in conversation with emma macleod
Primary colours anticipate thick drops of resting paint, illuminated against a stark backdrop of white. Glowing plynths smoothly change their hue, as a large projection on the right-hand wall draws you into a space of accidental rhythms and strangely calming bursts of an electric palette.
Working with a brief of audiovisual experimentation composed in dialogue with, as well as in contrast against, the grimier elements of the club two floors below, Edinburgh based artist Emma Macleod brought something unique to Edinburgh’s Saturday night out. Creating a meditative space for wandering members of a Mash House public, the installation drew an audience who were free to sit beside, walk through, and contemplate her striking piece.
(as part of Vault 23 – now PARADIGM, August 30 2014)
image: Chris Scott
You describe your work as being concerned with the ‘staged’ environment and the perception of scale. Suggesting a preoccupation with both the space your work is situated as well as its prescribed audience.
Would you agree ? How does the consideration of space and audience determine the outcome of your work?
In a word…yes. All of the work I make is pre-occupied with space in some way and I’m always thinking how the audience will interact with my work and how they will ‘experience’ it.
I make work in lots of different mediums – video, photography, installation, painting, drawing and object & model making – but the crux is the staged environment. I’m influenced by the aesthetics of theatre and film, especially stage lighting, colour and the glow of the screen. I’m also really interested in staged photography and still life – the theatricality of placed objects and light.
Until recently, I followed a very particular process for making work that involved creating small-scale environments and photographing them. The photograph became the final work and the model environment was destroyed. Initially these were very film-set like but over time the environments became more ambiguous and emphasis was placed on the objects, which had become more abstract and concerned with the ‘art object’ or ‘art installation’.
image: Chris Scott
I have always been interested in how the audience reacts to small-scale in lens-based media. Video and photography are entangled in ‘reality’ and ‘alternate realities’, as is model-making, to a certain degree; I think the audience reads my photographs in a similar way, for a split second reading them as reality, and then reading them as playful, imagined spaces.
As the subject of my photographs has become more about the ‘art object’ and ‘installation’ a question has started to regularly occur when I show work –“are you going to make this big?” So for the last few months I’ve been pondering and reacting to this question by making more installation based and ‘human scale’ work.
image: ‘Dripping, Pouring’ film still
How would you describe the work that you created for Project Space, Vault 23?
I used Vault 23 as a chance to try out some work in development – really new ideas I had been thinking about and playing around with in the studio. From the off, I wanted to create a space that was quiet, ambient, meditative yet colourful – a space that would contrast the club night downstairs.
The work consisted of a projected video, light boxes that changed colour gradually and some sculptural objects, which were spot lit. Each element was separate but connected.
The video, called ‘Dripping, Pouring’, was really colourful and consists of white sculptural vessels on plinths with thick, glossy, brightly coloured paint being poured into them until they overflow. The video is slowed down, which adds an element of anticipation as the vessels become full and the paint oozes out.
The sculptural vessels in the video were then displayed in the room. The objects are made from really crude materials – plastiscine & air-drying clay painted white and gold – but they are given some air of importance by being displayed on plinths, kind of reminiscent of high-end contemporary craft objects.
Lastly, the free-standing light boxes also feature in the video as the background colour. I wanted to bring the colour directly into the room to add a certain ambience. The colours changed very gradually and were a further development of a work called ‘Screen’ that I exhibited at Hidden Door in March.
By bringing all the elements into the room, I think I was trying to de-construct the video and say something (although I’m not sure what exactly) about the construction of images. I’m still at a point where I’m developing and processing the work…pondering and considering.
Have you ever produced work for a club night setting (or similar) before? What was it that led you to take on that challenge?
No, I’ve never produced work for a club setting, ever. Initially the idea of creating something for a club freaked me out. When I think club, I think loud, banging beats and crazy visuals and that intimidated me. However, when I spoke with Claire and Steph (Project Space’s producers/curators) my mind was put at rest. We spoke about creating a quiet, calm and almost meditative space that contrasted the club night proper– giving the audience a journey & different experience through the building. That was also when we spoke about sound and the need to pair the work up with sound/music that was equally calming and meditative. Claire & Steph then went on a musical hunt and found the amazing Deaf Joe whose sounds fitted just perfect.
Ultimately, what really led me to take on the challenge was the space and it being out-with the gallery context. I was also really excited about being involved in Project Space’s first (ad)venture.
How did the location of your work in the top floor of The Mash House, combined with its presence within a Saturday night setting influence the work that you produced?
Ummm… I think probably the biggest influence was the use of colour – when I was making the work I was thinking about the bright electric colours of the club and the fast changing lights but slowing this right down. So the top floor became a place to slow down the pace, relax, drink, chat with pals and look at stuff.
Did you enjoy the experience?
Yeah, I really enjoyed the experience – it was a chance to try out some new stuff, in a new context and meet new people. Probably the best experience was pulling some questionable dance moves in the club that night with Martin’s (Unstable Creations) floating visuals (it’s amazing how beer & whiskey make you move!)
Are there any future projects you have lined up that we should keep an eye out for?
I’m taking part in Place+Platform’s “The Line of Best Fit”, an event within the surroundings of the ‘Settlement Projects’, a curious junk shop in Edinburgh. It should be fun, there’s musicians playing, spoken word, art and apparently some home brew.
image: Chris Scott