Text by Rebecca Travis
Birds of a feather flock together, or so they say. This is certainly true of Emma Hart’s strange breed of avian creations, which have nested for the coming months at CIRCA’s Stephenson Works, in the premier instalment of their ‘Space Release’ on site programme. Her bizarre camera bird sculptures are a Frankenstein mix of photography equipment and carnivalesque accessories – fluro paints, feathers and coloured plastics – that form paradise style plumage around peeping lenses, perched on clawed tripod feet.
It is immediate that TO DO is an exhibition that demands to be looked at. The sculptures, despite their haphazard appearance, are arranged into two uniform lines forming an awkward corridor that the viewer must walk through. Flanked on either side by pointed camera lenses, the observer seems to become the observed, creating tensions as to who is actually watching who.
Worries here are not unfounded, as Hart’s hybrid cameras are not only used in sculptural capacity but also act as vehicles for video – some pre-recorded in the exhibition space, others set simply to ‘capture’ mode. It is when you realise this that the works cease to become mere attention grabbing posers and really come into their own. Hart is drawing out the way in which a viewer can experience film and the potential for cameras to be so much more than mere recording equipment; instead becoming windows onto live reality and even instigating live events.
Further to this there is a chaotic relationship with language. The replayed films have incessant soundtracks that chant simple commands over and over, like a demented dawn chorus. The inclusion of a variety of European language dictionaries in one of the sculptures initially points at the complexities of spoken word and dialect, but on later reflection, in their closed state, are reduced simply to bright blocks of colour dictated by their cover design.
TO DO is truly an over saturation to the eyes and ears. An overload of visual and oral language that will daze and confuse initially, but later, with a little peace and quiet, viewers will realise that there’s a lot more to Hart’s tri-legged camera creatures than there first appears.
Emma Hart: TO DO is on display at CIRCA Projects, Stephenson Works, Newcastle until 1st December 2012.