The Hare, 2004

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010, ‘The Hare, 2004’

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010, ‘The Hare, 2004’

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010 On wall: ‘The Hare, 2004’, Melanie Stidolph, On monitor: ‘Chasing Animals’, Emma Hart’

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010 On wall: ‘Untitled, 2005’, Melanie Stidolph, On monitor: ‘Chasing Animals’, Emma Hart’

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010, ‘Untitled, 2005’

Install shot, Running and Standing, The Agency, 2010, ‘Untitled, 2005’

Exhibitions featuring this work:

Running and Standing

Emma Hart and Melanie Stidolph
The Agency, London, 2010

The Agency is pleased to present a joint show by Emma Hart and Melanie Stidolph featuring performative video pieces and large scale photographs with an unexpected take on the pastoral landscape. ‘Running and Standing’ is not a conventional two-person show.  It was conceived by Hart and Stidolph as a visual dialogue on a common theme and shows diverging approaches to making work; contemplation and action, which can be used to capture it. The pastoral, although often associated with serenity originally stems from the notion of working the land and rearing animals. A common motive in iconography, Hart and Stidolph nevertheless manage to bring their own unique perspectives to it.  Both artists question the accuracy of the camera and both attempt to push the boundaries of representation through the lens.

Melanie Stidolph works by remaining still, unobtrusive and largely undetected, using a medium format camera to portray animals and landscapes. Stidolph records moments where the animal acts naturally rather than in direct response to her presence. Instead of relying on an existing iconography of landscape, she records and edits moments which are closest in authenticity to nature itself.  On occasions those moments border on the grotesque, defying the conventions of pictorial language. In Hare most of the image represents shrubbery and only a small centrally focussed area reveals the hare of the title.  The work truthfully represents, yet also compresses the image information into an overwhelming two-dimensional pattern, within which the hare is just a small variation. Untitled (Cow) shows an animal in motion, looking disproportionate due to its own awkward movement. The image records a truthful moment, yet it is not a conventional documentary image, this small uncomfortable shift is the point, where Stidolph allows the camera to record a curious slippage, which is as authentic as it is noteworthy.

Emma Hart’s ongoing series Chasing Animals makes a point of the fact that the artist’s unconcealed presence behind the camera and her actions have an influence on the scene she is capturing.  Hart creeps up on animals, but once they have seen her, instead of remaining still and utilising a zoom to get closer to the horses, sheep or geese, Hart runs towards them with a handheld video camera. Hart is trying to physically ‘zoom’ herself into the vicinity of the animals yet the act of running with the camera, scares the animals and they bolt.  The camera records the action it has created. The videos Chasing Animals do not present an objective documentation of nature, but record the active interference of the artist’s camera with natural behaviour. The viewer experiences the works subjectively. We cannot see Hart, but we sense what she experiences through the resulting images and sound.  We no longer see the iconic landscape but become hunters of a perfect image or the animals themselves. Instead of a contemplative representation of the pastoral, the video series becomes a portal to the experience of being outdoors and effecting a change. So whilst Emma Hart’s way of filming is an interference which causes a reaction from the animals, it perplexingly leads the viewer towards a sensation of the real, rather than the spectacle of the reality.

Running and Standing examines whether these two actions are opposed or whether they could lead to the same result theoretically, despite being aesthetically divergent.  The exhibition brings into the foreground the processes of making art and suggests that the camera is not neutral and that its limitations result in media specific compositions.  At the same time both artists attempt to reach beyond the constraints of the lens.  The visual result of these examinations is a series of works which bring a refreshing conceptual touch to a genre whilst at the same time celebrating the beauty of wildlife and nature. 

Emma Hart exhibits videos, installations and performs internationally.  Her work has been presented at institutions including Tate Britain, Camden Arts Centre, Battersea Arts Centre, Dundee Contemporary Art Centre, Cell Project Space and the ICA with Benedict Drew. Hart and Drew performed recently in Performa 2009, New York. She is currently working on a Rational Rec collaborative commission with Charlie Fox and Paul B. Davies. Based in London, Hart is undertaking a PhD in Fine Art by practice, at Kingston University.

Melanie Stidolph studied at Leeds University and University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada under the tutelage of Jeff Wall. Her photographs have been shown in solo and group exhibitions in the UK and abroad including; Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sunderland, Newlyn Art Gallery, Cynthia Broan Gallery, New York Sartorial Contemporary Art, London, and independent spaces; MOT International, London, Keith Talent Gallery, London and Permanent Gallery, Brighton.