Kate Neave: Emma, you have said your work is concerned with freeing the camera from its association with the past. Could explain what you feel the constraints on the camera are?
Emma Hart: The British philosopher JL Austin noticed in “How to Do Things With Words” that although we had previously thought of speech as descriptive, there are some aspects of language that produce rather than describe reality, a famous example being the couple saying “I do” at a wedding ceremony. These words affect reality rather than describing something. So we always think of the camera as reporting on reality but can the camera produce a reality?
If we took the family album obviously you could talk about that in terms of it being a load of lies. You wouldn’t take a photo of anything sad happening and people will put on a false smile for the camera. So already the photograph is being used to set up a situation which is false. As well as that, it puts a demand on behavior, why do people really go to the Eiffel Tower? Probably it’s to get the photograph… so not only does the camera lie, it takes a snapshot of reality and presents that as the truth but it also makes us do things. So, for me photography is wound up with power and control and I’m interested in destroying all the preconceived conventions of photography.
Kate Neave: In your work, the camera becomes performative, you’re letting the camera take over, what is your part in this? Are you stepping away?
Emma Hart: Maybe that’s how it really is, the cameras are in charge in the real world. So my relationship to the camera is a micro example of how cameras control. They function as if they’re above the world. The new work I’m doing integrates cameras into the work so they no longer hover above the world.
Kate Neave: There is a relationship to humour in your work. Watching some of the videos of performances on your website some people are laughing because they’re in this moment of confusion.
Emma Hart: I’m interested in that moment of confusion as something powerful. The moment we don’t recognise something is the moment there is the most potential for change. I really don’t try to be funny, it just happens. I’d like to consider myself more absurd. In my work for Matt’s Gallery I want to try and get rid of playful humour and tip it into being absurd. I don’t really try to make things funny, it’s just what happens when you’re celebrating freedom.
Emma Hart’s exhibition at Matt’s Gallery will run from 28 September – 20 November 2011. You can see more of Emma’s work on her website www.emmahart.info.