The Wire

In Writing

Portal: Artist Emma Hart

August 2013

The visual artist currently exhibiting at Camden Arts Centre shares her current reading and viewing habits, and how Daffy Duck can be an antidote to austere minimalism.

Kathy Acker: The Language of the Body
I am currently in a reading frenzy of Kathy Acker's novels. I find them shocking, explosive and weird. Her processes and ideas are also visual. Her writing, collaged with drawings and poems, is presented fragmented and split. Form and content are messed up. Acker cuts and pastes others work amongst her own. She was a real punk. This is a link to a short story that is generated from her constant probing into the relationship between the body and language, text and flesh. It is physical and disturbing.

Duck Amuck
I’m a big Bertolt Brecht fan, and side with him in believing that illusion can render the audience passive and unable to act. Yet smashing illusion and drilling into a medium’s mechanics sometimes misfires and results into a work that’s dry, minimal and devoid of life. This Daffy Duck cartoon is the antidote. I watch it quite often.

Claes Oldenburg's manifesto "I am For an Art"
“I am for all art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.” Oldenburg stands for an art that is not separate from the ‘real world’, that doesn’t sit over the ‘real world’ passing comment and judgement, but is in and part of the messy ‘real world’. I agree with his position.

V&A Ceramics Hub
Recently and for the first time worked with ceramics, resulting in the exhibition at Camden Arts Centre. I like working with things I’ve never tried before as it means I can stay uncertain about what I’m doing and plough a sense of adventure into the work. However, just to crash through something (be a bull in a china shop) means I miss details and creative triggers. Ceramic Points of View on the V&A website is a collection of videos from different people responding to the same object. I’m going to start with Bernard Leach’s cup and saucer.

Enemies of Good Art
I’m also going to spend time here. Soon to become a mother, the challenges of being a freelance female artist are even more apparent. I feel especially thwarted by the economic and practical demands of childcare on top of the competitive structure which sadly dominates the art world, demanding constant presence on behalf of the artist. I’m going to get involved with this group and I’m planning to listen to all the radio programmes on this website.

Fantasy Coffins from Ghana
To add another layer into debates around art and its function - is art useful or useless? - and also to just cheer myself up (an another important function of art) I look at these coffins. The symbolic and practical use of the coffins stems from Ghanaian beliefs about the afterlife, and only people of a certain social status can be buried this way. Being cheered up by celebratory fantasy coffins is a good angle for me as I’m terrified of dying.


Emma Hart is interviewed in The Wire 354.