Claim a hand in the field that makes this form foam.
2 to 21 February 2014
Emma Hedditch was born in Yeovil, Somerset, 1972
She studied at Sheffield Hallam University
Emma currently lives and works in New York
A conversation between Emma Hedditch, Matthew Ferguson and Phoebe O’Donnell.
This took place whilst unpicking shirts on 30th January 2014
POD: Is this collaborative process that we are engaged in part of the exhibition for you?
EH: I hadn’t really anticipated this situation. I suppose this is the point at which you ask for help with something, and knowing that there are people here who offer help. I would probably be more reclusive about this activity usually and feel bad about asking people to do things. And from my short experience and sense of this space, I feel like that to ask you not to help would be a weird thing. It’s a different way of working for me to make something like this exhibition piece and not something collaborative. The terms in which people enter into collaborations, that’s become a big part of a lot of the work that I’ve been involved with. There’s a lot of negotiation around organising and collaborating with people.
MF: We’ll probably make a mess of all your work now.
EH: (Laughs) Well, I think it’s really important to challenge these ideas of not just authorship, but control. When you feel like you have to be in control of the situation.
POD: I was going to ask you about authorship actually, in a lot of articles about your practice you are described as a facilitator. I wondered how you felt that impacted on your sense of authorship, when you are facilitating other peoples activity?
EH: I think it’s important to know that you’re quite invested in...I feel quite invested in what I’m doing right now in terms of it being a creative act. I do think the idea of facilitating is something about having quite a light touch in terms of making things.
POD: So quietly active as opposed to passive...
EH: Or passively aggressive!
The artists I like to work with or people that I like to work with acknowledge their dependency on each other. They’re clear about their roles and it’s not about their desires, but it’s acknowledging that we depend totally on one another. There is a point where the work that you make, demands that you can’t do it alone and you never have done. So in a way these collaborations are actualisations of a very real situation.
That is a big part of the art world or art culture, the invisible labour of the production, not just the artists but all the people that manufacture or print or... unpick clothes! I think I am touched by the idea that other people help each other in trying to fulfill something that they want to make. I do it with people and I enjoy feeling that I somehow…facilitate, give over some time and some skills towards somebody realising something. But it also can become a burdened, exploitative situation.
POD: I wonder whether normally you would just be in a meditative state doing this work?
EH: I feel like all of this should have been prepared and done but then I also know that I like to do things in the space and leave it open. I hadn’t been here before so I was also very much looking forward to spending some time working on it in the space because I don’t have a studio. I was very much looking forward to having that challenge.
MF: Do you feel that there’s an assumption that if you’re an artist you must just make objects?
EH: Or that you’re always doing it. I mean all these terms are very limiting, like artist, or...woman! I think there are so many terms to be imaginative with.
MF: You have previously talked about being resourceful and just finding things or using stuff that’s available here rather than bringing materials. Has that always been the case or has it happened through being in a particular situation?
EH: I definitely feel like I get more resolved about that as a choice rather than something that’s imposed. Maybe at one point it was a matter of not being able to do otherwise, only being able to be resourceful. I think now it is much more of an active choice. I think I get quite angry or resistant to work that I feel exploits a lot of labour or power and uses a lot of materials that are environmentally problematic and creating a lot of waste, so I’ve definitely been really drawn to practices and people that explore materials. I suppose that’s what this exhibition is largely about, or about materials and maybe chemicals and the molecular or bodily and how materials are constituted or broken down.
When thinking about resourcefulness, or the environment or a body we go towards nature and the idea of purity, which is not... I mean I sort of go there, but I try to not go into that field and try to acknowledge the chemical or molecular. I think there is also a reference, I would say to early 70’s artistic practice informed by feminism, and using or bringing in the domestic to an artistic realm or ideas or hierarchies of materials and forms that you see in exhibition spaces.
I feel interested in being closely connected to an idea of using the domestic as a gendered space, but also thinking how does my gender differ from the way that those artists were doing gender or viewing it. And I guess how is my experience of life different, so I think it’s interesting to think about that; how the domestic and the signification of it plays out now. Not as a struggle for a certain recognition of that space but trying to integrate the daily economics of materials perhaps.
POD: I have heard your work described as political activism. I was wondering whether you feel that there is a deliberate political agenda in your practice?
EH: I try to be very deliberate and I find it very hard, I think a lot of people find political work very hard and because you put yourself at risk in a way, not just in terms of legal issues but in relation to what we have discussed before. You can become quite alienated because it feels the world around you is conforming in a different way. I think it depends on the kind of political work that you’re trying to do. For me one of the important things that I got more involved in were issues around immigration, especially when I was in Germany where there is a very big anti-fascist movement and there were a lot of new protests and lots of organising around issues of immigration. And that was really inspired by the students that I was working with in the Academy so I learnt a lot from their experiences.
POD: Can you to talk about about your title, Claim a hand in the field that makes this form foam?
EH: Well, I’ve been writing a lot of texts for the performances that I’ve been making over the last few years. I write a text and usually the performance is centred around reading these quite poetic texts that also have some intimate or declarative elements. There are notions of form and what a formal practice implies, or where the ideas of content or politics come into questions of form. I was thinking about how intertwined those are and how do you explain...I don’t think I can fully explain why this was a political gesture. I am doing it. I think the idea that you claim, that you have a part in something, at the same time these claims being questioned or undermined. The form and foam, refer to the chemical reaction or a material that’s not completely solid. I don’t know if I can fully unravel it but there are those elements present.