Emily Wardill’s films, photographs, and objects probe the complexity of perception and communication, the question of the truth content of reality, and the displacements of substance and form effected by the individual nature of the imagination. Her work has won acclaim for the sensual and psychologically fraught yet fractured narratives which she constructs.
The films that Wardill started making in the mid-2000s are typically defined by a narrative framework, but the plots as such tend to be secondary. The focus is on other aspects: the mechanics of storytelling, language as a malleable medium, and the interplay between gesture and word. In the film I gave my love a cherry that had no stone (2016), a male dancer is seen wobbling and lurching through the twilit foyer of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. His movements were shot using a hand operated camera and a drone. The camera glides through the modernist interior and emerges as an actor in its own right. A bodiless white shirt appears as a third character, floating across the room and puffing itself up, a phantom body. The material and the immaterial, bodily and human presence or agency get mixed up in sinister confusion.
Another film, When You Fall into a Trance (2015), follows the neuroscientist Dominique and her patient Simon, whose mind is trapped in a dysfunctional body. He can control his movements only so long as he observes the limbs that he is trying to use. As a result, the bounds of his perception have shifted, and even the most basic actions such as pouring a glass of water have become unimaginably complex. Dominique helps him train his thinking to regain control of his movements. These scenes are intercut with images of Dominique’s workaholism, her attempts at online dating, and her estranged relationship with her daughter, and so her work and private life gradually blend into one. The film examines the dislocations between intention and form as well as the mechanization of emotions.