Emily Bates

Emily Bates (1970, England) graduated from Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. She currently lives and works in Amsterdam and London. Although her photographic works form the core of most of her projects, she enjoys creating a more complex layered experience within her exhibitions. Exploring the dynamic between sound and visual has become central to her work; in many of her exhibitions, photography is combined with sound and moving images. Bates’ photographic practice explores the sense of vulnerability, isolation and sometimes desire inherent in the human condition. An interest in cultural traditions particularly human relations, spirituality and mythology, pervades her work. Attending to people and their actions as much as to the landscapes they are surrounded by, she subtly highlights the human relationship to the land.

Bates became recognized for a body of work, or ‘impossible’ dresses, made during the 1990’s, that were constructed from knitted human hair, such as Dress, Depilator and Sibilla. These works have been exhibited extensively in Europe as well as in the USA and Japan. In 1997, she was awarded the prestigious Scottish Arts Council artists residency in Amsterdam, where photography became a large focus of her working practice. Since then she received more artist residencies and fellowship awards and exhibited her work in various galleries and museums throughout the world. Most notably her work The Sky is Glowing with the Setting Sun (2010-2012) was commissioned by Enrico Lunghi and exhibited as a solo exhibition at Mudam Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg in 2012.

About The Nurturing Island

Like The Sky is Glowing with the Setting Sun , The Nurturing Island (2010) is also a research- based project about a subtropical island in the south of Japan. The Nurturing Island  was exhibited at SMART Project Space in Amsterdam as part of an international group exhibition: For the Birds. The exhibition examined songs and music as a social phenomenon – particularly in relation to its manipulative, participatory and motivational characteristics in the public sphere. For her installation of The Nurturing Island within  this exhibition, Bates combined black and white landscape photographs with an audio track on which  daily tannoy announcements from the island are recorded.

The inhabitants of the island photographed have embraced and evolved a system of nurturing its community through the employment of tannoy announcements at set times throughout the day which act as reminders and signifiers (or possibly orders). For instance early morning tunes are played to wake you up, local dental checks are announced, and at noon announcements and songs remind the elderly to eat lunch. The chosen schedules of tunes or chimes in each district have in many ways become an integral part of the villages and the identity of the villagers.

Through the black and white landscape photographs Bates captures the essence of the power and beauty that dominates the island and preserves the rich mythology and belief system. Layered with the audio track it is almost as if the sacred mountains of the island, protected by the presence of Habu poisonous snakes, breathe their command over the inhabitants. The material juxtaposition creates a disquieting interplay that touches on our human fragility, explores unexpected structures, tensions and histories, and perhaps ultimately becomes a form of fiction.


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