Marking the Invisible (Graphite)
Graphite and paper
150 x 200 cm
Ilaria Puri Purini wrote for the Art Licks Weekend / issue 13 catalogue about my practice after a series of studio visits.
She wrote a PhD called Dancing in the Visual Arts, Movement across Disciplines.
In Camilla Emson's Marking the Invisible (2012) two women stand back to back. It is the beginning of a contact improvisation dance. While they start to move, graphite spreads under their feet and creates sinuous forms. In Emson's piece the dancers push graphite around a white surface and yet, as they continue to move, they also erase any lasting trace that their bodies leave behind. The viewer is confronted with the difficulty of drawing with the body and the impossibility of ever sketching movement in its entirety. The performance presents the incongruity of 'drawing' with the whole body, positioning Emson in the tradition of Tricia Brown and alongside a younger generation of artists such as Alice Anderson and Susan Morris, all of whom question what it means to mark movement. This interest in the complexities of movement, particularly its physical and documentary aspects, is an important thread in Emson's work. From the sculptural-paintings and wrapped objects to her visceral woven assemblages and cracked glass, the objects she creates all have a strong physical component. Her new performance project for the Art Licks Weekend, will again raise the matter of the body into focus. Since the body is predominant in Emson's practice, her experimentations with materials, her paintings, performances and sculptures, can be read as bodily conversations, intimate interplays between the artist's movement and materials. "Testing and playing with materials was a safe way of discovering the world", she says, referring to how art was a form of 'therapy' following a period where she felt disassociated from her body. Art can indeed be the start of a new conversation between the body and the objects, space and environment. Thus, in Emson's work the body is constantly displayed, questioned and analysed because of the opportunities it affords honesty. During the Art licks weekend, Camilla Emson will abandon those purely visual, material experimentations in favour of a wider set of sensory stimuli. By amplifying her own heartbeat audiences will hear Emson's body respond to their presence, a work that is in audible dialogue with what stands before it. We often express heartbeats in number or as they zigzag across electrocardiograms, yet unless we rest our heads on another's chest, it is rare to hear the heart embodied and responding to its wider environment. Of course, she is not alone in amplifying sound and this work is reminiscent of Cvedet Erek's sound installation for dOCUMENTA13 as well as Marina Abramovich's The Artist is Present. Yet sound, in Emson's case, with its source a simultaneous bodily presence, will create not only an immersive experience or encounter with an artist but a realisation of our common corporeality, a weird sort of heart-to-heart. And, at a stroke, her audience will make their own moves between a murmur and arrest.