Emily Roysdon + Emma Hedditch
Emily Roysdon + Emma Hedditch
"Dear everybody," the April 21, 2004, email began, "I am writing to initiate an unconventional residency program at my home in Los Angeles. My interest is in project-oriented collaboration." The sender, American artist Emily Roysdon, laid out the ground rules: "Each project will be influenced by but not limited to our experiment, such that it shall be attentive to our quick intimacy, the politics in sharing monies, skills, homes, friends, resources, ideas." Roysdon sent the communiqué in a moment of post-grad school pique, exacerbated by the loneliness of LA, and quickly forgot about it. So when British artist Emma Hedditch responded, Roysdon never wrote back. A year later, they met fortuitously in London, and Hedditch reminded Roysdon of their missed connection. Quick artistic intimacy ensued.
That their first (almost) introduction should transpire over email was apt. Both artists follow a process-based, socially oriented practice, one that engages the constellation of communications — textual, spoken, poetic, didactic, anarchic. Both identify as feminist and queer, and said politics infuse their work. The gregarious Roysdon — 31 and cofounder of LTTR, the lesbian journal and collective — once proposed a project at Christopher Street Piers (an infamous gay cruising spot) that would situate freestanding letters spelling out TALK IS TERRITORIAL among the pilings punctuating the Hudson River's edge. The more soft-spoken, Somerset-born Hedditch, 36, has turned a London gallery into a "feminist autonomous space"; created experimental publications for Tate Britain; and coaxed videos from a list of banal yet telling propositions, such as "Video a person you know at a computer."
Their collaborations have been similarly socially engaged and text heavy. As Hedditch says, "I like how Emily's thinking is layered around ideas of words, language, memory." In 2007, they collaborated with Parisian artist Jimmy Robert on the performance Act Out. Months of missives turned into a script, which the artists read aloud at their opening, then contact-printed with silk screens on the audience's clothes. The script was at once manifesto, diary, and directive. Such multidimensionality is key to their work — and working relationship. In a recent performance in Sweden, Roysdon featured a 10-foot-tall scrim printed with a photograph of Emma's face — mouth propped open with two fingers — along with Emma herself. "There is something about my relationship with Emma. She's the person I want to dress in a bodysuit and tell to do strange things," allows Roysdon. It's clear that they represent many avatars to one another: muse, coconspirator, mirror, other. For artists with such collaborative, freewheeling philosophies, working with each other seems inevitable — and like Roysdon's early dispatch, a social art experiment in and of itself.
"Emily Roysdon + Emma Hedditch" originally appeared in the December 2008 / January 2009 issue of Modern Painters. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Modern Painters' December 2008 / January 2009 Table of Contents.