Talk by Emily Stainer at the Walker

13 August 2007 by Lucy Johnson

Two people in art gallery

Emily and Predrag in front of Menagerie

On Saturday I attended a talk at the Walker by artist Emily Stainer and curator of the Bound exhibition, Predrag Pajdic. Predrag asked Emily questions in front of an audience about her installation Menagerie, which went on display to the public at the Walker on Friday.

I had worked with Emily throughout the installation and knew a lot about the practical side to the installation; how it is set up and how the pieces are assembled. However it was the first time I’d heard Emily talk about the inspirations and concept behind the artwork, which was really interesting.

Menagerie was influenced by Emily’s interest in the cabinets of curiosities of the 17th Century; these ‘cabinets’ were small rooms filled by the wealthy with unusual natural history objects, works of art and religious and historical remnants. Menagerie similarly displays curious items, including found and composed objects which present contradictory ideas of the playful and sinister. Emily explained that in the past she’s found it really interesting how reactions to Menagerie have differed. Some visitors, usually children, are lured in by the bright lights and strange objects and find the moving doll body parts fun and amusing. However in contrast, most adults do pick up on the sinister connotations of the moving doll parts and the ideas of confinement.

The discussion was a great insight into Emily’s thoughts and ideas about her work. She will be at the Walker again on 10 October at 1pm to talk about her work and I’d highly recommend going along to it.

The installation also links well to the wonderful exhibition ‘WunderKammer’ curated by Oliver Braid at the Bluecoat Display Centre on Hanover Street, which is also inspired by 17th-Century cabinets of curiosities.

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