Emily Roysdon: If I Don't Move Can You Hear Me? / MATRIX 235
December 12, 2010 - March 6, 2011
Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).
Artist and writer Emily Roysdon produces projects at the intersection of social, political, and aesthetic space. Her interdisciplinary and collaborative practice evinces an interest in the invisible histories of public sites and the potencies of both speech and movement. We invited Roysdon to make a new work in the context of the MATRIX Program, and its tradition of performative and site-specific works, and in the context of the University, where social and political protests have recently reanimated the public space of this state institution.
Elizabeth Thomas: Your work has taken many forms over the years, from collaborative publishing to music and performance. Can you talk about your turn toward movement-related works for camera?
Emily Roysdon: First, I'd like to mention my preference for a vocabulary of movement and choreography to one of performance and events. I've been working on a series of projects that concern an expanded field of choreography—choreography as organized movement in an aesthetic and political sense. This developed from earlier projects when I was thinking through the representation of collectivities, which is both the representation of movement and movements. All the ideas I've had for images and projects in the last few years have been in public space, outside not inside. In this I inherit a discourse of "public art" and spectacle that I must negotiate, but also a history and trajectory of work that uses the city as material, context, and form. Trisha Brown is a good example. These “outside” projects come after a few years where I was collaborating with people by sort of filling a room with ideas and seeing what happened. Inviting people into a set of questions, outfitting them, and working something out. It seems I wanted to leave “the room” and to improvise with more than my own terms and associations.
ET: Collectivity, political and social movement, public space—you’ve used these themes to frame a concept of “ecstatic resistance,” which most recently took form as an exhibition of other artists’ work. How might these ideas relate to your MATRIX commission?
ER: My own interests and passions share a vocabulary with the project, but the concept was a way of interacting with a set of ideas and potentials that I was experiencing in the world—I didn't develop this concept to explain my own work, but I do of course identify with it. My process is very much based in language, and a project can really be born in the relationship between two words. “Ecstatic resistance” set forth a vocabulary of the impossible and the imaginary, but right now my personal practice is more involved in the relationship between struggle and improvisation.
ET: What about Berkeley has been inspiring you as you think about this new work?
Berkeley posed two great sites for me to think about. I was quite shocked by my reaction to the Berkeley Art Museum building. I don't think I’ve ever been so inspired by a structure before, it's not my usual turn on, but something about the minimalism and the textures of the concrete, the strong lines and shades of gray are great fodder for a kind of image I am interested in exploring, with vibrating camera work that is between a still and moving image. The light becomes redeeming inside, and so I am interested in this certain spot near the skylight at the center of the building that determines the palette of grays that makes each surface distinct. I'm also very much thinking about the structure as time, and its instability. Which brings me to the other place on campus, Wheeler Hall, the site of Berkeley's recent confrontations. I'm interested in the threshold to Wheeler, the long central steps. I'm interested in it as a place that resonates on both a vernacular, “I walk through there everyday” level, and also with the memory of something having happened there, a collective memory of resistance. A lot to say here, and a lot of work to do on this in the coming months . . .
Emily Roysdon’s recent and upcoming exhibitions include 2010 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Mixed Use Manhattan at the Reina Sofia in Madrid; Manifesta 8 in Murcia, Spain; Bucharest Biennial; Greater New York at MOMA PS1, New York; and a solo project at Konsthall C in Stockholm. She is also in the band MEN and was editor and co-founder of the influential queer feminist journal and artist collective LTTR.
Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator
The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.