Emily Wardill

As Emily Wardill's Night for Day exhibits at Adelaide Railway Station's Northeastern Concourse with the Samstag Museum of Art, Erin McFadyen speaks with the artist about the interviews, readings, and research which underpin the film, and its re-installation in Adelaide following an initial exhibition in Vienna.

How would you present Night for Day, 2020, to those who would like to see it, but haven’t yet? 

Night for Day uses the fake relationship between a mother and a son to think about what would happen if a communist revolutionary gave birth to a techno utopian, if gender as performitivity was thought through the lens of women making the political decision to live clandestinely in Portugal for a larger part of the twentieth century, and if the “Last Woman” were the fem bot from The Tales of Hoffman.

Comprised of interviews conducted with Isabel do Carmo, who co-ran the Revolutionary Brigades in Portugal that helped to overthrow the longest fascist dictatorship in Europe, and two young men, Alexander Bridi and Djelal Osman – astrophysicists running a startup in Lisbon that attempts to program computers to recognise moving images – the film collages a subjectivity from fragments of cameras struggling to see at night, out-in-the-cold presences watching families inside their homes, and images that attempt to describe a loved one in frequencies of three.

Their imaginary house is the real family home of the late architect António Teixeira Guerra, finished just before 1974, designed in the shape of a triangle and shot at the time he always chose to invite guests – the magic hour – when day either becomes night or night becomes day.

When the work was first shown at Secession, Vienna, some objects from the set were present in the space as well. What will the work’s re-install in Adelaide be like?  

I am showing the film in a space that is half carpeted – as a reference to a part of the film where Robert Smithson’s famous example of a boy running around in a sandpit of half-black and half-white sand is used as an example of entropy. The black paint that covers the walls separates out into three primary colours – again echoing the frequencies of threes that appear in the film. 

Both Night for Day and the film installation BI, 2019, are inspired by Eugene O’Neil’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. What interested you about O’Neil’s play, or made you want to work in response to it? (Is this the right way of figuring such “inspiration”?)

I wrote a script that reversed O’Neil’s descent into darkness throughout A Long Day’s Journey Into Night – and instead of the mother being addicted to opium, she is experimenting with LSD – and this was the genesis for BI and N4D [Night for Day]. I was interested in the family as a space where people with different ideologies come into regular contact with each other as a way to generate conversations between imaginaries which do not normally collide. It was something I looked at in an earlier piece of mine too: Game Keepers without Game, 2009. 

What was it like interviewing your three interview subjects – Isobel do Carmo, Alexander Bridi, and Djelal Osman – for Night for Day? 

It was interesting. I had researched for the interview with Isabel – since I was doing it in Portuguese, and I wanted to focus a lot on the role of women in the resistance to fascism in Portugal. With Alexander and Djelal, I was also interested in things like who their heroes were – again, as a kind of uncovering of their ideologies and where they came from – especially since they would think of themselves as not having an ideology. 

What visual and conceptual qualities made the magic hour – the time when day becomes night, or vice versa – interesting to you when shooting this film?

Partly because it is a space that is “in between,” and partly because the light at this time and particularly in that house is trippy – and it becomes difficult to distinguish between distinct objects. 

Emily Wardill: Night for Day, exhibiting with James Newitt: HAVEN
3–19 March 2023
Samstag Museum of Art, at Northeastern Concourse, Adelaide Railway Station, Adelaide

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