On Wednesday 24th Feb, I’ll be presenting a short film on what wearing architectural costumes means in my work as part of ‘A Not Unruffled Surface: Contemporary Sculpture and Dress’ organised by the Henry Moore Institute. The film should be made available after the event, so I will post a link here soon. Tickets are still available (it’s all on zoom, of course) if you fancy joining the discussion, the line-up for the day looks really interesting.
25th January – 3rd May
Part of the In Focus programme, which features works that connect with other exhibitions, displays or public projects at Tate St Ives. Rooms Designed for a Woman offers a response to the corresponding Naum Gabo exhibition. Speed’s work reflects Gabo’s interest in architecture as well as his architectural acrylic glass costume designs for the ballet La Chatte 1926–7, while also offering a contemporary perspective on the modernist canon.
I am so happy to say that I have been selected for the Art NW opportunity at Tate Liverpool, which means I will be developing work for a solo exhibition there in Spring 2021. A bit more in the Echo HERE.
Photo by Roger Sinek for Tate Liverpool
TERRA COTTA contains short texts contributed by Ayo Akingbade, Emma Bolland, Holly Davey, Bethan Lloyd Worthington, Elizabeth Murphy, Emily Speed, Sarah Tripp, Eley Williams and Susannah Worth.
You can buy a copy here – they are on sale for the advance copy price of £7 for a short time and will cst £10 full price.
PLEASE NOTE: Books will be not be posted out until Monday 29th April.
Perfect binding with foil blocked cover, 13 x 17cm, 70 pages.
TERRA COTTA began through a process of reflection on my work from the last few years, particularly following the Derek Hill Fellowship at the British School at Rome. I made an open invitation to the contributors (in whose work I also saw women, motherhood, community, architecture, food, nurture, among other things) to respond to:
TERRA COTTA as the material that serves to bind the thoughts and ideas together. Terracotta as part of the ground, as a container or vessel, as a protective material, as cladding, as a transformed material, as a colour and as something that is both fragile and strong at the same time.
Beyond terracotta, the themes I have been working around include: Architecture, power, the body, skin, façades, cladding, women, communities (of women) consuming, decaying, control, making, building and inhabiting. Rome itself has been so important for all kinds of reasons, hence the Italian title. Incidentally, Cotta also means a kind of religious garment and to have a crush. Terra is land. Cotta here also means cooked of course, like a panna cotta. Cooked Land?
On Saturday, the live version of Façades/Fronts was performed twice in Aberdeen as part of Look Again Festival. Although it probably seemed like the main deal from the outside, the project has been in development since last October, so it was in fact, a lovely end to a really incredible journey. Building on recent works, including Body Builders, commissioned by Fort Worth Contemporary Arts in Texas and Rooms Designed For a Woman, commissioned by Yorkshire Sculpture Park last year, Façades/Fronts also takes the relationship between Women and Architecture as a starting point. In this work though, it is young women in particular who are the focus and their bodies contrast starkly with the imposing granite of the Civic and University architecture here.
Friendship between girls and the familiar gestures that brings; a hand on an arm, a head resting upon a shoulder, plaiting hair, straightening clothes, hand-holding, play-fighting, twinned dance moves, the group identity in a subtly different but still-marked uniform. Remembering what it felt like to be getting ready for a night out in someone’s bedroom and just being ridiculous together. I wanted all of these things to feed into the work and to allow a group of young women to have a space within the city where they felt powerful and could go wherever and do whatever they needed to, together. The simple act of putting these young women into places that have very traditionally been occupied, built and controlled by men seemed to be enough.
Sally Reaper at Look Again Festival very shrewdly set up a situation where I was able to invite a choreographer to work on this (she was definitely paying attention to where the work wanted to go) and City Moves Dance Agency suggested a few names, including Jack Webb. In March, Jack and I met and discovered we had a lot of shared interests. We spent an intense weekend discussing the project and exploring the possibilities for movement. He has done a beautiful job of translating the ideas into moving bodies, and watching his choreographic process with the dancers was a total joy and privilege. The film of our first workshop with the dancers in April this year is currently showing as part of the International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia in The Happenstance, the Scotland + Venice collateral project.
To the dancers, who formed the most amazing community in the shortest period of time – Katie Taylor, Kirsty Tewnion, Melissa Haywood, Katie McFarlane, Neila Stephens, Xenoa Campbell-Ledgister, Ella Skinner, Isla Reid, Kirsten Walker, Carly Campbell, Bethany Ransom (sadly not here this weekend, but an important piece of the journey nonetheless) and Iseabail Duncan -You are all totally incredible and I really hope we cross paths again.
Thank you to Duncan Nicoll for the beautiful film work and to Jo Muir for her additional support. As always, thanks go to Ruth Eaton for her help with the costumes and use of sewing machines. But most of all, thank you to Look Again Festival – especially Sally Reaper, Claire Bruce, Hilary Nicoll, Laura Reilly and all the volunteers who work on the festival – for the belief in my work, demonstrated by the free reign given on the project – the best way to support artists and allow them to move their work on. Also to City Moves Dance Agency who jointly commissioned the work and also gave us the beautiful Dissection Room to work in. Also to the University of Aberdeen for access to the Debater and other spaces. Now to let it all sink in….
Over the last year and a half – ish, I have been working on a thing called Possibilities Club at the invite of Maria Brewster under the ‘At The Library’ project. Based in Bootle library I have worked with Christ Church Primary School in Bootle – and their awesome teacher, Miss Ebo – as well as running a summer Possibilities Club and visiting other Bootle locals at The Bootle Tool Shed. Mainly, I love libraries and I love the idea that anything is possible so the aim began very simply: to get children feeling powerful, especially when it came to using the library and being creative with that space that belongs to them, to everyone.
Gradually it became a practical project with the outcome of making over the kids section of the library. They have made do with hand-me-down graphics and objects for a long time and it’s time they had something special. So, the walls have been transformed, the upholstery has been transformed and there is a whole new piece of furniture designed just for them.
We will be launching the new-look at Bootle Library from 2pm onwards in Bootle Library. There will refreshments. There will be school children. There will be glorious colours. Please do come and see and USE YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY x x x Some sneak peeks including here from everyone, but me..
I need to thank all those that have collaborated on the project in some way. The library staff come first, all of them for not batting an eyelid when 16 kids had sprawled themselves across the floor and other interesting moments, but especially Val for letting us run (mostly) free and to Owen and Keri for their help at the weekly clubs. Lesley and Andrew at Sefton Council for their support and Eddy at Bootle Tool shed for being a legend and being so generous with his time and knowledge. To all those who helped to run the weekly workshops; Hannah Bitowski, Flis Mitchell, Paula Hampson, Andrew Small, Nathan Jones and Laura Robertson. Flis Mitchell also for her sharp and swift administrative support. The beautiful fabric print of my new designs from BeFabBeCreative, the upholstery to die for from Imogen Woodings (aka Bluebird Upholstery), the transformation of scrappy photoshopped sketches and a balsa wood maquette into an exquisite piece of furniture by Matt Kelly of Plaey, Holly Bagnall‘s gorgeous Possibilities Club and lastly, Maria Brewster for being cool, calm and totally trusting in the Process. What an epic team!
Last week I spent the week in Venice at the invitation of Wave Particle, who are the lead artists and anti-curators on the Scotland + Wales collateral project for the 16th International Architecture exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia, which was commissioned by Architecture & Design Scotland. The Happenstance is a project involving lots of artists and architects, showcasing practice that has play at its centre. As well as a profile of my practice in the main exhibition, the film reel in the venue includes my short film of a workshop that happened in April in Aberdeen with twelve incredible young women working with Jack Webb and I to make a piece of work at the invitation of Look Again Festival and City Moves Dance Agency. The beautiful camera work on it is by Duncan Nicoll. You can find out more about this work, Façades/Fronts, which will be performed live on Saturday 16th June in the centre of Aberdeen, here
Central to the (non) pavilion in Palazzo Zenobio is Baxendale‘s structure, a timber framed corridor of sorts with the potential for endless change and adaptation. The construction of this was an enormous group effort with many of the artists helping to realise it, especially Francis Thorburn and Brian Hartley also assisted by some amazing Venetians including Giovanni Sambo, Sandro, Jesus (yes, really) and the awesome Alberto Lago, who has been a driving force on the whole project, among others.
I was lucky enough to do a workshop with 18 children from S. Francesco di Sales primary school in Ca’ Zenobio’s garden, where we thought about shelter or refuge as a necessary place to feel free and to be able to play. They made column costumes in pairs so as to be one support among the group, who together were strong and ready to support anything. They were amazing and the workshop worked out despite my pretty shonky Italian (much miming).
The opening event on Friday gave me a tiny glimpse of what might happen in the garden of Palazzo Zenobio over the coming month – a steady flow of visitors came in and out, with children from the local school arriving in the afternoon, word having spread of this incredible garden space. People lounged, laughed, played, ran, climbed, ate pizza, drank prosecco, watching huge films on the giant screening wall, lay in deckchairs and in the shade of the structure, skateboarded and invented. It was really pretty incredible indeed. We all joined in the local sagra later that evening with a parade and attempted to teach some locals the Gay Gordons (tricky when only half the crew know it to start with)
Special thanks have to go to Liz Murphy, Judit Bodor, Harald Turek and Lizzy O’Brien for their constant support and organisation behind the scenes as well as Morag, Sam and Anya at ADS. Artists and architects involved in The Happenstance include: artists Brian Hartley, Ruby Pester & Nadia Rossi, Tassy Thompson, Emily Speed, Francis Thorburn, Daniele Sambo, Hannah Brackston, architects Fergus Purdie, (Fergus Purdie Architects), Lee Ivett & Ambrose Gillick (Baxendale), Graham Ross (Austin-Smith:Lord), Paul Stallan & Keri Monaghan (Stallan-Brand), designers Alberto Lago and Neil McGuire, and film-maker Basharat Khan. The four boss, young associates will be looking after the non-pavilion for the rest of the month too. Peter McCaughey is the lead artist at Wave Particle, Happenstance is his middle name.
I was especially interested in three women connected to Knole: Victoria Sackville-West, Josefa Durán known as Pepita (her mother and infamous flamenco-dancer), and Vita Sackville-West (her daughter). A working fountain, Innards borrows the form of a dressing table and makes public a space usually reserved for private ritual. Water, architecture, gardening and intimacy are brought together to reference important elements of these women’s lives. The title refers to the guts of the women and the divide between the refined exterior of life at Knole and the more hidden daily workings and relationships that existed.
The fountain echoes Victoria’s incredible energy and the installation of running water, electricity and telephone which she oversaw at Knole. The planting of Heliotrope nods to Vita’s later career as a gardener. It was also the base note of Victoria’s favourite scent. The work alludes to the difficulties and complexities of these mother–daughter relationships, and of finding moments for tenderness, care and sensuality against the backdrop of public display and the performance of being a ‘lady’ of Knole.
I am creating a bespoke calling card as a nod to Victoria’s passion for stationery. Register here to receive this printed work this summer.
Performing the Toilette, a performance, will take place as part of the work on Tuesday 7th August.
I have been a tad lax on updates recently! A few exhibitions have gone up (and come down) in the meantime including
(Re)learning to Read, a group show curated by TORQUE at the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool
Transparency, an Arts Council collection show at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
[Re]construct at the Chapel at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
as part of the last exhibition, YSP commissioned a new piece of work (well, strictly speaking two, as the film in the exhibition is also newly commissioned by them). Last weekend a group of performers took a walk around the ground as part of A Parade of Architectural Commas. It’s always strange testing out a new piece in such a public way and there was lots to think ab
out and changes to make for the next outing as part of their 40th birthday celebrations on July 16th. The title comes from Capability Brown’s writing on the construction of a garden landscape and refers to the follies that traditionally inhabit a Georgian Garden.
Here there are five archetypes: the grotto, the chapel, the ruin, the obelisk and the pyramid. I have been thinking a lot about the tease and reveal of this kind of landscape, with it’s carefully crafted views, but I am realising that erotic sensibility is all but impossible when a comedic pair of legs are introduced to a sculptural costume. Perhaps a photo shoot with the follies (commas) in July will better reveal their seductive side… watch this space.
I’m so pleased that the work I made in Texas back in October is going to get an outing at Exeter Phoenix in January.
EMILY SPEED – BODY BUILDERS
Fri 20 Jan 2017 – Sat 04 Mar 2017 | Gallery open from 10am-5.30pm daily (excluding Sundays) | free
Here’s some more info:
The exhibition is the first UK showing of new works that include Body Builders (2016) a video work commissioned by Fort Worth Contemporary Arts in Texas, (USA), which focuses on the relationship between the body and ancient classical architectural forms.
Themes that circle power, gender, status and the symbolic meaning and language of architecture are reflected upon and explored through the abstract narrative of her film. Her costumed protagonists, performed by choreographed dancers, are suggestive of ancient Greek Caryatids (female figures carved in stone that served as architecturally supporting columns) who are liberated here from their traditional weight-bearing, static roles.
Elsewhere in the exhibition, sculptures and wall drawings reference classical architectural forms, including structures that serve as hybrid architectural furniture and suggest a fluid, performative, even ritualistic space of interaction and exchange. Their shelves and niches function as a platform for the display of a series of small-scale clay models, which might suggest a soft remaking or reimagining of monumental stone buildings.
Sat 11 Feb | 2pm | free
Join the artist for a talk about her exhibition and wider practice.