-discovery, twisting around the oddities and awkwardness that often accompany us on the ride. It’s about time we confronted the raw truth of it all. Continue reading…