‘Matt Black and Rat’ is Emily Wardill’s first solo exhibition in a public institution in Norway and her largest solo exhibition for some years. It includes two new film works, as well as a new series of sculptural reliefs and framed rayograms.
For this exhibition, Bergen Kunsthall (in association with the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon) has commissioned a new film, ‘No Trace of Accelerator’ (2017), which takes as its starting point the mysterious incident of a series of apparently spontaneous fires that broke out in an isolated French town in the mid-1990s. The cause of the fires remained unexplained for some months, a period when all kinds of fear, panic and superstition gripped the small community. The fires were eventually explained, but the reaction of the towns-people became the subject of a case study into the social amplification of risk, written by anthropologists Marc Poumadere and Claire Mays.
Drawing on her own research into the events—as well as the structure and psychology of fairytales and horror stories—Wardill uses the figure of fire itself as a way to explore the physical, psychological and narrative implications of trying to “model” entities, energies or objects that are in constant flux. Filmed on a series of constructed, stylised sets with a cast of archetypal characters loosely based on the real protagonists, Wardill introduces the idea of fire as a chaotic and unpredictable object—a metaphor for various conditions of fear, instability, uncertainty, and horror.
Also included in the exhibition is another new film, ‘I gave my love a cherry that had no stone’ (2016). Shot within the interior of the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, the work assumes an almost sculptural quality—through both its filmic construction and its physical installation. Space, matter and human presence or agency is uncannily confused as the camera glides through the modernist interior, haunting and “performing” it in a kind of ghostly duet with the ethereal protagonist. Shown alongside a new group of sculptural reliefs—which draw on the motif of a freshly unpacked man’s shirt—and a series of large-scale framed rayograms, the exhibition has been conceived as an holistic experience, responding to, and activating the architecture of Bergen Kunsthall to create a disorienting and highly charged environment.