January 9, 2017 - Bergen Kunsthall - Emily Wardill: Matt Black and Rat
January 9, 2017

Bergen Kunsthall

Emily Wardill, No Trace of Accelerator (still), 2017. Comissioned by Bergen Kunsthall and Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, with funds from Arts Council Norway.

Emily Wardill
Matt Black and Rat
January 20–March 26, 2017

Plattform: January 21, 2–3pm, Emily Wardill in conversation with Martin Clark
Plattform: February 16, 7–9pm, Kirsty Bell on Emily Wardill

Bergen Kunsthall
Rasmus Meyers allé 5
5015 Bergen
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm,
Thursday 11am–8pm

T +47 940 15 050


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.

Emily Wardill (b. 1977, UK) lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal.

The exhibition will travel to Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, in summer 2017.

A new publication accompanying the exhibition will be available from June 2017.


Romaine Brooks
NO. 5

January 20–February 26, 2017

To accompany Emily Wardill’s show, Bergen Kunsthall presents an exhibition of drawings by the little-known American artist Romaine Brooks (1874–1970). Despite her extraordinary life and work, Brooks remains one of the most under-recognized artists of her generation. This exhibition focuses on her works on paper, bringing together a remarkable group of drawings made between 1905 and 1934. Depicting various themes and tableaux they have a fluid, almost surreal quality, stylising their subjects into archetypical images and design-like motifs. There is a fairytale character to both subject and style, but they are nightmarish too, including depictions of giants carrying off young maidens, incubus squatting on beds, and unsettling congregations of serpents, phantoms, beasts and angels.

Brooks’ fluent, expressive line creates an uncanny plasticity of form that recalls Eisenstein’s writing on Disney’s films. Eisenstein describes the way objects and characters sag, bulge, and stretch according to loose and unnatural laws of movement and mutability, likening them to the formless qualities of fire. Brooks’ drawings enact a similarly weird and dream-like instability—flickering on the paper like pale flames—while at the same time calling to mind the mythic languages of symbolism, the psychologically charged "automatic drawings" of her surrealist peers, or the "spirit drawings" of occultists like Austin Osman Spare and Ithell Colquhoun.

Bergen Kunsthall
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Matt Black and Rat
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