Meet Emily Scarrott: Forward Artist
Ikon’s new exhibition Forward: New Art from Birmingham opened last night at Medicine Bakery and Gallery. We caught up with artist Emily Scarrott to hear more about her installation, inspirations and thoughts about Birmingham’s artistic community.
Follow this series of blog posts to hear more from Forward participating artists. Ikon has also produced interviews, filmed at the artists’ studios, which will be released over the course of the exhibition. You can find them on our YouTube channel here.
Can you introduce yourself and give us an overview of your practice at the moment?
I’m Emily! My practice really involves a lot of messing about and doing things that make me laugh and despair in equal measure. I’m enamoured with absurdism and like to experiment how the feeling of pointlessness can be recreated in visual art. Combined with this, I’m interested in how being a woman changes expectations that I should be doing something productive. I sort of like to make art that people might think is a waste of time.
What have you chosen to exhibit in Forward: New Art from Birmingham and why?
My installation is made up of 300 suspended ‘magic worm’ toys. It is inspired by a combination of things. Firstly, an incident when I was very young, when a friend found a lone magic worm in Birmingham, outside Ikon Gallery. I remember being particularly jealous, and it has forever changed how I feel when I see them. So, in one sense, displaying an army of magic worms is really just an extravagant and childish act of spite.
I’ve also been playing around with the concept of the ‘straight, white male artist’ – arguably, the traditional protagonists of absurdist narratives, who use meaninglessness as an excuse to behave however they want. In correlation with those ideas, the worms act as a swarm of embarrassing phallic objects, only powerful due to their quantity. If there was only one worm, it would be lost.
What’s it like being an artist in Birmingham, and how do you see art changing or moving forward here?
Birmingham has such a highly experimental and conceptual creative community, yet this is equally intertwined with traditional artists. What I find most encouraging is that these alternative ways of artistic practice are so supportive of each other – there is no division between styles of working.
Similarly, Digbeth First Fridays are an incredible community achievement. Whilst other cities crave regular creative events, I often find myself frustrated that there are more than I am able to attend! There are really marvellous little shanty towns of independent galleries, who are all passionate and participatory in each other’s work. It is really inspiring to participate in an art scene that has been constructed from so many independent ventures and active, radical discourse.
Forward: New Art from Birmingham is a group exhibition, including work by approximately twenty five artists, living and working in this city, to highlight the depth and vitality of a wide range of practices. Taking place in Medicine, the old gallery space of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, from which sprang the young generation that founded Ikon more than 50 years ago, it couldn’t be more in keeping with their progressive ethos, still informing our artistic programme to this day.
Open 23 January — 24 March 2019. Entry is free, open daily 10am-5pm, at Medicine Bakery and Gallery. 69 New Street, Birmingham B2 4DU. Please note Medicine Bakery is only accessible via a steep staircase.